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8 months ago
Facebook’s Top AI Scientist Says It’s ‘Dust’ Without Deep Learning


Originally published in CNN Business, December 5, 2018

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Without artificial intelligence there wouldn’t be much left of Facebook as we know it today.

That’s according to Yann LeCun, who founded Facebook’s artificial intelligence research lab five years ago.

“If you take the deep learning out of Facebook today, Facebook’s dust,” LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, recently told CNN Business. “It’s entirely built around it now.”

The technology is included in everything from the posts and translations you see in your news feed to advertisements.

When LeCun established the lab, Facebook was already dabbling in deep learning — a type of machine learning he’s worked on and championed since the 1980s. Deep-learning software, modeled after the way neurons work in the brain, ingests loads of data and learns to make its own predictions.

Back in 2013 , the social network knew AI would be a key part of its future, and like a number of other tech companies, it looked at deep learning specifically for classifying photos and for face recognition.

While it appeared promising, it wasn’t clear how useful it would be. But years later, aided by loads of data collected from users and increasingly powerful computers, the technology has improved rapidly. Facebook and other companies — such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon — are using it for many different things, such as tagging people in photos and enabling virtual assistants to tell you the weather.LeCun said the social network in particular couldn’t function today without deep learning. It’s used “absolutely everywhere,” he said.

This is true not just of what users can see but what they may not see. Deep learning aids Facebook’s content filtering, too, and helps remove things like hate speech from the social network.

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About the Author

Rachel Metz Rachel Metz is a senior writer for CNN Business based in San Francisco, California, where she covers artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality. She’s fascinated by the ways computers are changing how we work and play, and even altering how we experience the world.  Metz previously worked at MIT Technology Review, where she wrote about the ways in which humans and machines are increasingly connected, and at The Associated Press, where she followed the moves of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon, and eBay and wrote gadget reviews. She has also written for publications including The New York Times and Wired.

Metz graduated from UC Berkeley, where she majored in English.  Follow her on Twitter @rachelmetz.

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