Facebook cofounder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg today fielded questions from users of the major social network, and one of them, Jenni Moore of Ireland, asked him about his “view on the world” in 10 years’ time. He took the question as an opportunity to talk about some of the biggest initiatives the company will working on. One of those initiatives is artificial intelligence research.
Here’s how Zuckerberg put that effort in context in today’s online question-and-answer session:
Second, we’re working on AI because we think more intelligent services will be much more useful for you to use. For example, if we had computers that could understand the meaning of the posts in News Feed and show you more things you’re interested in, that would be pretty amazing. Similarly, if we could build computers that could understand what’s in an image and could tell a blind person who otherwise couldn’t see that image, that would be pretty amazing as well. This is all within our reach and I hope we can deliver it in the next 10 years.
Research and development has been a high priority for Facebook as of late, and the company has been hiring more and more researchers to work on AI. At the helm of the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research unit is Yann LeCun, a luminary in a trendy type of AI known as deep learning. He and his colleagues are rapidly developing technologies to analyze videos, answer questions, identify objects and people in images, and even generate image samples. And the team is continually bringing on new talent, too.
Other major tech companies, like Google and Microsoft, have also been doing more with deep learning in the past few years as well. But Facebook is moving especially quickly to become an AI powerhouse.
The two other major initiatives he called out were virtual reality and Internet.org. Here’s how he couched those:
First, we’re working on spreading internet access around the world through Internet.org. This is the most basic tool people need to get the benefits of the internet — jobs, education, communication, etc. Today, almost 2/3 of the world has no internet access. In the next 10 years, Internet.org has the potential to help connect hundreds of millions or billions of people who do not have access to the internet today.
As a side point, research has found that for every 10 people who gain access to the internet, about 1 person is raised out of poverty. So if we can connect the 4 billion people in the world who are unconnected, we can potentially raise 400 million people out of poverty. That’s perhaps one of the greatest things we can do in the world.
Third, we’re working on VR because I think it’s the next major computing and communication platform after phones. In the future we’ll probably still carry phones in our pockets, but I think we’ll also have glasses on our faces that can help us out throughout the day and give us the ability to share our experiences with those we love in completely immersive and new ways that aren’t possible today.
Read Zuckerberg’s other interesting answers to user questions here.