Mark Zuckerberg took to answering a number of questions in a public Q&A, which ranged from virtual reality and artificial intelligence to science, health and eventually the future of his company. However, what sounded the most stand-out of all, was his views on how Facebook might ultimately become an AI powered social venture, than the more human-connected network it currently is.
Close to 30,000 questions(of course, some of them were utter nonsense, but some of them were important) flooded his page, and the hoodied CEO responded expansively to quite a lot of them across an array of topics.
As per those conversations, Facebook is just not satisfied with dipping a hand into the virtual reality pie; and is in fact keen to make AI, the central point of Facebook’s ventures ahead. Zuckerberg claimed AI would be one of the the social media giant’s biggest initiatives, and foresaw the company using AI to interpret human relationships in ten years’ time.
Earlier this month, Facebook had opened a research centre in Paris to take forward AI initiatives taken a year back with respect to AI-based image recognition, natural language processing and speech recognition applications. The team will be collaborating with similar ones in in Menlo Park, California, and New York on various projects.
Details on FB’s AI projects have been sketchy so far, but Zuckerberg took the opportunity to open up:
Most of our AI research is focused on understanding the meaning of what people share.
For example, if you take a photo that has a friend in it, then we should make sure that friend sees it. If you take a photo of a dog or write a post about politics, we should understand that so we can show that post and help you connect to people who like dogs and politics.
In order to do this really well, our goal is to build AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc.
For vision, we’re building systems that can recognize everything that’s in an image or a video. This includes people, objects, scenes, etc. These systems need to understand the context of the images and videos as well as whatever is in them.
For listening and language, we’re focusing on translating speech to text, text between any languages, and also being able to answer any natural language question you ask.
Here’s a quick recap of his views on the other topics discussed in the Q&A session:
Real Name Policy
The policy has been a target of criticism for some time. Many members of the trans community go by names different than those given to them at birth and have been kicked off Facebook for using them.
Alex Kantrowitch: Hi Mark, you made a tool to let everyone put rainbow flags over their profile pictures, but you also insist on having people use their real names on Facebook. Many people in the trans community consider this discriminatory and even argue it puts their lives at risk. Are you going to end the practice?
Zuckerberg: This is an important question. Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.First, it helps keep people safe. We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively towards other members of our community when they’re using their real names. There is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community.
This was undeniably the most awe-inspiring exchange, with none other than the prodigy Stephen Hawking himself.
Stephen Hawkings: I would like to know a unified theory of gravity and the other forces. Which of the big questions in science would you like to know the answer to and why?
Zuckerberg: That’s a pretty good one! I’m most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more? I’m also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is.
Guess who put up a question !
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Mark, I always tell people that nobody is too busy to exercise, especially if Popes and Presidents find time. You’ve got to be one of the busiest guys on the planet, and younger generations can probably relate to you more than they can the Pope – so tell me how you find time to train and what is your regimen like? And by the way – will the machines win?
Zuckerberg: Staying in shape is very important. Doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you’re fit. I make sure I work out at least three times a week — usually first thing when I wake up. I also try to take my dog running whenever I can, which has the added bonus of being hilarious because that basically like seeing a mop run. And no, the machines don’t win.
Miller Savetz: Why did you come up with Poking?
Zuckerberg: It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Facebook recently released a separate app that uses technology based in part on work done by its AI research team, called Moments. The app lets users share photos privately and uses facial recognition to organize photos based on who is in them. The app has hit regulatory concerns all over Europe.
Facebook’s plan for virtual reality and AI slightly resembles Google’s on-going mission to index all the info on the WWW. Hopefully, technology giants will help create computers that are better at recognition of what they’re looking at, which isn’t the scenario as of now.