While Stephen Hawking claims artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race and Elon Musk is donating millions to ensure robots don't kill each and every one of us, not all of the world's brightest minds are losing their marbles over the technology-induced end-of-days. In fact, Yann LeCun, NYU professor and Facebook's director of artificial intelligence research, told The New York Times he sees plenty of promising business applications in his work with A.I. Here are three of his most salient predictions for the future of A.I. and business.

1. A.I. will "befriend" us

LeCun notes that "digital companions," like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, or Google Now, are currently limited to relatively "shallow" interactions, like pulling up weather forecasts or checking your social media feeds. In the future, LeCun says these companions will employ deep learning techniques to learn more about our lives and enhance the ways we interact with those around us. This future appears markedly more optimistic than that dreamed up by Elon Musk, who recently told Neil deGrasse Tyson in an interview that he believed robots using "superintelligence" could someday treat humans like "pet Labradors."

2. A.I. will learn everything about us

LeCun is one of the genius minds behind "deep learning," an area of machine research that employs complex algorithms that recognize patterns and essentially allow a computer to "think." Facebook's News Feed feature already uses a very rudimentary kind of "learning" when it sorts through hundreds, sometimes thousands, of posts each day to deliver you bite-size chunks of your connections' most useful and relevant posts. LeCun says Facebook built this filtration system using algorithms that learn from your interests and activities by using facial recognition, image labeling, and more.

3. A.I. will become widely available and, most important, free

When he's not busy developing algorithms that prevent drunken Facebook users from uploading selfies, LeCun is leading the company's A.I. research lab (FAIR), which recently open-sourced its deep learning code to anyone who wants to use it. The move could make machine learning algorithms as much as 23 times faster, allowing app makers, startups, and universities to integrate the same deep learning software used by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter into their software for free.

"Facebook has a culture of openness in its DNA," LeCun tells The New York Times. In January, the company open-sourced its deep learning tools in hopes that developers would help speed up the artificial intelligence behind Facebook's computing framework. Though this might appear to be a rather bold business strategy, LeCun says Facebook's culture is built on "the business of connecting people."


Published on: Apr 2, 2015