Facebook Hires Former IBM Watson Exec As New AI Boss

Yann LeCun, the man who has led Facebook’s efforts to include more artificial intelligence into newsfeeds for the past four years, is stepping down and will be replaced by a former IBM executive who will bring more management-like capabilities to the role.

It comes after CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised last week a major shakeup of its newsfeed after concern that public content (i.e. adverts and clickbait from businesses, brands and media) was crowding out people’s personal moments.

AI Boss

LeCun is a noted academic who founded Facebook’s AI Research lab (FAIR) in 2013.

He was responsible for integrating more AI into Facebook. For example he oversaw the creation of a ‘digital assistant’ to cut out druken posts or selfies that people might regret in the morning.

However, according to website Quartz, LeCun is stepping down from the lead position, but will retain the role of chief AI scientist.

His replacement is more of a corporate man, in the form of Jérôme Pesenti.

Pesenti is a former CEO of AI startup BenevolentTech and prior to that was CTO of IBM’s Big Data group (which includes Watson).

Pesenti has now been hired to lead Facebook’s Applied Machine Learning group, and will report directly to Facebook’s chief technology officer.

“There was a need for someone to basically oversee all the AI at Facebook, across research, development, and have a connection with product,” LeCun said in an interview with Quartz. “AML and FAIR were reporting to the CTO, who no longer has the bandwidth to take care of that, given the increased importance of AI and more systems built around deep learning.”

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AI Future

Facebook is increasing its research into artificial intelligence as it sees the technology as vital ingredent for its own future.

Indeed, Facebook relies on AI to deliver accurate ad targeting to its users for example.

And in late 2016 a senior Facebook executive (Joaquin Candela, Facebook’s director of applied machine learning) revealed the social networking was developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system to monitor potentially offensive uploaded content.

Candela said the AI system would be able to automatically flag offensive material in live video streams.

It comes as the social network battles against fake news, offensive material and nudity issues.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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