FACEBOOK IS ALREADY disconcertingly good at recognizing faces in photos. But the company’s director of artificial intelligence research, Yann LeCun, wants to push AI even further. Today he said he wants to teach chatbots common sense.
That’s an important part of Facebook’s goal of enabling its Facebook M virtual assistant to actually understand the things you ask it to do. Today, Facebook M is powered in part by humans. But eventually Facebook wants to power the entire thing with AI.
LeCun is the founding father of deep learning, one of the most important branches of artificial intelligence today. Deep learning techniques are used for everything from the algorithms that filter your Facebook feed to Android’s voice recognition system to Skype’s cutting edge real-time translation tool. But while machines have gotten really good at recognizing voice commands and translating one human language into another, AIs still can’t really understand language, LeCun explained.
Making that happen means teaching computers to learn in much the same way humans do. LeCun points out that babies learn to learn to associate words with objects by simply observing the world around them. It takes at least a couple years, but we humans are able to learn all this with relatively few examples, at least compared to the number of images that LeCun and company feed their computers. “So there’s something we’re missing about human and animal learning,” he says. That missing thing, LeCun explains, is what we might call common sense.