back to article We'll predict your EVERY MOVE! Facebook's new AI brain talks to El Reg

Facebook wants to know what you're going to do before you do it, and has hired a big-brained boffin to give it the AI chops to do this. Machine-learning luminary Yann Lecun announced on Monday that he had been tapped to run the social network's nascent Artificial Intelligence laboratory. The hire represents another way the …


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  1. Denarius Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    A minor flaw in all this

    Facebook and Googles weak AI ? (I thought all AI so far was a flop so far) all are built on the assumption that humans can be modelled in reductionist materialist terms. No doubt for much of human behaviour this is true enough for the data miners to have some effectiveness. What happens when the spooks add this technology, sorry, enhance their existing snooping and spooking with the developments made by Google et al ? Will great plans be made by the oligarchy, just in time for the targets to do something unexpected ?

    Black helicopter because one just flew over head. Too small for Arnie to get into though.

    1. Charles Manning

      A minor flaw in your analysis

      > "assumption that humans can be modelled in reductionist materialist terms"

      To have some success, the AI engine, for want of a better term, only needs to do some pattern matching to make some conclusions. That's how spam filters work or

      They don't have to model everything, nor do they have to figure out everything to be very useful to an advertising machine like Google or FB.

      The spooks might use this, but they are less motivated to pry into your life. The people who ARE very motivated, and are already doing this to you, are the advertising engines.

      You are not Facebook's customer. You are Facebook's product. They sell you to the merchandisers.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: A minor flaw in all this

      I thought all AI so far was a flop so far

      You thought wrong. AI technology has been hugely successful, and profitable, in many industries. Natural Language Processing alone is a major software segment, covering things like advanced indexing and retrieval, sentiment analysis, automated translation, voice recognition, etc.

      Facebook and Googles weak AI ... all are built on the assumption that humans can be modelled in reductionist materialist terms

      Wrong again. So-called "weak" AI is specifically that part of AI research that doesn't aim to create a sentient machine.

      For that matter, even strong AI doesn't necessarily aim to model, or reproduce, human cognition; or when it does aim for human-like cognition, doesn't necessarily claim that human cognition per se is mechanical; or when it is predicated on the thesis that cognition is mechanical, it does not necessarily assume that - there are quite a few complex arguments supporting that thesis.1

      This is one of the reasons why many researchers working in machine learning stay away from the AI label - people who know little or nothing of the subject love to pronounce on it.

      And, incidentally, anyone working on strong AI, or even weak-AI projects that aim to predict human behavior, is aware that people don't always do what a model expects. That's kind of, y'know, axiomatic. Even economics has finally seen the light on that one (with the burgeoning field of behavioral economics).

      1For example, John Searle, of "Chinese Room" fame, is often cited as arguing against the possibility of AI, but in fact he explicitly stated that he believed thinking is a mechanical process and strong AI is possible. He just thought a certain class of approach ("symbolic manipulation") couldn't accomplish it.

  2. DainB Bronze badge

    If it is so good and really intelligent it will surely quit Facebook minute after it is started.

    1. LaeMing

      I believe that is their biggest hurdle.

      When giving an advanced AI the task of spending all its time on FaceBook, how to keep it from deleting itself!

      1. Graham Marsden

        Re: I believe that is their biggest hurdle.

        Obvously they will need to build in an additction to pictures of Kitties!

  3. LaeMing

    This could be the best thing ever!!!111!

    Once AIs can predict everything people will do on FaceBook, they can be left to it to and people can get back to with doing something useful.

    For efficiency, we can house the AIs on racks interleaved with the racks housing the FaceBook servers in one big bunker on the back-side of the moon, along with office space for all the data miners and ad-men.

    Then fill it all up with quick-set concrete.

    Its the only way to be sure!

  4. Steven Roper

    And so we take one more step

    closer to the pre-crime dystopia depicted in Minority Report....

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: And so we take one more step

      Oh good lord. You'd think no one ever built a machine-learning system before to model user behavior. People have been doing this for half a century now.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear...

    So now they'll know for sure that I'll never be signing up? Damn ;)

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Stronger Advanced IntelAIgents the Real Surreal Virtual Interface Welcome All to ......

    ...... the Great Game Romper Room ..... Ab Fab Fabless Alien BetaTest Lab with ITs Myriad Slabs and Slides for Helter Skelter Rides that Deliver Enhanced Greater Functional Awareness for Drivers of Global Operating Devices and Heavenly Bodied Satellite Systems with Universal Overwhelming Invasive Empowering Abilities which be also Intuitive and Instructive and Instinctive in the Alien Field of Earthly Phormations ....... Media Based Virtual Reality Presentations/Live Propaganda Productions.

    Hi, Jack Clark,

    Do you not think that the light shining from Facebook, Zuck & Co and machine-learning luminary Yann Lecun is a tad dim, more a flickering candle than massive searchlight, when this spooky news is for real and already shared on the Register, ..........

    And ….. nowadays whenever one is in direct competition with and/or in opposition to an intelligent entity, whether that be recognised as a person of acute interest and quite heavenly body or fiendishly cunning devil, or a contemporary organisation into major macro management of global event theatricals, is the more taxing problem to be solved the one that resolves the dilemma of what is going to be done next, by that which is being monitored and/or mentored, rather than that which can be evidenced as having been done, for it is no good just having a guess at it oneself, based upon what may have gone on before, because all that delivers is what one oneself would possibly do, and would have no basis in fact at all with regard to what the watched would do. Anything proposed as likely in such cases would in fact be pure fantasy and a figment of a remote second and/or third parties’ imagination. .....

    And although it is reported that it be weak artificial intelligence being investigated and supported, the reality of the research is that the target market be weak ignorant humanity totally unaware of learning machines and they can be stronger.That makes the project quite a bit less than benign and something to be aware and even wary of, methinks. It is certainly something which can be all too easily abused and misused, that's for sure.

    It's Searching Researching IT the American way, is it? Anything and everything to keep the buck$ flowing and fiat currency churning?

    And does Facebook, Zuck & Co and machine-learning luminary Yann Lecun fit into any of the profiles that be recognised as a person of acute interest and quite heavenly body or fiendishly cunning devil, or a contemporary organisation into major macro management of global event theatricals?

  7. roger stillick

    Huffington Post just made Facebook Mandatory 12102013...

    Everyone today at HP was required to have all their history posted on an adjunct Facebook Account...

    Tried Facebook for 3 days this last spring, all it did was junk up my email account with machine generated conversations, successfully deleted it, back to normal with my life...

    Today i successfully deleted my HP account... looking forward to a simpler blogging life in areas of interest...

    IMHO=El Reg and WIRED are way more interesting, and they have, so far, kept Facebook at bay...i will Never use it...RS

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    User is going to

    close account.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Subtitle is....

    How to milk your ever diminishing subscriber base so that they see increasing numbers of Ads.

    I am so glad I never gave into all that peer pressure to sign up to things like FB, TW and going back a bit, Second Life (remember that?).

    Anon and so proud to be different

    1. LaeMing

      Re: Subtitle is....

      I signed up for all three. Not with my real identities of course! I'm not a complete zonk!

      Only use twitter for work (make work-related announcements to students).

      Left FB from general boredom with it.

      Never officially closed my SL account, but only use OSS VR environments these days (and not for social things, generally).

    2. LordHighFixer

      Re: Subtitle is....

      I can't tell you anything about FB or twatter, but I know that SecondLife still has a large userbase. And bonus is land is really cheap now since all the people with actual lives left.....

      But for those of us with a fat pipe to the house but a 50 km drive to the nearest village, it beats the price of petrol.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Cool. Facebook can continue carrying on indefinitely without our participation.

    Does anyone with a cerebral cortex believe this bullshit?

    The mind absolutely boggles.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Cool. Facebook can continue carrying on indefinitely without our participation.

      Does anyone with a cerebral cortex believe this bullshit?

      To what bullshit do you refer?

      Facebook's announced plans to model user activity? Perfectly doable and quite probably profitable. Given the size of their user base and transaction rate, even just a whacking great Hidden Markov Model would probably correlate pretty well to a lot of the activity. Stacked neural networks (which is what Lecun apparently specializes in) should do even better.1 They (unlike the Reg's headline writers) aren't claiming they'll correctly predict every action of every user. Getting it right a decent fraction of the time is enough to monetize (as higher-tier advertising services).

      If you're talking about the comments to this article - yeah, they're mostly bullshit. Unfortunately many people do seem to believe them.

      1Note that the "deep learning" recently championed by Google is also basically just a stack of neural networks, where higher-level networks make predictions based on the outputs of lower-level ones. The idea is that higher-level networks model abstractions of the lower levels. This seems to be the hip technique this year. Next year it might be P-algebras (generalizations of k-nearest-neighbor) - I'm seeing some noise about that.

  11. Steve Evans

    Oh yeah?

    Did you predict I was going to be offended by the permissions grab of the Android app update and hold out until forced to update?

    Only to then block half the permissions with App Ops?

    And then discover that the one new feature I really wanted (edit) doesn't actually work properly?

    And then to go back to using (which is *STILL* more functional than the app).

    Oh, and I prefer G+ these days anyway.

  12. DropBear

    But is it really that hard to predict...?

    - "Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"

    - "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!"

  13. Cream_DJ
    Thumb Down

    Whats the point?

    So apart from making them more money, and bombarding us with 'possibly' more 'relevant' advertising than usual, what's the point?

    Shouldn't time/money be spent on advancing things that will actually benefit the future of society/mankind? Although that wouldn't be profitable to shareholders, so probably not worth their effort!

    1. roytrubshaw

      Re: Whats the point?

      "Shouldn't time/money be spent on advancing things that will actually benefit the future of society/mankind? Although that wouldn't be profitable to shareholders, so probably not worth their effort!"

      It's practically impossible to predict the possible "benefits" or long term consequences of this (or any) research, "targeted research" is pretty much an oxymoron; however on the whole I'd much prefer that a breakthrough into a self-aware AI occur when said AI only has control of a social-networking website instead of some nation's entire nuclear arsenal.

  14. NB

    Facebook has ads? I adblocked the shit out of it and everything in the right hand column (especially that creepy stalker ticker) ages ago and I use the mobile site with Firefox for Android (because it also has adblock). I also have ghostery so the creepy cunts can't track me online.

  15. Technological Viking

    Serendipity Engine

    Somebody needs to be taught what Serendipity means. I actually have a combination of Google (through YouTube) and serendipity (and that is the word I've used) to thank for my current musical choices, but I clicked on the band while logged in to somebody else's account and I did so specifically because I thought it would be so bad it would be funny. I was wrong and I loved it, but I NEVER would have been exposed to it if I had allowed YouTube to pick my likes for me. It was proper, whimsical serendipity that brought me to it, not an analysis of what I liked and would like in the future.

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