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ZuckerBorg assimilates Microsoft boffins into potentially world-threatening FART

Evil existential threat or waste of money? Probably both

The ZuckerBorg has assimilated yet more humans from academia and industry into its Facebook Artificial-Intelligence Research Team (FART). Facebook claims their work will focus on several aspects of machine learning, with applications to image, speech and natural language understanding.

The free global ad platform announced that it had "bolstered" the team eam with some of the world's leading researchers from Microsoft and academia.

Among those assimilated is the award-winning Leon Bottou, whose long-term goal "is to understand how to build human-level intelligence". Also on board are Laurens van de Maaten and Anitha Kannan, who will continue their research into deep learning.

The former Microsoft employees have been at Facebook since March, although their employment has only been announced now.

Among the others joining them are Nicolas Usunier and Gabriel Synnaève, both of whom are reasonably established academics in the rather disparate fields around AI. Facebook states that it expects its employees at FART to continue to "contribute academic study in the computer, social and data sciences", and inform "the development of products and other innovations that serve the Facebook community".

The private sector has done well to poach academia's brightest AI researchers in recent years, as well it might when it is pouring funding into the topic.

Google hired seven boffins from the University of Oxford last October, and FART now employs more than 40 people across its laboratories in San Francisco and New York.

Facebook describes itself as committed to advancing "the field of machine intelligence and developing technologies that give people better ways to communicate". It also admits that "in the long term, we seek to understand intelligence and make intelligent machines".

Although only the most alarmist of scientific persons could consider artificial intelligence to currently possess the capacity to destroy humanity, the fear of such a use of AI for acts which are not in the human interest – as well as the concern that AI may become self-aware – has brought comment from many respected figures.

More than 150 scientists, academics and entrepreneurs - including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Nobel prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek - added their names to an open letter calling for greater caution in the use of AI last January. ®

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