Yann LeCun, the superstar researcher who’s been at the helm of Facebook’s artificial intelligence efforts since 2013, has been named the company’s chief AI scientist, and will “be responsible for ensuring the group retains its unique culture, focused on open research and true scientific advancement,” said CTO Mike Schroepfer in a post last night.
Schroepfer also announced that former IBM Watson head Jérôme Pesenti has been brought on “to coordinate and drive our AI strategy across the entire company.”
The Washington Post took a more critical view of the change, reporting that LeCun had been moved into a “more limited role in AI strategy, direction, and external ‘evangelism.'”
The Post suggested the move was part of a reshuffling of Facebook’s AI organization amid questions over whether the company’s AI efforts have kept up with the industry. Those questions have taken on greater urgency in the wake of the tech giant’s role in enabling the spread of election-related fake news, as well as its impact on users’ mental health, the Post wrote.
Facebook has become a leader in AI in just a few short years since LeCun’s arrival to run what’s known as FAIR, or Facebook AI Research, a forward-looking team spread across several offices around the world that works in conjunction with the more product-focused Applied Machine Learning, run by Joaquin Candela. This week, the company doubled the size of its Paris AI team, and the total engineering and scientist headcount for AI and machine learning is in the hundreds.
Those numbers are far smaller than that of competitors Google and Microsoft, perhaps leading some to conclude that Facebook isn’t keeping up.
But Schroepfer noted that “these moves come at a time when Facebook is increasing our investment in artificial intelligence to help keep our community safe, to connect people to the content that’s most meaningful and relevant to them, and to build important new products in VR and AR.”
This story and headline were updated to reflect additional input from Facebook.