Mark Zuckerberg on AI, Poking, and Whether or Not the Machines Win

Josh WolfordTechnology

Share this Post

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently held another Q&A, in which he talked artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and the future of the company. He also had nice interchanges with Stephen Hawking and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and answered a question about Poking.

Here are some of his most interesting responses.

On the topic of Facebook's "real name policy" and its effect on the transgender community:

Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.

First, it helps keep people safe. We know that people are much less likely to try to act abusively towards other members of our community when they're using their real names. There are plenty of cases -- for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband -- where preventing the ex-husband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important. As long as he's using his real name, she can easily block him.

Second, real names help make the service easier to use. People use Facebook to look up friends and people they meet all the time. This is easy because you can just type their name into search and find them. This becomes much harder if people don't use their real names.

That said, there is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you. If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that. In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community. We are working on better and more ways for people to show us what their real name is so we can both keep this policy which protects so many people in our community while also serving the transgender community.

On the future of technology:

In 10 years, I hope we've improved a lot of how the world connects. We're doing a few big things:

First, we're working on spreading internet access around the world through This is the most basic tool people need to get the benefits of the internet -- jobs, education, communication, etc. Today, almost 2/3 of the world has no internet access. In the next 10 years, has the potential to help connect hundreds of millions or billions of people who do not have access to the internet today.

As a side point, research has found that for every 10 people who gain access to the internet, about 1 person is raised out of poverty. So if we can connect the 4 billion people in the world who are unconnected, we can potentially raise 400 million people out of poverty. That's perhaps one of the greatest things we can do in the world.

Second, we're working on AI because we think more intelligent services will be much more useful for you to use. For example, if we had computers that could understand the meaning of the posts in News Feed and show you more things you're interested in, that would be pretty amazing. Similarly, if we could build computers that could understand what's in an image and could tell a blind person who otherwise couldn't see that image, that would be pretty amazing as well. This is all within our reach and I hope we can deliver it in the next 10 years.

Third, we're working on VR because I think it's the next major computing and communication platform after phones. In the future we'll probably still carry phones in our pockets, but I think we'll also have glasses on our faces that can help us out throughout the day and give us the ability to share our experiences with those we love in completely immersive and new ways that aren't possible today.

Those are just three of the things we're working on for the next 10 years. I'm pretty excited about the future

On Facebook's AI initiatives:

Most of our AI research is focused on understanding the meaning of what people share.

For example, if you take a photo that has a friend in it, then we should make sure that friend sees it. If you take a photo of a dog or write a post about politics, we should understand that so we can show that post and help you connect to people who like dogs and politics.

In order to do this really well, our goal is to build AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc.

For vision, we're building systems that can recognize everything that's in an image or a video. This includes people, objects, scenes, etc. These systems need to understand the context of the images and videos as well as whatever is in them.

For listening and language, we're focusing on translating speech to text, text between any languages, and also being able to answer any natural language question you ask.

This is a pretty basic overview. There's a lot more we're doing and I'm looking forward to sharing more soon.

From Stephen Hawking:

I would like to know a unified theory of gravity and the other forces. Which of the big questions in science would you like to know the answer to and why?

That's a pretty good one!

I'm most interested in questions about people. What will enable us to live forever? How do we cure all diseases? How does the brain work? How does learning work and how we can empower humans to learn a million times more?

I'm also curious about whether there is a fundamental mathematical law underlying human social relationships that governs the balance of who and what we all care about. I bet there is.

From Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Mark, I always tell people that nobody is too busy to exercise, especially if Popes and Presidents find time. You've got to be one of the busiest guys on the planet, and younger generations can probably relate to you more than they can the Pope - so tell me how you find time to train and what is your regimen like? And by the way - will the machines win?

Staying in shape is very important. Doing anything well requires energy, and you just have a lot more energy when you're fit.

I make sure I work out at least three times a week -- usually first thing when I wake up. I also try to take my dog running whenever I can, which has the added bonus of being hilarious because that basically like seeing a mop run.

And no, the machines don't win

On his definition of happiness:

To me, happiness is doing something meaningful that helps people and that I believe in with people I love.

I think lots of people confuse happiness with fun. I don't believe it is possible to have fun every day. But I do believe it is possible to do something meaningful that helps people people every day.

As I've grown up, I've gained more appreciation for my close relationships -- my wife, my partners at work, my close friends. Nobody builds something by themselves. Long term relationships are very important.

On why he has a $1 set salary at Facebook:

I've made enough money. At this point, I'm just focused on making sure I do the most possible good with what I have. The main way I can help is through Facebook -- giving people the power to share and connecting the world. I'm also focusing on my education and health philanthropy work outside of Facebook as well. Too many people die unnecessarily and don't get the opportunities they deserve. There are lots of things in the world that need to get fixed and I'm just lucky to have the chance to work on fixing some of them.

On the future of Facebook:

There are a few important trends in human communication that we hope to improve.

First, people are gaining the power to share in richer and richer ways. We used to just share in text, and now we post mainly with photos. In the future video will be even more important than photos. After that, immersive experiences like VR will become the norm. And after that, we'll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experience with people whenever we'd like.

Second, people are gaining the power to communicate more frequently. We used to have to be with someone in person. Then we had these bulky computers at our desks or that we could carry around. Now we have these incredible devices in our pockets all the time, but we only use them periodically throughout the day. In the future, we'll have AR and other devices that we can wear almost all the time to improve our experience and communication.

One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you'd like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.

Our lives improve as our communication tools get better in many ways. We can build richer relationships with the people we love and care about. We know about what's going on in the world and can make better decisions in our jobs and lives. We are also more informed and can make better decisions collectively as a society. This increase in the power people have to share is one of the major forces driving the world today.

And finally ...

Why did you come up with Poking?

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It always does, Mark. It always does.

Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf