Facebook gets a new AI boss as it reorganizes to tackle Mark Zuckerberg’s big mission

Facebook's Yann LeCun, who is stepping down from day-to-day oversight of the company's artificial intelligence research.

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Facebook’s Yann LeCun, who is stepping down from day-to-day oversight of the company’s artificial intelligence research.
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  • Yann LeCun, who helped launch Facebook’s artificial intelligence research initiative, is stepping aside from overseeing the company’s day-to-day AI efforts but will remain at the company.
  • IBM veteran Jérôme Pesenti will replace LeCun and will also oversee Facebook’s effort to integrate AI into its products.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who recruited LeCun, has argued that AI is a key technology for the company and the world.

Yann LeCun, one of the best-known names in artificial intelligence, is stepping aside from his role overseeing the day-to-day operations of Facebook’s AI research team.

LeCun will stay on with Facebook as its chief AI scientist, where he will be in charge of the general direction of the company’s artificial intelligence research. The social networking company will replace LeCun with Jérôme Pesenti, an IBM veteran and former CEO of AI startup BenevolentAI.

Pesenti will take control of Facebook AI Research (FAIR), which LeCun launched in 2013. He will also be in charge of the company’s Applied Machine Learning (AML) group. The AML team’s mandate is to help integrate AI into Facebook’s products and features, from photos and videos to the news feed.

“There was a need for someone to basically oversee all the AI at Facebook, across research, development, and have a connection with product,” LeCun told Quartz, which first reported his move.

Pesenti and LeCun confirmed the changes in posts on their personal Facebook pages.

“In my new role, I will make sure we continue advancing the state of AI research and help make Facebook products more intelligent, useful and meaningful,” Pesenti said in his post. “I am super thrilled and honored to join this team!”

LeCun, who also teaches at New York University, was personally recruited by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg has long argued that AI is the key to the future of both Facebook and the world and the best way for technology to augment human capabilities. The shakeup at the top of the company’s efforts heralds a larger change within its AI organization, per the Quartz report.

Pesenti will report directly to Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, a move that could streamline the AI group’s management structure. Additionally, Facebook’s AML group will now work more closely with FAIR, as part of a larger initiative to unify the company’s AI efforts.

Recently, LeCun took the infamous Sophia the Robot (and Business Insider) to task for spreading what he sees as “complete bulls—” about artificial intelligence.

Read the full Quartz report here, including an interview with LeCun.