Carnegie Mellon University

Facekbook's Jerome Pesenti

September 17, 2018

Jérôme Pesenti: AI Is the Core of Facebook Business

The keynote speaker for INTERSECT@CMU, Jérôme Pesenti, Vice President of Artificial Intelligence for Facebook, extolled the value of strategic partnerships with universities like Carnegie Mellon University during his remarks on Friday morning. His address, titled “AI Today and Tomorrow,” highlighted the societal benefits of artificial intelligence, as well as some of the challenges and risks that AI researchers are facing.

At Facebook, AI is used for a wide array of functions. “What people don’t realize is AI is the core of Facebook’s business,” Pesenti said. The algorithms Facebook uses filter out inappropriate content, including graphic images, hate speech, and exploitative links, as well as to enhance posts to encourage community connections and improve user experience. He also highlighted some of the developing functions of machine learning, such as real-time language translation.

One important aspect he highlighted was the challenge of keeping bias out of AI filters. Predictive systems are based on algorithms developed by humans. “The problem of AI today is that it learns from people, and people have biases,” he said. “These biases go into the data that is used to train the system, and then the algorithm, if we don’t pay attention to it, will basically amplify these biases.” For example, Facebook provides a service for recommending jobs to users. It’s possible, he said, that an algorithm might filter out users who don’t match a certain demographic profile and therefore perpetuate existing biases. The future of AI work, Pesenti said, depends on recruiting and developing a diverse field of researchers who can better anticipate and address biases in data and testing.

Pesenti came to Carnegie Mellon in 1998 as a visiting scientist at the School of Computer Science. While he was conducting artificial intelligence research with Raul Valdez-Perez, he took courses at the business school in, management, accounting, and entrepreneurship. Together with their colleague Chris Palmer, Pesenti and Valdez-Perez founded Vivisimo in 2000, which launched Pesenti’s entrepreneurial career before he joined Facebook as its inaugural Vice President of Artificial Intelligence at Facebook.

Pesenti holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Paris-Sud University and a bachelor of science from Sorbonne University in Paris. After his company Vivisimo was acquired by IBM, Pesenti joined IBM and helped develop the Watson Platform. He later served as CEO of BenevolentTech, the technology division of British company BenevolentAI, where he currently serves on the board of directors. At Facebook, Pesenti leads the company’s research in artificial intelligence and machine learning.