Facebook Encourages AI Students to Focus on Mathematics

December 2, 2016 - 3 minutes read

yann_lecun_at_the_university_of_minnesota

Facebook’s Yann LeCun is a leading figure in the artificial intelligence (AI) community, and responsible for much of the heavy lifting the company has done in the AI arena for iPhone app developers. When he speaks, developers listen — and he has some sage words for young aspiring AI developers and established tech educators alike in a Facebook video going over what he sees as the core commandments of an AI education.

The video starts with some broad background on AI and why it matters before leaping into how students can get involved. Says LeCun, “So, what we are working on here at Facebook is a set of technologies that sort of push the science if you want, so that we can build more intelligent systems so that it can be beneficial to more people.” This sets up how AI exists in the context of a complex team at any San Francisco app development or tech company.

Unsurprisingly, those commandments are heavy on the STEM skills Dogtown Media and other iPhone app developers have been working to promote within the US education system. More surprisingly, LeCun focussed heavily on traditional math skills like Calculus and Algebra, as well as often dismissed classes like Statistics.

To be specific, LeCun said that high-school students absolutely must excel at Calc I, Calc II, Calc III, Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics if they hope to advance quickly in the AI economy.

The talk gets really interesting, however, when LeCun touches on the need for philosophy education, alongside other less technical liberal arts. iPhone app developers can benefit from a sound understanding of reasoning and human nature, and that will be even more true as the software we’re designing becomes increasingly complex and, well, “artificially intelligent.”

Ethics are a huge focus of the public perception of AI and app development, and they should be an equally big conversation behind closed doors at the leading tech companies using AI to bring new products and services to consumers.

At the university level, LeCun has standard but solid advice for aspiring AI developers: pick a program based on a specific professor you’d like to work with, and don’t overlook the importance of a hands-on, real-world internship.

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