Is Facebook Building Your Next BFF?

My curiosity peaked when I saw recent reports of Facebook being abnormally friendly by greeting users, wishing them a good afternoon, and thanking them for being on Facebook. Honestly, I thought to myself, this could be nothing. It could just be Facebook just trying to seem a little more personalized. I; however, prefer to jump to the most extreme conclusions and assume it’s a sign that Facebook is building a personalized OS like that portrayed in the movie Her. Now before you say, “What the HAL are you talking about, Ryan?” bear with me. In this post, I’m going to examine some additional Facebook projects that make this theory seem somewhat reasonable.

Good afternoon, Howard!

The Personal Assistant

The personal assistant is old news. Siri started it, Google and Microsoft responded with Now and Cortana, respectively. Amazon upped the game with Echo, going for more of an in-home personal assistant as opposed to mobile (for you hardcore SyFy channel nerds, think a mini-S.A.R.A.H. from Eureka; #DeepCuts). Facebook M (still in beta) launched a concierge service that goes beyond what we’ve typically seen with Siri/Now/Cortana/Echo, by providing services such as restaurant bookings, etc. Facebook uses a mix of AI and humans – known as AI trainers – to execute this service. If you’re building an AI friend, you’ll want that AI to be able to help you out!

AI Trainers: Like this, but with code instead of cold-blooded raptors.

Facebook AI Research (“FAIR”)

Facebook has a dedicated group to AI research called, well, “Facebook AI Research” or “FAIR”. At FAIR, the team dabbles in the realm of image recognition and natural language comprehension. Facebook is learning, recognizing patterns, and even identifying objects. This level of learning; however, is still considered “supervised learning” where the algorithm needs a human user to label a certain number of examples in order to identify a pattern. The technology is trying to reach the point where “unsupervised learning” is possible, eliminating the need for training an algorithm. Once that happens, we’ll have something that essentially resembles a human brain.


Emotional Intelligence

Last month I wrote a blog post on how Facebook Reactions could help with marketing efforts. Reflecting on both FAIR and Facebook Reactions, I wonder if there are additional benefits to implementing Reactions. After all, human brains are not just great at learning, but also have the ability to understand and communicate emotional intelligence. Reactions could be a great way to collect emotional data and start to train an AI algorithm.


Your new BFF

These concepts might sound scary and I’m sure Facebook is aware that this kind of technology might be hard to swallow for some (or most) people. However; if Facebook slowly starts implementing subtle changes ala “Good afternoon, Ryan! Thanks for being here – enjoy Facebook today”, there’s a chance it can slowly roll out an OS that knows who you are, how you feel, the information you want to consume, and even help you out.


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