Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg confirms Meta is accelerating its development of general purpose artificial intelligence chatbots. Wikimedia Commons

Mark Zuckerberg is catching flak for his ambitious artificial intelligence (AI) project, which involves building a powerful AI system with human-level intelligence.

Shedding some light on the company's AI efforts in an Instagram Reel video, Zuckerberg said that Meta's AI research group, Fundamental AI Research (FAIR) will work alongside the team building generative AI products across Meta's apps.

This move is expected to expedite the development of general-purpose artificial intelligence (GPAI) chatbots. It is worth noting that GPAI alludes to systems that can perform a slew of functions such as pattern detection, translation, audio and video generation, as well as image and speech recognition.

This doesn't come as a surprise given that an earlier report indicated Meta is testing various ways generative AI can enhance user experience across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

In line with this, Zuckerberg announced Meta will be investing a lot of money in developing specialised computer chips that will facilitate the process of building and delivering new generative AI models and products.

The top executive also confirmed that Meta is currently training its next-generation Llama 3 large language model (LLM). To recap, Meta teamed up with Microsoft last year to unveil its AI model Llama 2.

Meta wants to be at the forefront of the AI space

"It's become clear that the next generation of services requires building full general intelligence. Building the best AI assistants—AIs for creators, AIs for businesses and more—that needs advances in every area of AI from reasoning to planning to coding to memory and other cognitive abilities," Zuckerberg said.

The announcements are major signs that Zuckerberg wants Meta to be at the forefront of developing consumer-centric AI products.

This move is not only important to Meta's investors but also to engineers and machine learning researchers, who are showing more interest in working for well-funded AI startups like OpenAI.

Taking a major step forward in this direction, Meta is merging its advanced AI research division FAIR with its recently established GenAI group. Cashing in on their combined power, Meta is hoping to build generative AI products such as the celebrity persona chatbots it launched last year.

In a similar move, Alphabet merged Google Brain and DeepMind last year. The merger enabled the American tech giant to build more capable AI models and move them into commercial production faster than it had managed to in the past.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and other technologists believe personal AI assistants could be in the offing soon and this will be a significant platform shift in computing.

These AI chatbots will serve as agents and perform several tasks such as planning vacations, booking restaurant reservations, composing letters and more. Unsurprisingly, Zuckerberg wants Meta to be a part of this platform shift.

There's an ongoing war for AI talent

Zuckerberg's announcement confirms that Meta is gearing up to recruit and retain AI researchers and machine learning engineers.

Meanwhile, the word on the street is that Google is offering seven-figure stock grants to its top AI engineers and researchers in a bid to ensure they do not leave the company and join OpenAI.

In a recently published interview, Zuckerberg told The Verge that he has started to talk about "general purpose intelligence" to attract this rarefied talent. "I think that's important to convey because a lot of the best researchers want to work on the more ambitious problems," he told the publication.

Meta has been doing important AI research in multiple areas including unsupervised learning, where an AI system doesn't rely on labelled data to learn patterns. The company has also done research in AI software that can outperform humans at the strategy game "Diplomacy".

However, the company was never focused on becoming a major force in the artificial general intelligence (AGI) segment. Nevertheless, FAIR founder and Meta's chief AI scientist Yann LeCun believes AGI may be possible, but researchers aren't close to achieving it at the moment.

The potential emergence of AGI has caused concerns among experts and politicians around the world, who believe such a system is capable of evading human control and threatening humanity.

However, Zuckerberg noted that Meta plans to make its AGI open source, or freely available to developers and the public to use, like the company's Llama 2 AI model.

"This technology is so important and the opportunities are so great that we should open source and make it as widely available as we responsibly can, so everyone can benefit," he said.