Facebook just hired the ‘father of statistical learning’

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Facebook just got even smarter.

Facebook is continuing its New York Yankees-like spree of acquiring talent for its artificial intelligence department. Today the AI research team announced via Facebook post the addition of Vladimir Vapnik.

Known as the “father of statistical learning theory,” Vapnik is credited with creating the first support vector machine (SVM) algorithm—and the current standard was first proposed by Vapnik and Danish computer scientist Corinna Cortes in 1993. The learning theory concept that measures the capacity of a learning machine also bears his name: the Vapnik-Chervonenkis Dimension.

Vapnik’s decision to jump from his current position with the University of London perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise. Facebook already employs Jason Weston, Ronan Collobert, and Yann LeCun, former colleagues of Vapnik at AT&T Bell Labs.

LeCun was appointed as the head of the Facebook AI research team last year. The trailblazer of convolutional neural networks has a long and interesting history with Vapnik.

According to a story shared in Wired, Vapnik had been critical of LeCun’s neural nets. The two were involved in a wager placed in 1995, betting expensive dinners on the future of deep artificial neural nets. Vapnik believed deep artificial neural nets would a mystery by the year 2000 and that no one would be using LeCun’s neural nets by 2005. Vapnik won the first bet but lost the second.

According to the announcement, Vapnik’s role at Facebook will include “collaborating with FAIR research scientists to develop some of his new ideas on conditional density estimation, learning with privileged information, and other topics.” 

Photo via Sarah.Marshall/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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