The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization founded by Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, announced on its Facebook page (where else?) that it would be acquiring the artificial intelligence startup Meta. This is big news, as it is the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s first acquisition since the its creation in 2015.

Founded in 2010, the Toronto-based company has built an AI tool that is capable of reading and analyzing the millions of scientific papers published per year, highlighting key trends and insights that might otherwise have taken researchers years to uncover. The goal now is, with the considerable backing of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, to address the AI challenges of tomorrow by creating a tool that is “even more powerful and useful for the entire scientific community”, and that will eventually be available to researchers to use for free.

Meta and the AI challenges of tomorrow

There is no doubt that Meta’s potential to revolutionize the world of health, scientific research, and even the discipline of science itself is extraordinary. However, in order for Meta to operate the way it wants to, all data and scientific research from every organization across the world must be available for access — which might prove problematic for pharmaceutical firms, for example, where research is directly tied to revenue.

Additionally, not all scientific papers are created equally, nor are all experiments carried out with the same measures of care and impartiality. Any tool meant to act as an aggregator must therefore be equipped to analyze any possible flaws or biases, and correct for them as it looks to find greater trends. This is an issue that many AI systems face, and it is one of the biggest AI challenges of tomorrow. It is also surely an issue that the creators of Meta have thought deeply about, and it is unlikely that they would get very far without having addressed it in some way, but this is information that people who use the tool should be privy to.  

Making the world better, one AI system at a time

The ingenious thing about a tool such as Meta is that it encourages and incentivizes people to share their research with them, much like Facebook encourages and incentivizes people to share personal information on their platform. This would make it easier for researchers to find papers that relate to their subjects of interest, while also potentially reducing the amount of repetition that is endemic in scientific research.

Overall, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s decision to purchase Meta is well in line with their desire to “cure, prevent, or manage all diseases in our children’s lifetime.” It also sets out a precedent that other large corporations would do well to follow — hopefully, sooner rather than later.