Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Buys AI Company That Reads Scientific Papers For You

By Holly Brockwell on at

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative - Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan's company for investing in technology to "advance human potential" - has announced its acquisition of Canadian AI company Meta.

If the deal goes through, Zuck's company will own Meta's pioneering tool for reading scientific papers at scale, looking for patterns and insights that can be shared with the wider scientific community. In a letter announcing the decision, Meta CEO Sam Molyneux explains:

"In any area of human endeavour, the ability to understand what is happening is paramount. Rapid progress demands awareness.

"In science, peer-reviewed articles are the medium for the global conversation among researchers, and they represent the foundational reference point by which we judge what is known, where science is going, and what to work on next.

"But in the 21st century, the speed of science staggers under its own growth. Each day, more than 4,000 scientific papers are published in biomedicine alone. Using current tools, most will not be read by other scientists who can learn from them.

"Scientists lack the means to make sense of the vast amount of research being produced around the world. To speed up progress, researchers need to be able to learn from each other's insights in real time.

[...] through Meta, we set out to make this possible."

Zuck is well-known for his interest in artificial intelligence, having spent considerable time in 2016 creating and finessing an AI butler named Jarvis (yes, after the one in Iron Man) to use in his own home. Having repeatedly run into problems with it, perhaps he'll be asking advice from his new expert colleagues.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, despite being frequently described as a charity, is actually a limited-liability company (LLC), meaning that while its aims are undoubtedly noble, it can be a for-profit venture if its leadership so wishes. The company was established in 2015 with a huge infusion of Facebook shares, as a celebration of the birth of Mark and Priscilla's daughter, Max Chan Zuckerberg. The latest venture is part of the pair's commitment to "cure all diseases by the end of this century," a lofty aim accompanied by a $3bn plan that it seems is well in motion. [Phys Org]

Photo: Mark Zuckerberg (Getty)