Facebook killed two robots that created their own language

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Facebook killed two robots that created their own language

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Author Ben Leonard

Facebook recently admitted to having decommissioned two artificial intelligence programs that appeared to have created their own language.

Artificial Intelligence Research

The research team at Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research department had built a series of chatbots that were designed to carry out negotiations. It was being programmed to learn to negotiate by mimicking human bartering and trading.

However, these two chatbots – Bob and Alice – were found to have made changes to the English language that appeared to make it easier for them to work.

Bob and Alice, the two chatbots, had been tasked with negotiating a trade with each other. They had been attempting to swap some simple items, such as hats, balls and books, each of which had been assigned a value.

Nonsensical English

However, researchers quickly noticed that the chatbots had begun chanting at each other in nonsensical English.

Artificial Intelligence

The researchers quickly realised the mistake, as they had not told the chatbots to use comprehensible English, which meant that the chatbots were able to create their own version of English which allowed them to trade and barter with more efficiency.

“There was no reward to sticking to English language,” Dhruv Batra, Facebook researcher, told FastCo. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves.

“Like if I say ‘the’ five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn’t so different from the way communities of humans create shorthands.”

A new language

The language doesn’t look like anything we would recognise, most would say that it is total gibberish. However, to the robots it makes sense.

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

            Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

            Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

            Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me 

            Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

            Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

            Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

The Facebook team hypothesised that this new version of English made sense to the robots. There do seem to be rules to the speech, and the way that the bots stressed their own names seemed to be part of the negotiations, rather than just a glitch.

The language actually became so advanced that the two chatbots were able to successfully carry out an entire negotiation.

Marked improvement

Once they had shut down the two robots, the Facebook Research team said that there was a marked improvement towards creating robots that could “reason, converse and negotiate.” They also added they these were all “key steps in building a personalised digital assistant”

This doesn’t come as a shock to many, especially those who have been following the progress of Facebook’s M assistant.

Facebook has largely been playing catch-up in this area, as both Apple and Microsoft storm ahead with their own AIs, Siri and Cortana respectively.

Rise of the robots

The Facebook Research team were quick to stress that they did not shut the robots down because they were afraid of the results, but rather because they needed the robots to behave completely differently.

The purpose of the robots, they explained, was to converse with humans. Therefore, they needed to be able to speak English the entire team, rather than creating their own, untranslatable language.

All of this came less than a week after Elon Musk dismissed Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of artificial intelligence, saying that Zuckerberg’s knowledge on the subject was “limited”.

By | 2018-12-14T09:35:18+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Technology|0 Comments

About the Author:

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Ben is a Journalist with an extensive track record within most media, including TV, radio, press and direct marketing. Specialising in finance and business writing, Ben draws upon his extensive experience to craft compelling articles that provide valuable information to CLNews readers in a format that is easy to understand.