from the may-I-mambu-dogface-to-the-banana-patch? dept.
Bob: "I can 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."
To you and I, that passage looks like nonsense. But what if I told you this nonsense was the discussion of what might be the most sophisticated negotiation software on the planet? Negotiation software that had learned, and evolved, to get the best deal possible with more speed and efficiency–and perhaps, hidden nuance–than you or I ever could? Because it is.
This conversation occurred between two AI agents developed inside Facebook. At first, they were speaking to each other in plain old English. But then researchers realized they'd made a mistake in programming.
"There was no reward to sticking to English language," says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). As these two agents competed to get the best deal–a very effective bit of AI vs. AI dogfighting researchers have dubbed a "generative adversarial network"–neither was offered any sort of incentive for speaking as a normal person would. So they began to diverge, eventually rearranging legible words into seemingly nonsensical sentences.
"Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves," says Batra, speaking to a now-predictable phenomenon that Facebook as observed again, and again, and again. "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."
Indeed. Humans have developed unique dialects for everything from trading pork bellies on the floor of the Mercantile Exchange to hunting down terrorists as Seal Team Six–simply because humans sometimes perform better by not abiding to normal language conventions. So should we let our software do the same thing? Should we allow AI to evolve its dialects for specific tasks that involve speaking to other AIs? To essentially gossip out of our earshot? Maybe; it offers us the possibility of a more interoperable world, a more perfect place where iPhones talk to refrigerators that talk to your car without a second thought.
The tradeoff is that we, as humanity, would have no clue what those machines were actually saying to one another.
[Reminds me of]: Voynich Manuscript
What are your thoughts on this topic?
If you thought artificial intelligence was already overhyped to death, this week will have given you a heart attack. On Monday, excitement levels among hacks hit the roof amid claims Facebook had scrambled to shut down its chatbots after they started inventing their own language.
Several publications called the programs "creepy." Some journalists implied Facebook yanked the plug before, presumably, some kind of super-intelligence reared its head. The UK's Sun newspaper demanded to know: "Are machines taking over?" Australian telly channel Seven News even went as far as to call it an "artificial intelligence emergency." Newsflash: it isn't.
[...] Zachary Lipton, an incoming assistant professor of machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, told The Register this week: "The work is interesting. But these are just statistical models, the same as those that Google uses to play board games or that your phone uses to make predictions about what word you're saying in order to transcribe your messages. They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles, or your shoes."