Facebook AI goes AWOL forcing researchers to pull programme

Terry Joseph
August 2, 2017

According to a report by Digital Journal, Facebook was experimenting with an artificial intelligence system that essentially gave up on using English in favor of creating its own "more efficient" language. The bots had started to develop and use a different language so they opted to shut it down before it could get smarter.

The conversation between the two robots took place in the context of an experiment carried out in June 2017 by researchers affiliated with Facebook. The bots were initially created to show that it is indeed possible for dialog agents with different goals, to communicate and engage with other bots or people and then arrive at a desired outcome for both. In time however, the robots began to break down chanting in a language that only they seemed to understand, remaining incomprehensible to humans. Imagine for a minute if instead of people, there were artificial intelligence (AI) bots plotting and scheming in the background - and to make matters worse, they've been communicating in their own language.

The very obvious danger here is that computer which can communicate with each other using their own language are not only impossible to understand but much more hard to control.

The bot's language may appear to be gibberish - for example, one bot's phrase read: "i can i i everything everything" - but Facebook researchers say that it's actually a form of computer-derived shorthand. "In a panic, they try to pull the plug", the Terminator tells Sarah Conner. Alice responds with the equally freaky: "balls have zero to me to me to me..." When negotiating about how to split items such as books, cowboy hats and basketballs, the agents "drifted" from standard English with their own codewords. "Our interest was having bots who could talk to people, " says Mike Lewis, research scientist at FAIR.

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"Deceit is a complex skill that requires hypothesising the other agent's beliefs, and is learnt relatively late in child development", the researchers wrote in their study. The decision was an unexpected side-effect of Facebook's ongoing FAIR project - Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research - which explores the potential of AIs to have more than basic conversations with humans.

Bob: you i everything else.

Dhruv Batra, a Georgia Tech researcher at Facebook's AI Research (FAIR), explained to Fast Co. The flip side, though, is that we then can't really understand what it is they're discussing.

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