Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language, but not - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language, but not because of some 'Skynet' scenario

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Today is August 1, 2017. 

According to Terminator 2: Judgment Day (which is what I base much of my life on. Or at least the "inner-city dirt bike, GnR listening" part of it), the Skynet Funding Bill was passed and Skynet went online on August 4, 1997. 25 days later, Skynet became self-aware. We all know what happened next. 

"Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug," the Terminator tells Sarah Conner. 

"Skynet fights back," Conner replies. 

And the war against the machines began. 

That didn't happen in 1997, but 20 years later (isn't it weird that 1997 was 20 years ago?) in 2017, Facebook "shut down" a pair of artificial intelligence robots because they invented their own language. But not because of some Terminator 2 scenario. It wasn't anything like that. It's just fun to reference the movie. But it has nothing to do with what really happened. 

Here's what actually happened. 

Back in June, Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research team built a "chatbot" that was supposed to learn how to negotiate by observing and imitating human trading and bartering practices. However, when the researchers pitted two of the AI programs (nicknamed Bob and Alice) against each other, the bots began to talk to each other in their own form of communication. 

Their conversation “led to divergence from human language as the agents (chatbots) developed their own language for negotiating,” the researchers said.

The robots were tasked with trading hats, balls and books by determining the value of each object and bartering for them with each other. Facebook's researchers provided no incentive for trading in English, and the programs created their own terms for cutting deals. 

"In their attempts to learn from each other, the bots thus began chatting back and forth in a derived shorthand - but while it might look creepy, that's all it was," technology news site Gizmodo said.

The "plug was pulled," but the bots didn't fight back. Nor was that a concern. 

Facebook didn't shutdown these bots because they were a threat to mankind. They simply weren't interested in what was happening, according to BBC News. 

"Facebook's system was being used for research, not public-facing applications, and it was shut down because it was doing something the team wasn't interested in studying - not because they thought they had stumbled on an existential threat to mankind," BBC said. "It's important to remember, too, that chatbots in general are very difficult to develop."

You may have seen similar reports recently referencing Skynet and Terminator 2 (I'm unoriginal, I know), which is something Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research team (understandably) takes exception to. 

"While the idea of AI agents inventing their own language may sound alarming/unexpected to people outside the field, it is a well-established sub-field of AI, with publications dating back decades," Dhruv Batra from the FAIR team said on Facebook. "Simply put, agents in environments attempting to solve a task will often find unintuitive ways to maximize reward. Analyzing the reward function and changing the parameters of an experiment is NOT the same as 'unplugging" or "shutting down AI.' If that were the case, every AI researcher has been "shutting down AI" every time they kill a job on a machine."

Batra called certain media reports "clickbaity and irresponsible."  

So no, there's no Skynet-scenario coming anytime soon. At least from Facebook's chatbots.

If you're interested, you can read the entire research paper HERE.

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