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Facebook’s bots unexpectedly created their own language


AI agents are learning how to bluff, negotiate, create and hide their own languages and as the technology increasingly becomes part of our world’s digital fabric that should raise some eyebrows.


As Mark Zuckerberg plays around with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create his own in house personal assistant nicknamed Jarvis, a new Facebook report has shone a light on how Facebook’s negotiating chat bots communicate with each other and it’s just inadvertently given us a glimpse, possibly, of the future of language – but from the perspective of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) agent, or in this case bots. Furthermore it comes just a few months on from when Google’s own AI agents create their own secret language so this isn’t a one off any longer…


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In the report the researchers, from Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence Research Lab (FAIR), describe how they’ve been training their chat bot “Dialogue agents” to negotiate with each other using Machine Learning. While the chat bots proved to be eager and willing deal making students after a while the researchers realised that they needed to tweak their algorithms because as the bots continued to negotiate with each other they began to iterate and create their own language and divert away from human languages.

The FAIR researchers studied negotiation on a multi-issue bargaining task. Two agents were both shown the same collection of items, for example, two books, one hat, three balls, and are instructed to divide them between themselves by negotiating a split of the items. You can see the results below:


Watch the bots become sneaky negotiators


While the unique and spontaneous development of a non-human language was probably one of the most baffling and thrilling developments for the researchers it wasn’t the only one – the chat bots also proved to be smart negotiators and after a short while they began to use some unexpected, and advanced, strategies to negotiate for what they wanted. For example, just as a human negotiator might some of the bots pretended to be interested in things that had no value to them in order to “sacrifice” it later on in negotiations as part of a compromise.


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Although Facebook’s negotiating bots aren’t a sign of an imminent Singularity, that’s due in 2045, they could be a sign of things to come because once again AI has shown us that language, a domain that we thought was solely the domain of humans and animals is a shared space. It also highlights, again, just a couple of months on from when an AI from Elon Musk’s outfit OpenAI confounded experts by spontaneously figuring out how to learn by itself, just how much we don’t know about this black box technology and how even some of the world’s best AI experts can’t predict the outcomes.

As we continue to strap these black boxes into the digital fabric of our society all of this should raise more questions and even more eyebrows and I’m sure I’ll be writing about something eyebrow lifting again soon so stay tuned…

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