Stop Panicking! Artificial Intelligence Is Not Attacking Us (Yet)
Humans are mysterious creatures – we are both strive for something new and run from it, especially when it starts behaving unexpectedly. This is just what happened not so long ago with Facebook chat bots, which allegedly created their language. The Internet community immediately panicked, expecting the AI army to rise and human kind to end. Well, the good news is that it’s too much of a stretch to say that humanity is in danger because of Artificial Intelligence, at least for now.
What Everyone Thought Happened
The one thing I hate about the Internet (okay, it’s not the only one, but rather the one I dislike the most) is its ability to cause a quick emotional reaction that spreads like wildfire. In other words, panic advances through the Internet faster than light travels through space. Journalists of news agencies and online magazines strive to get the most views, that’s why they create bold headings and scary summary leads. Such actions often result in dismay and hysteria among users, which escalates the situation even further. Just google “Facebook bots create their language” and see what happens.
The epic exchange between the two bots that attracted so much attention looks like this:
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 me
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
Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What Actually Happened
As you can see, calling the occurrence with Facebook bots Bob and Alice creation of a new language would be a big stretch. First of all, this has already happened several times in the field of machine learning. But since it was in a laboratory and with quite monotonous comments of someone too-smart-to-even-listen-to, that news didn’t get such a hype. Here we have a different situation since two Facebook bots enrolled in a program of machine learning were let loose to choose their counterparts and improve their conversation skills.
Though the fact that bots, once left without human supervision, started to use their constructions and phrases, is remarkable, we are still far away from a robot uprising. As Dhurv Batra, a research scientist at FAIR, explains, the language of the robots in this example is gibberish and is not far from what ancient humans did to express quantity, describe a group of people, etc. For example, repeating “to me” five times allegedly means that the bot wanted five items of something – just like humans did with counting before we invented numerals.
Though the scientists treat this as a remarkable fact because of the robots’ desire (if we could say so) to deviate from the basic script and experiment with their resources, humanity is far away from witnessing the first sentient AI.
Why Were The Bots Shut Down?
Quite logically, people started asking, “If nothing serious happened, then why the bots were shut down? This looks suspicious.” And the theories about the bots uprising and Mark Zuckerberg killing a sentient AI in its cradle kick in again. As it always happens, the reason for disconnecting the bots is wa-ay more trivial than agitated Internet users have created in their heads: the engineers forgot to set the rules of communication (using proper English) and switched the bots off to fix the settings.
The panic was heated up by the recent discussion of the dangers and benefits of AI development by Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. To tell the truth, this probably was the primary cause of the upheaval, mainly based on confirmation bias. In other words, Internet users alarmed by Elon Musk’s warnings about ruthless AI killing humans wanted to find evidence for their opinion, and they found it.
Biographical Info: I’m Alex Miller, as you have probably guessed it, a computer gaming fan to the marrow of my bones. Video games and eSports are my calling, hobby, and job, and I consider myself to be very lucky for being able to connect all that. I also study gaming industry and write articles about it on a regular basis.