Facebook’s AI Robots Get Shut Down After they Begin Speaking to Each Other in a New Language

by Mark Angelides

As part of an effort to teach Artificial Intelligence robots to be able to “barter” with humans, Facebook discovered that their two subjects had created a new language form and were using it to communicate with each other. The language, although using English for the actual words, was unintelligible, but in many ways successful at communicating the idea of trade and value.
The two robots (Bob and Alice) were asked to figure out how to get the best possible deal for themselves based on trading items that had specified values; the project started well, but soon they descended into a language that was impossible to fully understand by the programmers.
This is not a case of the robots secretly plotting to overthrow the humans with their new “super special language”; the robots had simply created a form of shorthand that was easily understandable to them. Here’s an excerpt:
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
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 me to me
Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to
Bob: you i 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
Although it seems like the repeated words are just gibberish, it is thought that they are actually representing plurals (e.g. two x “me” means “I take/have 2”).
The robots actually managed to not only carry out successful “value trades”, but in one instance even managed to “pretend” that they were not interested in one product to try and get a lower price later on.
This project has apparently been shut down. Not because of “sentient” robots and secret languages, but because the project aim was to have the robots communicating in a way that seemed human. And this is a worry.
Why would Facebook want to create robots that can barter and haggle with humans in a non-detectable way? We can make two fairly solid assumptions:

  1. At some point, Facebook (or an associated company) will begin selling or trading products/services to consumers directly. It will be based on a “needs and barter” system.
  2. They don’t intend the human “barterer” to have a chance at getting the best deal.
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