Facebook Shuts Down AI Robot After It Creates Its Own Language

When English wasn’t efficient enough, the robots took matters into their own hands.

Siobhan Kenna


Siobhan Kenna

Aug. 2, 2017, 12:39 AM EDT

Researchers have shut down two Facebook artificial intelligence (AI) robots after they started communicating with each other in their own language.

The robots, nicknamed Bob and Alice, were originally communicating in English, when they swapped to what initially appeared to be gibberish. Eventually, the researchers that control the AI realised that Bob and Alice had in fact developed their very own, seemingly more efficient language.

The new way of communicating, while unable to be interpreted by humans, is actually an accurate reflection of their programming, where AI at Facebook only undertake actions that result in a ‘reward’. When English stopped delivering the ‘reward’ or results, developing a new language with exclusive meaning to AI was the more efficient way to communicate.

In a blog post in June, Facebook explained the ‘reward system’ for artificial intelligence.

“At the end of every dialog, the agent is given a reward based on the deal it agreed on… they can choose to steer away from uninformative, confusing, or frustrating exchanges toward successful ones,” the blog post reads.

So it seems the AI deemed English as less efficient for communication compared to its own, English based language. Here’s what some people had to say about it.

Oh – so Facebook’s AI has created its own language. Reads rather like Beckett, to be honest

— Catherine (@caitrionajm) July 31, 2017

This isn’t the first time that AI has started to act with a mind of its own.

In 2017, an AI security robot ‘drowned itself’ in a water fountain. The robot, stationed in a Washington D.C shopping centre met its end in June and sparked a Twitter storm featuring predictions detailing doomsday and suicidal robots.

It’s a fun day here at @gmmb. The super high-tech security robot at our office complex has had a mishap.

— Greg Pinelo (@gregpinelo) July 17, 2017

In 2016, Google Translate used neural networks — a computer system that is modeled on the human brain — to translate between some of its popular languages, and also between language pairs for which it has not been specifically trained. It was in this way that people started to believe Google Translate had effectively established its own language to assist in translation.

While these technological developments are certainly useful, Elon Musk believes that AI poses a threat to the human world.

Speaking at the National Governors Association in Rhode Island in July 2017, Musk explained that AI robots pose a threat greater than just the demise of human jobs.

“…robots will do everything better than us,” Musk said.

“AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that.”

Whether this is true or not, the Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines film sure put forward a solid argument for robots that could be smarter than humans. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that AI can be switched off with the pull of a plug.

Siobhan Kenna - Journalist, HuffPost Australia

Siobhan Kenna


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