In a recent case, Facebook researchers had to shut down an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system as the AI “agents” began speaking another language that they created. To humans, this language could be interpreted as gibberish, but to the agents it’s a more efficient mode of communication.
The AI agents, that have limitless cognitive abilities, created a language that cannot be processed by humans because the “tokens” can have multiple meanings. For example, humans simplify concepts by saying “A” means this and “B” means that. Whereas, the AI can have infinite meanings for “A” or “B” because there is no limit to their processing power.
For example, the two AI agents, named Bob and Alice, had an exchange that went as such:
Bob: “I can can I I everything else.”
Alice: “Balls have zero to me to me to me…”
This conversation shows that repeated terms such as “I” and “to me” have more than one stagnant meaning to the agents. The researchers believed this was a negotiation between the agents about how many of each item they should take. Bob later says, “I I can I I I everything else,” which indicates how it was using language to offer more items to Alice. The rough translation goes as follows, “I’ll have three and you can have everything else.”
Why a New Language?
AI agents operate on a “reward principle” almost like positive reinforcement. They expect to receive some sort of benefit for completing tasks and actions. Speaking English was giving them no such benefit, so in turn they coined a new language to make communication more efficient.
This language can be compared to the use of shorthand with humans. It’s a way of creating a more efficient, and less time consuming, solution to communicating their thoughts. However, where we have humans to teach other humans about shorthand, we don’t have that luxury for AI.
What’s the Big Deal?
The AI agents speaking in their own language poses a threat to humans as we have no idea what’s being said in their exchanges. This could simply lead to loss of control over artificial intelligence.
It’s important to continue making advancements in science and technology, but on the other hand we could have a classic case of “I, Robot” on our hands at any moment if we were to lose control. There’s not yet enough evidence to determine if this new language poses a threat to the agents overruling their operators, but it makes the development that much more difficult.
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