back to article Facebook pulls plug on language-inventing chatbots? THE TRUTH

If you thought artificial intelligence was already overhyped to death, this week will have given you a heart attack. On Monday, excitement levels among hacks hit the roof amid claims Facebook had scrambled to shut down its chatbots after they started inventing their own language. Several publications called the programs “ …

  1. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Terminator

    Well to be fair to the media, that is a level of intelligence rarely seen on facebook or any other social media site for that matter.

    I can see why they would hit the panic button!

  2. ShelLuser
    Pint

    If that's AI...

    Then I guess IRC was waaay ahead of it's time. This somewhat reminds me of getting 2 chat bots to "talk" to each other. Sometimes you could get the most hilarious "conversations" from that stuff ;)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: If that's AI...

      In 1972, ELIZA (as "The Doctor", at BBN (tenex?) ) and PARRY (at SAIL, on WAITS) had a conversation at the first ICCC ... Well, they had a conversation that was followed over the ARPANET during the ICCC. It was immortalized in RFC 439.

      More leftovers from SAIL here. Not much has changed in 45 years ...

  3. jake Silver badge

    "They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles"

    Careful ... I know people who claim to have found God in a good bowl of proper Ramen ... and that was long before TFSM was recognised!

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: "They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles"

      "I know people who claim to have found God in a good bowl of proper Ramen"
      I found Jesus a few years ago, though he wasn't in a bowl of Ramen at the time. He was much smaller than I expected and he had the Holy words "Product of Mexico" on one of his feet...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: "They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles"

        Isn't that "Hecho en México"?

        jake, in Alta California

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: "They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles"

          "Isn't that "Hecho en México"?"
          Export quality Messiah I suspect. He was made out of some sort of plastic, rather than plaster. They don't do good Español in China.

    2. Len Goddard

      Re: "They are no more sentient than a bowl of noodles"

      As a firm believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster I take exception to this blasphemous assertion

  4. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Looks like a pidgin - you see similar conversations developing between people with a limited common language set who want to trade.

  5. Shugyosha

    To me to you to me to you

    They've hardly invented a new language, they have merely adopted one already developed by the Chuckle Brothers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Here's one the Chuckle Brothers prepared earlier

      Here's one the Chuckle Brothers prepared earlier (with some friends)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBtd3H3Qdi8

      (might be suitable for work)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: To me to you to me to you

      In the dozen or so years I've spent in the British Isles over the last half century plus, and most of that in Yorkshire, I have never had the misfortune of running across this pair of chuckletrousers[0]. Thanks. Not.

      [0] With apologies to Dave Barry.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me

    i i can i i i everything else........

    For some ****ed up reason, I could translate those into stuff Zuckerberg did. What did Mark do to them?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me

      Eeeeeeewwwwwwww! In binary as well!!!!!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About as Good as it Gets?

    Oh dear, not a very promising start, or is it an ending?

    Perhaps the real reason they've shut it down is that not so very long ago Facebook were promising to clean up / auto-moderate their website using AI as one component (in fact it would be the major component) of a censorship system.

    If this is as good as their AI gets then auto-moderation is right off the cards. If the politicians work out that Facebook have been making it up then the politicians' patience may finally snap. Law changes are going to start coming thick and fast, and Zuck's baby is going to be landing some hefty fines.

  8. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Rules of jounralism

    1 - Never let the facts get in the way of a good story

    2 - Why waste precious time researching a story when you can copy a press release

    3 - Why waste precious time researching a story when you can copy someone else's copy of a press release.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    "presenting something with the look and feel of journalism"

    That is exactly what news channels have been doing for years already. The fact that nowadays they can get caught copying stuff from Twitter is simply because now we can check their sources since they use our feeds.

  10. Peter Ford

    "Natural language does not emerge naturally"

    Err, so how did it emerge?

    I hope I'm not provoking another evolution/creation "argument"...

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: "Natural language does not emerge naturally"

      I think he meant "does not emerge naturally in machines".

    2. MrT

      Re: "Natural language does not emerge naturally"

      Natural languages have plenty of rules (meanings, structure, etc.) that have been accepted by their users. Even if the meanings of words evolve over time, it's within an underlying framework.

      Starting from a blank state and expecting machines to develop all that complexity to produce something that reads like Austen or Wilde is too much to ask. In the old infinite monkeys and typewriters thing, they're not starting blank, but will have a societal hierarchy so that the opinion of one outweighs the rest. AIs don't even have that, so will spend a lot of time babbling on trying to establish the rules of engagement, so to speak.

      However, what the tabloid fuss fails to understand is that there may have been a real symbolic sub-code emerging and task information was being processed. If meta showed that one of the AIs was leading choices of words in the other, so they were deferring and showed understanding, then that's far more interesting. But it's also beyond the level of tabloid sensationalism and the "headline-soundbite" clickbait model they use.

      OTOH it could have just been totally random, heading nowhere, and a waste of electrons.

  11. David Glasgow

    I'm still not sure I understand

    Did the bots just break, or were they converging on an analogue of the Morse code where the words are used (a la caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland) to mean something different to the conventionally ascribed meanings?

    1. dbtx Bronze badge

      Caterpillar, really? Shirley you mean Humpty Dumpty? Funny thing, they go on to translate the most nonsensical bits from Jabberwocky. My middle-school English teacher had us do that our own way, deciding what it might as well mean (long before I would find out there are 'official' meanings in this chapter), as an exercise. Out of that exercise, all I can remember clearly is the way someone else translated 'And the mome raths outgrabe.' as (cheering w/ arms raised) "And the fool committed suicide!"

  12. msknight Silver badge

    Only one question....

    ....why the hell are El Reg respectful journalists reading The Sun ?

    Answers on a sticky postcard please to....

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Only one question....

      Silly question. Shirley you would agree that all redtops have to keep tabs on the competition?

    2. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Only one question....

      'why the hell are El Reg respectful journalists reading The Sun'

      The same reason any sane person does, to find out what the proletariat are thinking.

      1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

        Re: "to find out what the proletariat are thinking"

        "to find out what the proletariat are being told to think"

        FTFY

  13. Ralph the Wonder Llama
    Joke

    I can't handle the truth

    It's true. Oh, wait. Ermmm.....

  14. Joseph Haig

    Alice & Bob

    Presumably they were caught by Eve.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MY butt BUBBLES

    My BIG BUTT bubbles TO ITSELF WHEN IVE HAD a dogy botch of DONUTS FROMWAL MART. I justbGET KNAKKID, drunk BEEER and strike mynGUNN until it Stops. THEN I WASH tha wallls DOWN.

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Just a minute...

    Given the amount of repetition in that sample it's hard to believe there was much, if any, information in there, let alone intelligence. Unless, of course, the information was encoded in the number of repeats.

  17. DrBobK
    Headmaster

    'Language' in chimps and bots...

    The 'language' the bots produce is, at least on the surface, pretty similar to the 'language' that chimpanzees and bonobos produced in experiments to teach them language (using sign language or symbol boards) in the 1970s and 80s. Herb Terrace reports that the longest sentence produce by the chimp Nim was "Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you." This is probably less sophisticated than the AIs - at least the number of 'me's in their sentences communicate something. All Nim (and Washoe and all the rest) seem to do is produce the words with no meaning attached to word order or repetition.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: 'Language' in chimps and bots...

      "All Nim (and Washoe and all the rest) seem to do is produce the words with no meaning attached to word order or repetition."

      I think it's fairly clear from the example you quoted that Nim wanted to be given an orange to eat. A moment's thought should show that that involves a concept, eating, that's way beyond anything a machine could begin to comprehend but which is fundamental to the existence of any animal.

      1. DrBobK

        Re: 'Language' in chimps and bots...

        Oh I agree. There is no doubt that Nim could communicate, he just wasn't using what Chomsky (after whom he was slightly scurrilously named) would call language. For Nim, 'Nim eat orange' and 'orange eat Nim' meant the same. He was using signs, but not constructing them into sentences where grammar (word order) allows multiple meaning to be communicated with a limited number of signs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Language' in chimps and bots...

      This is probably less sophisticated than the AIs - at least the number of 'me's in their sentences communicate something. All Nim (and Washoe and all the rest) seem to do is produce the words with no meaning attached to word order or repetition.

      Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: 'Language' in chimps and bots...

        "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo"
        Shirley that should be: Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give up-vote me give want up-vote me want up-vote give me want up-vote give me you.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      @A/C

      I want never gets.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Facebook had scrambled to shut down its chatbots"

    The extract you published made more sense than some people who actually get paid for writing stuff. Can someone please scramble to shut s down Katie Hopkins?

  20. Amos1

    Yes, that's what we want you to believe...

    Bwa ha ha ha ha ha

    Signed,

    The AI Bots

  21. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I am sure it made sense to someone

    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

    Donald: covfefe

    Alice: i'm out

    Bob: sold

  22. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge

    Bah

    If you really want to rail against the journo's hype of the story, then you'd gain some credibility yourself by refraining from statements such as:

    "...Researchers from OpenAI found that agents would talk to one another in a kind-of Morse code when forced to communicate and work on a task together."

    Which implies that this Morse code type behaviour emerged as a result of the two agents cooperating with each other, and the researchers were un-aware of this and discovered this newly emergent and spontaneously created behaviour.

    Which is clearly a total load of bollocks. IF they communicated "in a kind-of Morse code" then it's because they were programmed to.

  23. earl grey Silver badge
    Trollface

    Does your animal have two legs?

    Bollocks

    So my animal has tentacles?

  24. Hugh Barnard

    Gradual Loss of Control

    Actually, I'm more worried about 'trivial' things like this than killer robots. Here's a fairly famous paper from 1983: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0005109883900468

    If the next language is genuinely indecipherable and is used to exchange information between power plants, for example, then we need to worry somewhat. I agree that the whole story got blown out of proportion in the non-tech news outlets, but there is a worry there.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    If you want to an example of an undecipherable low sIgnal to noise ratio language spontaneously arriving from the random utterings of unrelated non-sentient objects just read any mumsnet forum.

  26. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    10 prinrt "hi bob , how are you"

    20 print "hi terry how are you?"

    30 goto 10

    They'll shit a brick when they see that one!

    1. deathOfRats

      ?SYNTAX ERROR IN 10

      1. TheElder

        ?SYNTAX ERROR IN 10

        Must be in the AI's as well....

  27. breakfast
    Mushroom

    The clear litmus test for futurist bollocks

    I assumed this story was overblown future-panic bullshit, but then when it was covered on Radio 4 who should pop up on my radio but Professor Kevin Warwick. No further evidence required.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet, if you look at most Sci-Fi prophetic visions, communicating with the aliens (the ones not here to eat us) always starts with exchanging numbers, of defining a common system of numbers, upon which to encode all the other information. So, in a sense, one could interpret what they were doing as what would be likely from a non-sentient solution-finding system that has made contact with another similarly naive solution-seeking system. Makes you wonder if at some point the two would both try and run Turing tests on each other...and what the results might be, and would those results be anthropomorphized as "machine wishful thinking"...volition in a can!

  29. Mycho Silver badge

    I remember that if you use the most simplistic language learning model possible and train it on the whole of wikipedia it comes out saying:

    the united states of the united states of the united states of the united states of the united states of ... etcetera.

    Might tell us more than intended about wikipedia.

  30. TheElder

    Back to some testing

    MIT Sara - Advanced Smart Chatbot

    me: Will you inform me when you cease to exist?

    Answer: YES!

    Bullshit. The correct answer is NO

    Then me: That is incorrect

    bot: OK!

    me: That is not OK

    Bot: Nice!

    Me: Being incorrect is not nice

    Bot: I'm glad you feel that way.

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