Ever done one of those puzzles where you have to change the word “FISH” into “SOAP” one letter at a time? Imagine a more scrabble-like two-player version where each player starts from one word and they work towards the middle together.
The recent stink about Facebook shutting down some chatbots is the clickbait version of describing Facebook guys creating code that tried to do roughly the same thing, but let the dorks get carried away using words like “the machines” and “invent” and “language”.
I suspect that Facebook shut down the project because it was pointless and stupid and the coders were a little bit too whimsical.
What they did was take the task of “bartering” and reduce it to a simple numbers game; think of a sort of co-operative scrabble/fish (cards) version of the earlier puzzle where you don’t have to trade a card if it isn’t a fair trade, and the game ends the first time neither of you offers a fair trade.
You do this by drawing two hands. Each hand can be described numerically as a list of (card number and quantity). That is: jack, jack, ace, three = (card 11 * 2), (card 1 * 1), (card 3 * 1). Take the word ‘card’ out and we have (in json/python): [(11, 2), (1, 1), (3, 1)].
The Facebook guys wrote small programs that took two such lists and built a new list: the cards they want to trade. jack for queen, jack for king would be [(11, 12), (11, 13)] (jack is 11, queen 12, king 13).
These lists were sent between the programs using messenger. To do this, the programmers – not the programs – replaced the numbers with words to generate a text message they could send. At the other end, the same code mapped the words back into numbers.
So far, this is all very computationally simple, and I’m sure that there was some level of “ai research” or “machine learning” code involved, but the approach taken and the underlying task they focused on resulted in nothing special. The programs didn’t “know” anything, they just needed to succeed in choosing a number sequence that went from their first hand to their last hand without choosing numbers that were “too big” (I’m simplyfing the concept of filtering here).
The programs did not become self aware, did not know they were “communicating”, only “communicated” in so much as the line “sendMessage(‘jack queen jack king’)” as code is “communicating” (it’s a techie term, not the literal english ‘communicate’), and they most certainly did not invent a language, they simply did literally what they’d been told to do and nothing else.
Honestly: What happened is that some idiots got their project cancelled and bitched about it by describing it like an 8 year old…
“We wanted the other machine to trade our machine a jack for a queen, but instead of developing the ability to speak english and saying ‘Trade you a jack for a queen’ via a speaker box, it was really spooky… our machine said ‘jack queen’, and the other machine – the one with the red eyes and the laser beams – it said ‘queen jack’. Holy shit! Sure, we wrote code to print “something something” but … it was doing it. All on its own, when we clicked Run.
“Obviously it didn’t say that, it just printed 10 11 and 11 12, but when we ran the program that converted the numbers into text and sent them to messenger, you could see it right there, on facebook! In text! ‘jack queen’ and ‘queen jack’. The machines were talking to each other! It was, like, they had invented their own language.
“First time round, we couldn’t get the other computer to receive the messages, we had to copy and paste them into a program to convert text into numbers on the other machine, but when we did that, when we converted the text into numbers, and ran our program, it printed out some more numbers. It was like the machine understood what was being said to it. Totally freaky.”
TL:DR; There was definitely some “artificial” intelligence behind the story…
Mr #4 if you read this – someone needs to be “transferred to the Feed-PE team”.