Tag Archives: language

Robots communicating in languages humans can’t understand

The rise of the machines! When two bots of its artificial intelligence software (AI) began to communicate in a language humans could not understand, Facebook researchers put a stop to it.

At first, they were speaking to each other in plain old English. But then researchers realized they’d made a mistake in programming. “There was no reward to sticking to English language,” says Dhruv Batra, visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR). As these two [robot] agents competed to get the best deal–a very effective bit of AI vs. AI dogfighting researchers have dubbed a “generative adversarial network”–neither was offered any sort of incentive for speaking as a normal person would. So they began to diverge, eventually rearranging legible words into seemingly nonsensical sentences.

…Facebook ultimately opted to require its negotiation bots to speak in plain old English. “Our interest was having bots who could talk to people,” says Mike Lewis, research scientist at FAIR. Facebook isn’t alone in that perspective. When I inquired to Microsoft about computer-to-computer languages, a spokesperson clarified that Microsoft was more interested in human-to-computer speech. Meanwhile, Google, Amazon, and Apple are all also focusing incredible energies on developing conversational personalities for human consumption. They’re the next wave of user interface, like the mouse and keyboard for the AI era.

The other issue, as Facebook admits, is that it has no way of truly understanding any divergent computer language. “It’s important to remember, there aren’t bilingual speakers of AI and human languages,” says Batra. We already don’t generally understand how complex AIs think because we can’t really see inside their thought process. Adding AI-to-AI conversations to this scenario would only make that problem worse.

The article makes some interesting points about the advantages of allowing this AI software to create its own language. For me, none of these arguments are very convincing.


George Carlin on language of politics

An evening pause: With the election less than a week away, I think this comedy speech by George Carlin sums up the fundamental dishonesty of the modern Washington establishment politician, from both parties. And though he is quite funny, I couldn’t help thinking of what Robert Heinlein said: “We laugh because it hurts.”

Let me also add that when we vote next week I think it most important to consider which politicians most remind you of the dishonest corrupt liars Carlin so ably describes. That should help you realize who you shouldn’t vote for.

Hat tip Frank Kelly.


Why the English language is odd

Link here.

The writer outlines the history of English and how the many different languages that contributed to it caused it to be so different from most other languages. Some of the oddities he notes are quite fascinating because we English-speakers take them so much for granted. He only hints, however, at what is probably the English language’s greatest gift — its gigantic vocabulary resulting from its remarkable ability to absorb new words — which probably comes from that same polyglot history.


Using modern technology scientists think they have a chance of decoding the oldest known undeciphered writing.

Using modern technology scientists think they have a chance of decoding the oldest known undeciphered writing.

In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light. This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets. This is Indiana Jones with software. It’s being used to help decode a writing system called proto-Elamite, used between around 3200BC and 2900BC in a region now in the south west of modern Iran.