When the Robots Rise Up, what Language will they Speak?

You may have read a story about Facebook shutting down an artificial intelligence because it got too intelligent. I first came across this on my Facebook newsfeed last week, and was suspicious of it: surely if this news is as big as it seems, I’d have already heard about it. So I ignored it, dismissing it as clickbait, until I saw the same story presented in a more reasonable manner on a respectable website. So I read the article, which told a more plausible story. Apparently, Facebook had develop chatbots to negotiate over virtual items. They’d been programmed with the ability to experiment with language in order to see if this could help them to dominate the discussions.

Seemingly, one morning the researchers checked on what the chatbots were up to, only to find them chatting in apparently incomprehensibly gibberish such as:

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Totes Abbrv.

When you hear the word abbreviation, you tend to think of something like FBI or UFO. And it’s true that both of those are abbreviations. But the term abbreviation is actually a much broader one than many people realise, encompassing any kind of shortening of a word. Let’s look at some of the different types: Continue reading