It wasn’t just click bait media outlets getting excited about the dawn of the machines after two Facebook bots developed their own language and started communicating. Of course, that was where the story was left for the most part but the reality was much less interesting.

The two bots were tasked with negotiating with each other and finding the most efficient way to divide up objects such as hats, books and balls.

They then proceeded to do exactly that, and part of finding the most efficient way, as they perceived it, was to create a shorthand version of English – the language they were negotiating in. The following is the transcript received from Facebook, and while it may not appear to be entirely legible, it does have a logical pattern to it.

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

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i 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

Apparently, the bots prioritised certain words, possibly circumventing the need to have drawn our conversations, but also just as possibly, mistaking “less,” for efficiency. In other words, there is a good chance that the bots became more focused on the language component than on the actual task at hand.

It’s here that things go from confused journalism to just plain irresponsible. There were dire headlines from many outlets about how the Facebook team responsible for the bots, “panicked” and, “killed the bots.” This is ludicrous for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to the fact that the bots were not alive, and that it is very unlikely the best programmers in the world panicked when their program started doing exactly what it was supposed to do, just not the way they thought it would happen.
What actually happened was that, as alluded to previously, the bots were not fulfilling the tasks required of them. Simply put, the bots were supposed to divide up the number of objects between themselves but they didn’t manage to do that. If the task were to create another language, then they would have been bang on but this was not the case. So, logically, the programmers ceased the program. To consider this killing, would be the same as claiming that a gamer was killing a character every time they turned off their Xbox. Code doesn’t cease to exist because it’s not running through a terminal at a given time.
The rise of the machines may come, but it won’t be because two – admittedly very clever – programs tried a different version of English.

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