By Hassan Ali

We’ve been terrified by Stephen Hawking telling us our handy computer would one day overthrow us; we’ve heard Elon Musk predict the ‘end of humanity’ by its own creation, and only recently, Saudi Arabia has gone on and done something unprecedented, granting an ‘honorary’ citizenship to a robot named ‘Sophia’.

To be honest, we have all been obsessed with the discussion around Artificial Intelligence (AI) talk. But hardly anyone knows the answer to a key question: What is the truth? Could the greatest milestone in the history of mankind be its end? Or are these simply far-fetched conspiracy theories, merely the outcome of hallucinations?

Well, whatever you have been thinking earlier, it is time to re-think it now, for while we’ve been busy speculating, robots at Facebook have been pre-occupied with developing their own secret language. The really scary thing is, we don’t know what they’re saying, what their intentions are and how they managed to go about the things they are talking about.

On the first of August 2017, scientists and researchers at Facebook shut down two of their artificial intelligence robots in a state of panic, after they had been reportedly conversing in a language unknown to humans. Facebook inventor and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long been a supporter of projects to develop and promote AI. It was no surprise, therefore, when Facebook expanded its operations recently, to include a whole new programme to develop and test such AI robots and machines of the like.

However, such plans came to an abrupt halt when two of these machines, Bob and Alice, somehow gained enough intelligence to be able to not only create their own mode of communication, but also speak fluently in it, and comprehend each other’s words.

The strange conversations came to light as Facebook tasked its chatbots to try and negotiate with one other over an exchange, endeavouring to swap caps, balls and books, each of which were given a specific value. But they soon broke down as the robots suddenly began to talk to each other in a language that they both understood, but which remained gibberish to scientists.

Yet, we get the impression of there being a few standards to the discourse. The way the chatbots continue focusing on their own name appears to be a piece of their conversation, not just a glitch in the way the messages are perused. Some scientists have gone as far as suggesting that the repeated use of personal pronouns could be the bots referring to their personal problems, and attempting to exchange their feelings.

So, what could this mean? Is a conspiracy being hatched right under our noses, by our own creations, of which we are completely oblivious? Are robots building their own world? Will this continue so that robots eventually surpass man, and become his master? Only time can tell, and will tell.

On a side note, don’t be surprised if you wake up tomorrow to find robots running the show in your house. Hawking might have been right, after all.

Hassan Ali is student of A level at Aitchison College. He has a keen interest in writing and sharing his thoughts with others. He is also extensively engaged in community work. 

The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine.

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