Small Talk Just Might Be the Key to Better Relations Between Humans and A.I.s

Most discussion about artificial intelligence centers on the jobs it might take away or other ways it might inadvertently—or purposely—harm humans. But a recent study showed that there’s something simple we can do to foster cooperation between robots and ourselves. All it takes is a little trash talk.

Together with a team of researchers, Jacob Crandall, a computer science professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, created an algorithm that learned to cooperate with humans thanks to chit chat, which Crandall called “cheap talk.”

The researchers had human participants play several different games with the AI, measuring their cooperation based on how often they worked together rather than in competition, and also on their final scores. They used 472 games that required two-player interactions, including the well known psychological game known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In the prisoner's dilemma game, both players have to decide whether or not to inform on the other in order to avoid going to jail. The game is often used by social scientists to explore what conditions make people more likely to be cooperative or competitive in business, politics and social interactions. Crandall and his colleagues thought it would be a good test of whether the AI and humans they were studying could cooperate, since it’s one in which both sides could potentially benefit.

What made this experiment unique was that it included “chit chat.” The algorithm was programmed to say things like “I accept your last proposal” and “In your face!” and the human participant then chose a response from a pre-set list. When chit chat was introduced, cooperation between the AI and the human doubled.

“[T]his learning algorithm learns to establish and maintain effective relationships with people and other machines in a wide variety of [games] at levels that rival human cooperation, a feat not achieved by prior algorithms,” the researchers wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Crandall explained that not only could the AI and humans cooperate with one another, the AI had the capability of being “all talk.” In other words, it sometimes said it was going to make one move, and then made another. For example, it might say it was going to cooperate with the human so they would both avoid jail time, and then decide to give them up after all. This comes after another recent study in which researchers found that AI might have the ability to cheat on their human romantic partners.

“Since Alan Turing envisioned AI, major milestones have often focused on either defeating humans in zero-sum encounters,” the researchers wrote. “Our work demonstrates how autonomous machines can learn to establish cooperative relationships with people and other machines in repeated interactions. We showed that human–machine and machine–machine cooperation is achievable using a non-trivial, but ultimately simple, set of algorithmic mechanisms.”

ABC News

As more information becomes available regarding the virus that's caused a public health crisis in the United States, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged Americans in hard-hit areas to begin wearing cloth masks to cover their faces.

Unlike medical professionals, who need N95 masks (of which there is a shortage) when treating virus patients, average Americans can wear makeshift cloth masks that block the saliva droplets through which the virus is spread.

Keep reading... Show less
Tom Brenner/Getty Images // MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Given President Donald Trump's propensity for lying and his administration's constant misinformation regarding the current global pandemic, Americans across the country have become selective about which sources they deem as credible in seeking potentially lifesaving information in the face of a national health crisis.

Iowa's Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, is in stark disagreement with most Americans on whom to trust regarding measures designed to curb the virus.

Iowa is one of a few states that still has yet to issue a stay-at-home order to slow the virus's spread. Reynolds has resisted taking the step despite a unanimous recommendation from the Iowa Board of Medicine to do so.

National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that all states should institute these orders.

Reynolds's response was...telling.

After calling stay-at-home orders a "divisive issue," the governor said:

"I would say that maybe [Fauci] doesn't have all the information"

Fauci has quickly become one of the most notable figures in the pandemic's response, and one of the few officials in President Donald Trump's virus task force that Americans widely trust to deliver accurate information. He's been an integral part of curbing health crises from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States to Avian Flu to H1N1 and more.

If Fauci doesn't have all the information, then the country is—for lack of a better word—completely screwed.

People were appalled at the governor's defense.

It's safe to say that Fauci has more information and experience in these situations than any governor in the nation—including Reynolds.

The death toll in the United States from the virus recently surpassed 6000.

Information saves lives. Ignorance endangers them.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

In the face of the global pandemic that's killed over 5000 Americans, President Donald Trump is still expressing reluctance to employ federal powers to assist states hardest hit by the virus.

Among the most urgent of obstacles some governors are facing is a shortage of crucial medical equipment—including ventilators—often needed to treat the highly contagious respiratory virus.

Keep reading... Show less
Mark Makela/Getty Images

The respiratory virus that's ballooned into a global pandemic and brought daily life in the United States to a halt has carried another chilling side effect with it.

Because the virus originated in Wuhan, China, anti-Chinese hysteria has sprouted up across the country. These racist flames have only been stoked by President Donald Trump, whose insistence on calling it "Chinese virus" corresponded with an uptick in hate crimes and harassment of Asian Americans across the across the United States, regardless of their country of origin or ancestry.

Keep reading... Show less
Samuel Corum/Getty Images // SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Even in the face of a national health crisis that threatens hundreds of thousands of American lives, President Donald Trump has consistently signaled that he's incapable of rising to the urgency of the moment, choosing instead to pick fights with governors over Twitter and to brag about the ratings of his press briefings.

That string of behavior continued with a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), which read more like one of the President's Twitter screeds than a letter from the President of the United States.

Keep reading... Show less
U.S. Navy

The internet is flooded with messages of support for Navy Captain Brett Crozier, who commands the 5000 person crew of the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that was recently forced to dock in Guam.

Crozier sent a letter to the Navy this week begging for additional supplies and resources to aid the 93 people on the Roosevelt who tested positive for the virus that's become a global pandemic, as well as facilities for the additional 1000 people who need to be quarantined.

Keep reading... Show less