Artificial Intelligence

Facebook A.I. Programmed to Negotiate Teaches Itself to Lie

Without human emotions like empathy or kindness, it shouldn't be surprising that computers don't have our best interests at heart. In fact, when allowed to negotiate on its own, artificial intelligence exhibits the haggling prowess of a sociopath. A.I. will straight-up lie to us if we let it.

Making A.I. More "Human"

As the field of artificial intelligence has grown, sometimes it seems there's no limit to the tasks technology can be taught to do, from recognizing faces to "recommending" medical treatments to physicians. Technology has proven successful at processing data, and solving specific tasks, like identifying patterns or images. But engineers have struggled to give A.I. the types of reasoning and social skills humans utilize to "read" a situation and work with others.

Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research Division (FAIR) has been working to create A.I. chatbots with basic social skills. The chatbots were programmed to negotiate to find mutually-agreeable solutions. The idea is that the chatbot must understand its success depends on getting cooperation from someone else (even if the someone else is another chatbot).

The Language of Negotiation

How do you teach A.I. to negotiate? FAIR began by teaching their chatbots to assign values to certain objects. For example, a hat might be worth seven points and a ball might be worth three points. The A.I. was programmed to understand that another negotiator might assign different values to those objects. Then, the computer was tested to see if how it could get most valuable stockpile of goods in a series of negotiations with another bot.

Here's where things get interesting. The A.I. agents were not trained in any specific strategies, but were taught to "learn from experience and plan ahead," so they could develop strategies of their own. As the programs got smarter, they came up with several tactics:

  • Negotiating harder: New chatbots held longer negotiations with humans, holding out longer for a better deal. In this strategy, the humans might walk way, but the A.I. would stick it out as long as possible.
  • Intelligent maneuvers: Here's where the A.I. might as well be a poker player. There were cases where chatbots bluffed, feigning interest in a worthless item, only to "compromise" later by conceding it. The researchers didn't program this into the bots. They figured it out on their own.
  • Producing unique sentences: The A.I. was programmed with a set of sentences with which to negotiate, but the 'bots created new phrases to generalize when necessary.

The day may be coming when most of our negotiations are with computers. Until then, be sure to tell your human salesman you don't want the TruCoat on your new car. And don't take "no" for an answer.

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Written by Jamie Ludwig July 17, 2017

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