What Happened with Facebook AI?

In past couple of weeks Social Media giant, Facebook has announced that they are shutting down their AI program which is also known as FAIR short for Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research. This news came as shock to almost everyone who surf around the web on regular basis. There was a lot of speculations that this was a “Panic shutdown”, because their AI started to communicate using a language that they created which we humans don’t comprehend. To be honest with you this is not entirely true. The AI’s did communicate in a language which they created, however there was no “Panic Eject” shutdown move. They are merely taking a step back, to reevaluate the situation, what went wrong? why the AI choose to invent language instead of communicating in English as they were supposed to? Well we don’t know the answers to these questions neither people at FAIR as of yet, but in near future we will get answers for these questions.

For now rest assured, the Robots are not coming for us (not yet atleast).

So let’s dive in into this, to identify what is FAIR & where exactly things went wrong.

What is FAIR (Facebook AI Research) ?

FAIR or Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research, is a branch of Social Networking giant Facebook, which explicitly focuses on Advancement in field of Machine Intelligence. They are committed to developing machines with human level (or close to) intelligence. FAIR covers all topics of AI, and to deriving knowledge from data: theory, algorithms, applications, software infrastructure and hardware infrastructure. For more details about what they do visit their official website


CommAI is one of the project of FAIR. CommAI is basically AI project which focusses on developing general-purpose artificial agents, which will assists humans in their daily repetitive tasks. CommAI is also a framework, in which a learning agent must communicate with a scripted teacher, to solve a series of never ending task.

The CommAI have following features –

1. Language First – What good an AI is, if we can’t communicate with it ?

2. Life Long Learning – AI should be flexible enough to learn and adapt the changes in the surroundings.

3. Reward-Based feedback – Provide a reward signal to the learner whenever it successfully completes the task rather than giving it explicit supervision on how it should have had solved it.

4. General symbol-stream interface – The AI should learn by itself, how to process different kind of inputs and outputs streams.

Check out the GitHub for CommAI

Also go through publication done by FAIR for more in-depth information on the topic.

1. A Roadmap towards machine intelligence

2. CommAI: Evaluating the First Steps Towards a Useful General AI

Well, that was a brief introduction to Facebook AI Research (I guess :D). Now let’s get back to the issue in hand, What exactly happened with Facebook AI?.

As mentioned earlier, in past few weeks there has been huge speculation regarding the AI program at Facebook, that they had “Panic shutdown” their AI program after the Robots invented a language and started to communicate using the language they invented, which sounded gibberish to humans. This is a false rumor, They have not shutdown the AI program, they have merely stopped the experiment to re-evaluate what exactly went wrong during the experiment. Basically these are ChatBots, developed to communicate with humans, earlier when these bots were made to communicate with humans, everything went well, but later when they made 2 bots to converse, they started to communicate in another language altogether. Bots were nicknamed as Bob & Alice, following are the transcript of the conversation between these Bots Bob & Alice.

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

The conversation well means literally nothing to humans, but it did make sense to these bots and they went on using it. The two bots Alice & Bob, were to have a meaningful bartering negotiation to trade balls, hats and books. Assigning values to each object and trade accordingly. But since there was no reward assigned by team to conduct the trade in English, these bots went ahead and invented their own language and started negotiating. One of the researchers at Facebook said that “There was no reward for sticking to the English language”. That was the initial investigation revealed. With further investigation, we will come to know what exactly these bots said, because as of things are now, the conversation does mean something. We will have to wait and watch.

There is no need for panic, things are in control at Facebook. But this does raise an alarm that we need to be very careful about the experiments that we conduct with AI. Earlier this year billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk warned that artificial intelligence (AI) poses an “existential threat” to human civilization. Elon Musk expressed that development of autonomous weaponry could lead to an “AI arms race”. He also added that “Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.”

Well, I’m excited about the future of AI, and how it will evolve. We will have to wait and watch 🙂

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