Facebook is now building chatbots that can negotiate and plan ahead like actual humans in a new AI experiment carried out by the social network’s “Labs”.
According to New Scientist, the research could lead to more effective personal assistants able to negotiate on our behalf, such as sorting out calendar clashes.
In the experiment, Facebook trained the bots by showing them negotiation dialogues between real people, then training the bots to “imitate people’s actions,” a process called supervised learning.
In the training, the bots were asked to divide up a number of objects that each correlated with a different point value. The goal was to divide the objects through negotiation and end up with the most possible points.
Facebook claims the bots got smart enough to negotiate with humans who didn’t realize they were dealing with a machine.
As explained in a Facebook blog post: “Interestingly, in the [Facebook AI Research] experiments, people did not realize they were talking to a bot and not another person — showing that the bots had learned to hold fluent conversations in English in this domain.”
Facebook says that the bots even learned to bluff, pretending to care about an outcome they didn’t actually want in order to have the upper hand down the line. “This behavior was not programmed by the researchers but was discovered by the bot as a method for trying to achieve its goals,” reads Facebook’s blog post.
Dividing up a list of fake objects doesn’t mean a whole lot, but Facebook hopes these bots could eventually assist with real-world conversations. It could be as simple as having a bot negotiate meeting times with co-workers, or as complex as conducting a business deal on your behalf.
See an example of hoe the bot works in this animated GIF below:
“Think about a marketplace, like Facebook’s marketplace or Craigslist,” explained Dhruv Batra, a Georgia Tech professor who is spending a year with Facebook’s AI research team. “Sometimes you’re willing to [negotiate]. ‘I’ll drop this price if you’ll come pick up.’”
Dean Withey, CEO and co-founder of chatbot company, ubisend comments: “This announcement from Facebook might scare the public into thinking that AI will displace humans. However, although AI is getting more sophisticated and we can enhance the language of chatbots, they’re still not going to have the personalities that humans have. It’s hard to create a chatbot with emotion at this point in time and actually that’s not what people want from this kind of service right now. When asked what is most important in their experience of communicating with a company, the majority of British consumers (58%) say it is ‘reaching the desired outcome’, closely followed by ‘ease of experience’ (48%) and speed (44%). People want to be able to get information instantly rather than having to search for it and this is where chatbots come into their own.
“My view is that chatbots should enhance the customer experience provided by humans. For businesses, it means the customer service team can provide a much better service for the same or a lower cost, or the HR team can save time by automating the answers to FAQs. It’s built on the Pareto principle; if all of the regular inbound questions a company receives can be automated, you can remove those queries and create a larger, higher quality output for more complex queries”.