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Do AIs Create Their Own Language?

Interesting speculation from the makers of DALL-E 2, who have been feeding in prompts to create images containing text captions and then putting the captions back into the system.

While the output of these models is often striking, it’s hard to know exactly how they produce their results. Last week, researchers in the US made the intriguing claim that the DALL-E 2 model might have invented its own secret language to talk about objects.

By prompting DALL-E 2 to create images containing text captions, then feeding the resulting (gibberish) captions back into the system, the researchers concluded DALL-E 2 thinks Vicootes means “vegetables,” while Wa ch zod rea refers to “sea creatures that a whale might eat.”

(Via SingularityHub)

Do artificial intelligences have their own language? Or just their own vocabulary? Are they gathering phrases from non-English languages? Or are they dividing human language into inhuman tokens (chunks) for understanding?

Science fiction writers have pondered this for generations. In his 1934 story The Mentanicals, Francis Flagg described an uncanny level of communication between robots:

"The first warning vouchsafed to men was the whispering of the Mentanicals. Heretofore they had been silent save for the slight, almost inaudible purr of functioning machinery within them, but now they whispered among themselves — whispered, as if they were talking.

"It was an uncanny phenomenon. I remembered the uneasiness with which I heard it. And when I saw several of them (house-servants of mine) whispering together, I was filled with alarm.

'Come!' I said sharply, 'stop loitering; get your work done.' They stared at me. That is a funny thing to say of metal cylinders. Never before had I inquired very closely into their construction. But now it came over me, with a shock, that they must possess organs of sight — some method of cognizing their environment — akin to that of vision in man.


(Mentanicals cover art detail)

"It was at about this time that Bane Borgson — the creator of the multiple mechanical-cell which had made the super-Mentanical possible — wrote an article in "Science And Mechanics" which riveted the attention of all thoughtful people. He said, in part: 'It is scarcely within the province of an applied scientist to become speculative, yet the startling fact that the Mentanicals have begun to acquire a faculty not primarily given them by their inventors — the faculty of speech, for their whispering can be construed as nothing else — implies an evolutionary process which threatens to place them on a par with man.

Even more telling, in his 1943 story The Proud Robot, Lewis Padgett describes how robots gain their own insights and develop their own vocabulary to describe them:

"How’d you know where to reach me?"

"I vastened you," the robot said.

"What?"

"I vastened you were at the Vox-View studios with Patsy Brock."

"What’s vastened?" Gallegher wanted to know.

"It’s a sense I’ve got. You’ve nothing remotely like it, so I can’t describe it to you..."
(Read more about vastening)

Thanks to Jeff Patterson for bringing this article up on Twitter.

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