Contrary to what the Internet might tell you, Facebook did not just kill off an AI because it created a new language.

Here is what actually happened.

Here be poorly drawn dragons

Warning - this explanation is going to be extremely simplistic. But the finer details are not needed in understanding the truth. So let's dive in.

Just another day at the AI office

  1. Modern AI systems are built on the principle of layers upon layers of units doing simple calculations and passing the results between each other.
  2. When you teach (or train) an AI to do something, in reality you're playing with the parameters of these calculation units until the correct result is achieved.
    For instance until when presented with a picture of a dog, the AI would produce the word "Dog".

    A very simple ANN
  3. Thus you can teach an AI to do a lot of cool stuff. One of these is to try and fool an existing trained AI, by way of fornicating results. This helps us train that existing AI even further.
    This process, in which one AI teaches another AI by making up input and results is called Generative Adversarial Networks - GANs.
  4. Another way of training an AI is by assigning a score (points) to certain results and have the AI "play with its parameters" until the it favours the desired results and avoids the lower scored ones.
    This is how your iRobot is trained to avoid walls.
  5. Facebook took those 2 ideas and combined them into a GAN with score, essentially creating a simplistic game played by a couple of AIs.
    The rules are simple - there is a list of products with assigned values and 2 AIs need to "play with their parameters" until they are able to divide the stack between themselves.
  6. For communication Facebook chose its very own language processing system. But they did not assign any score to using it properly.
    Because of this, the Math that is in the basic of AI dictates that as the game progresses, the English becomes stranger to human Eyes.

  7. Did the AIs create a new language? No.
    English is simply not the most efficient mathematical solution to transferring data between 2 computers. So the Math deteriorated the communication protocol to the bare minimum needed for the game. This is not different from any other communication protocol intended only for computers, and there are thousands of these. It's just a protocol that was not dictated by humans but rather by Math.
  8. Has it ever happened prior to that Facebook experiment? Yes. Many times.
  9. Did Facebook shut down the AIs out of fear? No.
    The exact opposite is the truth. Facebook has released a detailed account of the experiment, the source code and a scientific paper.
    There is no way of knowing exactly why the experiment was terminated. A reasonable guess might be that it wasn't valuable or interesting enough to continue.
  10. And here is a GAN that is able to draw birds. Much more interesting than that Facebook experiment.

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