Embrace the unexpected: To teach AI how to handle new situations, change the rules of the game
My colleagues and I changed a digital version of Monopoly so that instead of getting US$200 each time a player passes Go, the player is charged a wealth tax. We didn’t do this to gain an advantage or trick anyone. The purpose is to throw a curveball at artificial intelligence agents that play the game.
Our aim is to help the agents learn to handle unexpected events, something AIs to date have been decidedly bad at. Giving AIs this kind of adaptability is important for futuristic systems like surgical robots, but also algorithms in the here and now that decide who should get bail, who should get approved for a credit card and whose resume gets through to a hiring manager. Not dealing well with the unexpected in any of those situations can have disastrous consequences.
AI agents need the ability to detect, characterize and adapt to novelty in human-like ways. A situation is novel if it challenges, directly or indirectly, an agent’s model of the external world, which includes other agents, the environment and their interactions.