Samim Winiger: Welcome to the first episode of Ethical Machines.

Roelof Pieters: We are your hosts, Roelof…

Winiger: And Samim.

Pieters: Ethical Machines is a series of con­ver­sa­tions about humans, machines, and ethics. It aims at spark­ing a deep­er, better-informed debate about the impli­ca­tions of intel­li­gent sys­tems for soci­ety and individuals.

Winiger: For our first episode, we invit­ed Mark Riedl to come and speak with us. Let’s dive into the inter­view right now.

Welcome, Mark. I’m very pleased that you made it. It’s a plea­sure to have you on, our first guest. Maybe I’ll use this oppor­tu­ni­ty to intro­duce you to the audi­ence. Mark Riedl is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing and Director at the Entertainment Intelligence Lab. Mark’s research focus­es on the inter­sec­tion of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and sto­ry­telling. You can read more about his very inter­est­ing biog­ra­phy on his web­site, which we’ll link. To get start­ed and so we can get to know you a lit­tle bit bet­ter, could you elab­o­rate how you got inter­est­ed in this field in the first place?

Mark Riedl: So, it was actu­al­ly a very slow pro­gres­sion. I had got­ten inter­est­ed in human-computer inter­ac­tion and human fac­tors in under­grad and ear­ly in my grad­u­ate stud­ies. And then pro­gres­sive­ly came to real­ize that sto­ry­telling is such an impor­tant part of human cog­ni­tion and is real­ly kind of miss­ing when it comes to com­pu­ta­tion­al systems.

Computers can tell sto­ries but they’re always sto­ries that humans have input into a com­put­er, which are then just being regur­gi­tat­ed. But they don’t make sto­ries up on their own. They don’t real­ly under­stand the sto­ries that we tell. They’re not kind of aware of the cul­tur­al impor­tance of sto­ries. They can’t watch the same movies or read the same books we do. And this seems like this huge miss­ing gap between what com­put­ers can do and humans can do if you think about how impor­tant sto­ry­telling is to the human condition. 

So we tell sto­ries dozens of times a day to relate to oth­er peo­ple, to com­mu­ni­cate, to enter­tain. And so the broad­er ques­tions are, if com­put­ers could under­stand sto­ries and make sto­ries, can they inter­face with us in more nat­ur­al sorts of ways—the ways that human-human inter­ac­tion hap­pens? So the pri­ma­ry research that I’ve been inter­est­ed in the last fif­teen years or so has been in sto­ry gen­er­a­tion, which is the cre­ation of nov­el fic­tion­al sto­ries that one might read and con­ceive as hav­ing story-like qualities. 

What I don’t work on is jour­nal­ism. So I don’t try to gen­er­ate news sto­ries, but actu­al­ly try to make up things that have nev­er exist­ed in the real world. So there’s a very strong cre­ative element.

And then the oth­er kind of major area I’m work­ing in is pro­ce­dur­al game gen­er­a­tion, so try­ing to actu­al­ly gen­er­ate com­put­er games from scratch. 

Winiger: So do you have a the­o­ry how to judge a good sto­ry out­put from one of these gen­er­a­tive sys­tems and what will con­sti­tute good out­puts from bad” outputs? 

Riedl: Yeah no, that’s a real­ly great ques­tion because sto­ries are very sub­jec­tive. And part of this is because there are many dif­fer­ent roles that sto­ries can take. So in many ways the answer is very domain-dependent. A lot of my work more recent­ly has been involved in telling plau­si­ble real-world sto­ries. So for exam­ple can a com­put­er make up a sto­ry about a bank rob­bery that has not exist­ed, that no bank has actu­al­ly been robbed. But when peo­ple read it peo­ple actu­al­ly think, Yeah, this could’ve hap­pened in the real world.”

Now, the oth­er work that I’ve done in the past in terms of fairy tale gen­er­a­tion, that’s much more dif­fi­cult to eval­u­ate. Because there’s no nice, objec­tive mea­sures of what a good fairy tale is oth­er than did you enjoy it or not. And there what I’ve tried to do is to dip into psy­chol­o­gy and to say well, can we actu­al­ly mea­sure aspects of men­tal mod­els when peo­ple read stories?

So for exam­ple are there things that are con­fus­ing because the moti­va­tions of a char­ac­ter were not well jus­ti­fied? That can actu­al­ly have an effect on how you build the men­tal mod­el of the sto­ry, how you under­stand the sto­ry. And we’ve devel­oped tech­niques for basi­cal­ly pulling the men­tal mod­el out of your head.

Pieters: So Mark, does that mean that you try to kind of per­son­al­ize the sto­ry to log­ic, in the sense of actu­al sto­ries that it’s cred­i­ble? Or how do you decide on these root questions?

Riedl: Yeah. So, log­ic might be too strong of a word but we do know—and psy­chol­o­gists have stud­ied human read­ing com­pre­hen­sion. We know that there are cer­tain things that humans try to mod­el about sto­ries. They try to mod­el the causal pro­gres­sion. They try to mod­el the moti­va­tions of char­ac­ters. They try to mod­el the phys­i­cal cause and effect sorts of things. And so when we do these psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies of our read­ers who’ve read a sto­ry gen­er­at­ed by com­put­er, we’re then look­ing for these ele­ments in their men­tal mod­els. There is a log­ic to sto­ry­telling. It’s not…purely math­e­mat­i­cal­ly log­i­cal. But there is a set of expec­ta­tions that humans have when told stories.

Winiger: Right. From here we can look at sto­ry gen­er­a­tion as part of [?] gen­er­a­tion. So what does your intu­ition tell you how far we are from deploy­ing such mod­els in indus­try. You look at any num­bers of these cre­ative indus­tries, they’re still very much in this mode of hand-creation. 

Winiger: Yeah. So, there are many indus­tries that have a par­tic­u­lar way of doing things and have been very suc­cess­ful. So com­put­er games indus­try is one such exam­ple of an indus­try that has found a lot of real­ly good tech­niques for mak­ing some real­ly real­ly great games. And as you said, they do rely more on hand-crafted rules and hand-crafted kind of con­tent and that sort of stuff.

The adop­tion of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence real­ly is a func­tion of need and appli­ca­tion at this point. You know, there’s an argu­ment to be made about automa­tion and scal­a­bil­i­ty. So, areas in which we need to pro­duce a lot of con­tent real­ly quick­ly, or cus­tomize a lot of con­tent to individuals. 

Winiger: You remem­ber this game Façade a cou­ple of years ago.

Riedl: Yeah.

Winiger: Are we talk­ing Façade-like con­ver­sa­tion­al mod­els mixed with con­tent gen­er­a­tion? Or [could?] you give us some insight of what you’re hit­ting at the bor­ders of gam­ing and what kind of suc­cess you’re find­ing there with that option?

Riedl: Yeah, so Façade a great exam­ple of what’s called an inter­ac­tive dra­ma, where the sto­ry pro­gres­sion changes based on what the pro­tag­o­nist does. You know, some­times com­put­er games have branch­es. Choose Your Own Adventure nov­els are actu­al­ly a real­ly great exam­ple. You get to make deci­sions, and what hap­pens next is a con­se­quence of what you do, and there’s some­times long-term consequences.

So one of the things that arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and sto­ry gen­er­a­tion is real­ly good at is auto­mat­i­cal­ly gen­er­at­ing branch­es. If you think about the man­u­al effort it would take to cre­ate a branch­ing sto­ry, real­ly you’re look­ing at an expo­nen­tial increase. So every time the user has a choice, you might dou­ble the amount of con­tent that has to be pro­duced. So if we have good mod­els of sto­ry gen­er­a­tion, we can auto­mat­i­cal­ly fig­ure out what the branch­es should be, lay out those branch­es, and we can have much more cus­tomized con­tent in terms of respond­ing to what the user does.

Now you know, the trade­off is that sto­ry gen­er­a­tors are not as good as human con­tent cre­ators. So if you want to cre­ate the most engag­ing expe­ri­ence, it may still be use­ful to hand-craft those things. Façade, for exam­ple, had a lot of man­u­al input into their arti­fi­cial intelligence.

Winiger: So would it be fair that you actu­al­ly see, pos­si­bly as a step­ping stone or as a [?] path of research this notion of assist­ed con­tent cre­ation, or assist­ed expe­ri­ence in a sense, where it’s more of a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort between the tra­di­tion­al cre­ator mod­el and this new gen­er­a­tive mod­el where you’re creating?

Riedl: Well we can cer­tain­ly start to now envi­sion a spec­trum between ful­ly man­u­al and ful­ly auto­mat­ed. And then in the mid­dle grounds are kind of inter­est­ing, where you might imag­ine more of a dia­logue between human and a com­put­er, where the human is high-level guid­ance say­ing, I want things like this but I don’t have the time or the effort nec­es­sary to lay it all out. Can you pro­duce things for me. Maybe I’ll check it, maybe I won’t.” And then as your con­tent needs become greater and greater and greater, you can push toward the autonomous side, where the sys­tem is com­ing up with its own rules.

Pieters: I mean, it’s also a ques­tion of scale when you talk about some­thing like more assist­ed sto­ry­telling, right. I mean, for instance you have the exam­ple of the Putin admin­is­tra­tion hav­ing nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cess­ing bot­nets churn­ing out sto­ries in favor of the estab­lish­ment. Or China, where it’s not only bot­nets but it’s whole depart­ments of peo­ple sit­ting in their offices using assis­tive sto­ry­telling tech­niques to be able to write sto­ries on a much larg­er scale.

Riedl: Right. Well I mean it’s already hap­pen­ing in a very lim­it­ed sense if you think about tar­get­ed adver­tis­ing on the Internet. You know, we’ve seen this actu­al­ly used in pol­i­tics, where peo­ple can fig­ure out pop­u­la­tions on the Internet that are more recep­tive to cer­tain types of mes­sages and state­ments, and then tar­get those mes­sages to dif­fer­ent sub­pop­u­la­tions. So that’s an exam­ple of the tech­nol­o­gy being used to assist in sto­ry­telling, at least in the lim­it­ed, adver­tis­ing sense.

Winiger: Maybe I’ll just jump­ing into the deep and say all of this brings us to this ques­tion do you have a work­ing the­o­ry of com­pu­ta­tion­al cre­ativ­i­ty that guides these initiatives?

Riedl: Well, in the last few years one of the things that I’ve come to believe is that there’s real­ly noth­ing spe­cial about cre­ativ­i­ty. Which is good from a con­sti­tu­tion­al stand­point because we should be able to cre­ate algo­rithms that can do cre­ation. And of course we do see there are very sim­ple forms of cre­ation, there’s more com­pli­cat­ed forms of cre­ation. Now we have sto­ry gen­er­a­tors and poet­ry gen­er­a­tors, so on and so forth. But I do think that the under­ly­ing mech­a­nisms that allow both humans and com­put­ers to be cre­ative real­ly are tied to notions of exper­tise and learning.

So if you study cre­ators, the degree to which they’re able to pro­duce qual­i­ty is the degree to which they have stud­ied the medi­um and the cul­ture and the soci­ety into which it’s going to be deployed. And this makes sense, right. Our algo­rithms need knowl­edge. That knowl­edge has to be acquired from some­where. It should be social and cul­tur­al knowl­edge, in addi­tion to knowl­edge about oth­er peo­ple and what oth­er things have been cre­at­ed pri­or to the algo­rithm. And that we can start to treat these as data sets that we can then use to train algo­rithms to be experts. And while I think that our notion of cre­at­ing cre­ative sys­tems is still very sim­ple, I do see that things are start­ing to move in that direc­tion. Which is very positive.

Pieters: There’s a lot of these ques­tion and answer sys­tems out cur­rent­ly, which are strict­ly kind of more from that AI per­spec­tive, trained on large data sets of text and mean­ing and log­ic. But they’re not cre­ative. I mean, they just become more and more log­i­cal. They can under­stand syn­tac­ti­cal and seman­tic struc­ture. So nega­tion and posi­tion­al argu­men­ta­tion. But cre­ativ­i­ty, you don’t see it at least in this kind of [?] indus­try or in academia.

Riedl: Right. I’m going to speak specif­i­cal­ly about sto­ry gen­er­a­tion now at this point. A ques­tion answer­ing sys­tem and a sto­ry gen­er­a­tion sys­tem are going to share a lot of the same under­ly­ing needs. And some of those needs are what we refer to as com­mon sense rea­son­ing. So if I want to have a com­put­er tell a sto­ry about going to a restau­rant, it’s got to know a lot about restau­rants and what peo­ple do at restau­rants and the expec­ta­tions. If you don’t have that infor­ma­tion, if you don’t have that knowl­edge, you screw it up and peo­ple think the sto­ry does­n’t make any sense. So sense­mak­ing is anoth­er aspect of com­mon sense reasoning. 

But the appli­ca­tion of the com­mon sense rea­son­ing is very dif­fer­ent from a ques­tion answer which just needs to regur­gi­tate facts, ver­sus a cre­ative sys­tem which then has to take the same knowl­edge set but then has to do some­thing more with it. It’s not enough to just spit facts back out. You actu­al­ly have to make deci­sions about what should come next and what is the com­mu­nica­tive goal of the agent. So I do believe that a lot of these under­ly­ing sys­tems are going to share the same sort of needs.

Winiger: How do you actu­al­ly perceive…let’s call it an arti­fi­cial expe­ri­ence design­er in a job descrip­tion from 2020 or something—

Riedl: Sure.

Winiger: Somebody who actu­al­ly con­scious­ly designs expe­ri­ences with these sys­tems. Can you envi­sion such a job, and how do you see the impor­tance of these emerg­ing jobs?

Riedl: Well, that’s an inter­est­ing ques­tion. So, there’s been a lot of talk in the com­pu­ta­tion­al cre­ativ­i­ty and in par­tic­u­lar the com­put­er game/AI com­mu­ni­ty about whether future researchers or future users have to be capa­ble of liv­ing both in the cre­ative domains (to be design­ers, to be cre­ators), but also be knowl­edge engi­neers and be com­put­er sci­en­tists as well.

Right now it takes a very rare sort of indi­vid­ual who can exist in both of these very dif­fer­ent worlds at the same time. And there’s a big ques­tion about how can you train peo­ple to be both first-class pro­duc­ers, cre­ators, design­ers, and also sci­en­tists, engi­neers, AI experts. And do we need bet­ter cur­ricu­lum in uni­ver­si­ties, so on and so forth.

So you know, you might imag­ine a class of kind of cre­ative engi­neers in the future; that would be the ide­al. An alter­na­tive approach to this would be to look at tech­no­log­i­cal ways of mak­ing the con­sumers of cre­ative tech­nolo­gies more capa­ble of using these high­ly tech­ni­cal sorts of things. And we’re start­ing to see areas now where we’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to make machine learn­ing acces­si­ble to peo­ple who don’t have advanced com­put­er sci­ence degrees. And so you know, can we under­stand the usabil­i­ty aspects of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and machine learn­ing as a service?

Winiger: [inaudi­ble] we extrap­o­late a lit­tle bit and we’ll get these [inaudi­ble] con­tent cre­ation tools at that point into the hand of many more peo­ple. And one can imag­ine a world where adver­tis­ing as an indus­try will very aggres­sive­ly engage with these sys­tems. Do you have views on the eth­i­cal impli­ca­tions of mass dis­tri­b­u­tion of such tech­nol­o­gy? Could you share some thoughts on this?

Riedl: Going back to my spe­cial­ty again in sto­ry gen­er­a­tion, there are two kind of par­tic­u­lar eth­i­cal con­cerns that come up there. One is decep­tion. So, in the sense that if we have vir­tu­al char­ac­ters who are online, who are on Twitter, Facebook or things like that, who are cre­at­ing sto­ries and telling sto­ries that appear plau­si­ble in the real world, are there issues if humans can­not tell the dif­fer­ence as to whether they’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing with real human agents? 

The sec­ond area is the per­sua­sive nature of sto­ries. So we know from adver­tis­ing, as you men­tioned from pol­i­tics espe­cial­ly, that sto­ries can have a very pro­found effect on peo­ple’s belief struc­tures. And what peo­ple believe and what they’re will­ing to believe. There’s this great study I think prob­a­bly fif­teen or twen­ty years ago now in which psy­chol­o­gists went to malls and told sto­ries about peo­ple being abduct­ed in malls. And they were able to change peo­ple’s per­cep­tions about how safe they were in malls. And the most fas­ci­nat­ing about this is that they then repli­cat­ed the study and they told every­one, I’m going to tell you a fic­tion­al sto­ry about peo­ple being abduct­ed in malls.” And peo­ple still changed their beliefs about how safe they were.

So there’s this pow­er of sto­ry­telling that is very very hard to over­ride. We’re real­ly kind of hard­wired to believe sto­ries as true even when they’re not. And now if we get com­put­ers that are now capa­ble of gen­er­at­ing sto­ries for the pur­pos­es of per­sua­sion and you can gen­er­ate mas­sive amounts of sto­ries and cus­tomize those sto­ries to have the max­i­mum effect on each indi­vid­ual, in some ways sto­ries become dangerous.

Pieters: What would you say is now that state of the art with sto­ry­telling if you com­pare what is being devel­oped in indus­try cre­at­ing games and in your research. And also maybe a bit more on the tech­ni­cal aspects like what kind of tech­ni­cal mod­els are being used.

Riedl: So I’ll address the research aspects first. In terms of research, we’re able to gen­er­ate fairy tales or more plau­si­ble real-world sto­ries basi­cal­ly at the lev­el of maybe one to two para­graphs long. So these are very sim­ple sto­ries. They’re often at high lev­el, more like plot out­lines than some­thing that you’d actu­al­ly kind of want to sit down and read in a book. Although the nat­ur­al lan­guage is get­ting bet­ter I would say that we’re still explor­ing a lot of the basic research ques­tions behind how sto­ries are cre­at­ed by algorithms.

In indus­try we don’t see a lot of adop­tion of cre­ative arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences right now, or sto­ry­telling sys­tems in par­tic­u­lar. The one area where we are see­ing adop­tion is in news jour­nal­ism. And this is real­ly more of nat­ur­al lan­guage gen­er­a­tion than sto­ry gen­er­a­tion. So, the facts are giv­en to the sys­tem. The things that should be told are giv­en to the sys­tem as opposed to cre­at­ed in a fic­tion­al sense. And these sys­tems have got­ten very good at choos­ing the words and the struc­tur­ing of the words, to the point where they’re almost indis­tin­guish­able from human-written short jour­nal­is­tic news reports.

Now, you asked about the tech­nolo­gies that go behind it. We haven’t seen the adop­tion of neur­al net­works in sto­ry gen­er­a­tion, I think because there’s still this miss­ing, kind of delib­er­a­tive com­mu­nica­tive layer—the thing that can actu­al­ly decide what should be in the sto­ry. Although, I’m fol­low­ing very close­ly how these deep nets are pro­gress­ing. Because they may get to that point. We just may need more lay­ers on the net­work? Or there may be actu­al­ly some­thing fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent about cre­ation that requires…something else.

Pieters: Yeah, you wrote on Twitter, Skip-thought vec­tors,” (and it’s about a paper called Skip-Thoughts’), are an inter­est­ing approach to seman­tics. My only point: sto­ries require seman­tics plus some­thing else.” So as you say now, there’s some­thing miss­ing. Do you have any kind of ideas what is miss­ing, and what are the chal­lenges you have yourself?

Riedl: Well, it’s miss­ing plan­ning. So when humans gen­er­ate sto­ries, they’re not Markov process­es, right, where they say oh, this sen­tence is log­i­cal­ly fol­lowed by that sen­tence. There’s lots of sen­tences that can log­i­cal­ly fol­low that miss the kind of seman­tics struc­ture of plot, or again the com­mu­nica­tive goal. The fact that I might want to affect a belief change on you.

So when you talk about it in those search terms you start think­ing about plan­ning, a sequence of men­tal state changes in the read­er that you want to achieve, that then have to be ground­ed. So these seman­tic neur­al nets I think would be great at the ground­ing but you first have to have this delib­er­a­tive plan out your plot” process. You know, what I don’t know is whether neur­al nets can progress to the point where they’re able to do this delib­er­a­tive, com­mu­nica­tive goal struc­tur­ing as well. I think the­o­ret­i­cal­ly they might be able to do it, but we don’t know how to do it yet.

Winiger: You’ve been work­ing in acad­e­mia for quite some time now, with some links I sup­pose to indus­try. What is your per­cep­tion of this appar­ent­ly grow­ing trend of cor­po­ra­tions buy­ing whole aca­d­e­m­ic teams from uni­ver­si­ties to work specif­i­cal­ly on deep learn­ing and oth­er areas of machine intelligence?

Riedl: I mean, I have sev­er­al reac­tions. One is it’s very excit­ing to see that arti­fi­cial intelligence—weak AI in particular—and machine learn­ing has got­ten the point where we can see com­mer­cial adop­tion in actu­al prod­uct. You know, we often refer to this is a new gold­en age of arti­fi­cial intelligence. 

At the same time I’m a lit­tle bit con­cerned about brain drain and sus­tain­abil­i­ty of this mod­el, in par­tic­u­lar if we don’t have real­ly great peo­ple com­ing into fac­ul­ty posi­tions to teach arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in our uni­ver­si­ties. You know, are we cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful pipeline of future AI researchers and devel­op­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers? I think it’s not a prob­lem yet, but you can def­i­nite­ly see how the trend becomes accel­er­at­ed. We might actu­al­ly have a prob­lem where AI kind of…eats itself, right. It becomes a vic­tim of its own success.

Pieters: The oppo­site is hap­pen­ing as well, right? I mean, in Holland for instance they announced news about a whole new research lab being cre­at­ed just for specif­i­cal­ly deep learn­ing and com­put­er vision between a big com­pa­ny, Qualcomm, and the University of Amsterdam, with I think some­thing like twelve PhD posi­tions and three post-doctorates. So do you see that hap­pen­ing also more where you work?

Riedl: Um…yeah, I don’t know every­thing that’s hap­pen­ing at every uni­ver­si­ty. I mean, the big sto­ry in the United States is the so-called part­ner­ship between Uber and Carnegie Mellon that end­ed up I think ulti­mate­ly decreas­ing the num­ber researchers that were affil­i­at­ed with the uni­ver­si­ty. So there’s always kind of a risk that indus­try and uni­ver­si­ties do have fun­da­men­tal­ly com­pet­ing goals, where indus­try is inter­est­ed in more short-term, incre­men­tal sort of solu­tions, and researchers osten­si­bly tend to be more focused on long-term prob­lems. So a lot of researchers get a lot of fund­ing from indus­try and it’s usu­al­ly kind of a healthy thing. But it does change what peo­ple want to work on. So there is an effect.

Winiger: So I would like to state to you a hypo­thet­i­cal sce­nario and see what you make of it. It’s the year 2025 and you’re in a car—a self-driving car—driving from LA to San Francisco. Now, sud­den­ly the car alarm goes off and you’re informed that it about thir­ty mil­lisec­onds you’re going to be involved in a mas­sive car accident.

Now, since it’s a self-driving car and every­thing around you is a self-driving car, the com­put­er in there will imme­di­ate­ly hook up to the net­work, cal­cu­late the like­ly out­come of this crash for you and the ten peo­ple around you, and make an eval­u­a­tion what is more impor­tant: to kill you and save ten oth­er lives, or kill ten oth­er lives and save you.

And into his con­sid­er­a­tion, one can imag­ine would not only play the phys­i­cal­i­ty of the crash but as well your income, your social insur­ance, the whole social assess­ment that can be done in thir­ty mil­lisec­onds. To land this in a ques­tion, have you thought about design­ing objec­tive func­tion for autonomous or semi-autonomous sys­tems, and I guess that can be tied into sto­ry gen­er­a­tion in a sense, as well.

Riedl: Yeah, well, this brings up kind of one of the clas­si­cal eth­i­cal conun­drums of kind of the indi­vid­ual ver­sus soci­ety, and the fact that indi­vid­u­als and soci­eties can have dif­fer­ent call them objec­tive func­tions, or think­ing about it in terms of rein­force­ment learn­ing, a reward func­tion. And then what’s the right thing to do? So kill the dri­ver because the ten peo­ple have greater social val­ue or some­thing like that, or should you do what the human would have done which is prob­a­bly do some­thing more self-preserving?

You know, I think about this in a slight­ly dif­fer­ent con­text in my own work. You know, a lot of my work has been involved in try­ing to under­stand how humans oper­ate in soci­ety because I need to tell sto­ries about peo­ple oper­at­ing in soci­ety, right. So again, the easy exam­ple is how do you go to a restau­rant? Well, the thing we don’t do is we don’t walk into the kitchen and steal all the food because we’re hun­gry, right. So we actu­al­ly per­form it to pro­to­col. And the pro­to­col has been devel­oped over a long peri­od of time, for social har­mo­ny and so on and so forth. One of the solu­tions is well, let’s try to have human-like val­ues in our agents, and that allows us to kind of avoid…or it at least gives us an answer to the soci­etal val­ue ques­tion, right. Do what the human would do. What is the human val­ue set? At least we won’t be any worse off than what the human would have decid­ed in the first place.

But you know, obvi­ous­ly the counter side of that is well, should soci­ety as a whole have a stronger val­ue? You know, it’s an eth­i­cal conun­drum that’s meant to exist to chal­lenge our pre­con­ceived notions on what is eth­i­cal and right. I’m going to go with the as long as we do no worse than what a human would do,” then I think we prob­a­bly can feel com­fort­able about the AIs that we’re developing.

Winiger: It’s inter­est­ing, though, what the human would do is pro­gres­sive­ly defined by what cul­ture would do, and cul­ture varies from place to place. I guess cul­tur­al stud­ies should play a role in AI, who knows? What do you think? 

Riedl: Yeah, com­put­ers right now and com­put­ers in the future should not exist inde­pen­dent­ly of our cul­ture. So when we talk about sto­ry gen­er­a­tion we want com­put­ers to under­stand us bet­ter because we have par­tic­u­lar ways of think­ing about and com­mu­ni­cat­ing and express­ing our­selves that is wrapped up in cul­ture and soci­ety. So if com­put­ers are unaware of our cul­ture, then they’re going to make deci­sions that are fun­da­men­tal­ly alien to us and that will present chal­lenges and increased fears and uncer­tain­ty. But if we feel like they under­stand us even if they’re mak­ing sub­op­ti­mal deci­sions, then we’re going to be more com­fort­able with com­mu­ni­cat­ing and using these technologies.

Pieters: So if you made it this far, thanks for lis­ten­ing and we hope to see you next time.

Winiger: Bye bye.

Pieters: Adios.