Feeds

Boffins develop method of driving computers insane

Test machine 'claimed responsibility for terrorist bombing'

High performance access to file storage

Boffins in America report that they have successfully developed a method for driving computers insane in much the same way as human brains afflicted by schizophrenia. A computer involved in their study became so unhinged that it apparently "claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing".

The research involved meddling with a neural network setup dubbed DISCERN, built by Professor Risto Miikkulainen, a top comp-sci boffin at the University of Texas. Grad student Uli Grasemann assisted in the process of driving the machine bonkers.

"With neural networks, you basically train them by showing them examples, over and over and over again," says Grasemann. "Every time you show it an example, you say, if this is the input, then this should be your output, and if this is the input, then that should be your output. You do it again and again thousands of times, and every time it adjusts a little bit more towards doing what you want. In the end, if you do it enough, the network has learned."

In the computer pottiness experiments, DISCERN was taught simple stories. But they tinkered with the automated mind in a fashion equivalent to the effects of an excessive release of dopamine in a human brain. In humans this tends to cause people to "hyperlearn" – to make incorrect connections between stored information.

This meddling duly sent DISCERN off its rocker in short order. According to a Texas Uni statement describing the research:

DISCERN began putting itself at the center of fantastical, delusional stories that incorporated elements from other stories it had been told to recall. In one answer, for instance, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing.

In another instance, DISCERN began showing evidence of "derailment" — replying to requests for a specific memory with a jumble of dissociated sentences, abrupt digressions and constant leaps from the first- to the third-person and back again.

The crazed, burbling computer was evaluated by a top trick-cyclist, Ralph Hoffman of Yale uni, who confirmed that it did indeed have bats in its belfry in much the same way as a human suffering from schizophrenia.

"We have so much more control over neural networks than we could ever have over human subjects," says Grasemann. "The hope is that this kind of modeling will help clinical research."

The research is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.