Feeds

Boffins develop method of driving computers insane

Test machine 'claimed responsibility for terrorist bombing'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.