At A Glance – Machine Behaviour

A new field of study views machines as autonomous actors

Machines are generally thought of as acting according to the will of their creators. Until recently, this was largely true. However, in some instances, artificial intelligence has given machines the ability to make decisions independent of human input. It may soon be the case that many machines will become ‘smart’, operating as part of artificial connected cognitive networks.

The emerging field of machine behaviour, recently put forward in a research paper published in the scientific journal Nature, represents a paradigm shift in the perception of machines. From passive products to autonomous actors, machines are now able to take information and use it to decide on a course of action. In order to interact with intelligent machines, it is important to understand how and why they behave in the ways that they do. AI agents already play an important role in credit scoring, security, marketing, driving, and more. As they are increasingly integrated into society, being able to comprehend their behaviour is paramount to ensuring that these interactions are positive.

Thinking of machines in terms of behaviour is hoped to bring disparate groups together to aid the entry of intelligent machines into society, and safeguard against unpredictable consequences. At the moment, AI research often happens in silos. It is impossible to fully understand the way that humans and animals behave without an environmental and social context, though, and the same is true for machine behaviour. As such, the study of machine behaviour needs to combine expertise from the technological, scientific, and social spheres. Taking such a widely collaborative approach is likely to be fraught with challenges, but will be an essential part of shepherding intelligent machines into society.

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