In a bid to help understand the way that the human brain malfunctions to cause mental illness scientists have caused a computer system to lose its mind and claim responsibilty for a terrorist bombing.
The team at the University of Texas and Yale University, including Professor Risto Miikkulainen and grad student Uli Grasemann, were looking to how the human brain is affected with schizophrenia by simulating a hypothesis that excessive dopamine in the brain can cause “exaggerated salience”, whereby the brain is learning from things it shouldn’t.
The ability to forget and ignore stuff is highly important for the functioning brain, and is the basis of a theory among neuroscientists known as the hyperlearning hypothesis. That leads an inability to extract meaningful information from the brain among so much information.
The scientists believe that this can then lead to a brain making connections that are unreal, or makes it unable to put together a coherent story, which happens to be how most of our copy comes to light.
To explore such effects further the team used a network called DISCERN, which is able to simulate the learning and understanding of language.
The neural network computer system was taught a number of stories through the use of words and sentences rather than single units of information, training it with inputs thousands of times.
The researchers than simulated the excessive release of dopamine by telling the DISCERN machine to stop forgetting so much information, promptly causing the machine to lose its marbles, finding that it produces some rather far-fetched stories.
In fact the computer began owning up to crimes it didn’t commit, putting itself at the centre of “fantastical, delusional stories” incorporating elements from other stories it had been told to recall, and in one answer the machine even claimed it was responsible for a terrorist bombing.