Why AI should be afraid of us

“There seems to be something missing when it comes to reciprocity,” Ophelia Deroy, a philosopher at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, told me. “Basically, we would treat a perfect stranger better than the AI.”

In a recent study, Dr. Deroy and her neuroscientist colleagues set out to understand why. The researchers paired human subjects with invisible partners, sometimes human and sometimes AI; Then each pair played a series of classic economic games: Trust, Prisoner’s Dilemma, Chicken, and Stag Hunt, as well as one they created called Reciprocity, designed to measure and reward cooperation.

It is commonly assumed that our lack of reciprocity towards AI reflects a lack of trust. He’s hyper-rational and insensitive, after all, surely just by himself, unlikely to cooperate, so why should we? Dr. Deroy and her colleagues came to a different and perhaps less reassuring conclusion. Their study found that people were less likely to cooperate with a bot even when the bot was willing to cooperate. It’s not that we don’t trust the bot, it’s that we do: the bot is guaranteed benevolent, a capital sucker, so we exploit it.

That conclusion was confirmed by subsequent conversations with study participants. “Not only did they tend not to reciprocate the cooperative intentions of the artificial agents,” Dr. Deroy said, “but when they basically betrayed the bot’s trust, they did not report guilt, whereas with humans they did.” She added: “You can just ignore the bot and there is no feeling that it has broken any mutual obligations.”

This could have real world implications. When we think of AI, we tend to think of the Alexas and Siris of our future world, with whom we could form a kind of false intimate relationship. But most of our interactions will be one-time encounters, often without words. Imagine driving down the highway and a car wants to merge in front of you. If you notice that the car does not have a driver, you will be much less likely to let it in. And if the AI ​​does not take into account their bad behavior, an accident could occur.

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