Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

John Jackson (Creative Commons)

In a new paper, Facebook researchers claim an advance in the capacity of chatbots to conduct sophisticated conversations — the ability to negotiate.

In a blog post, artificial intelligence researcher Mike Lewis and four colleagues say they trained chatbots to find a fair resolution of a conflict over possessions. The interesting thing is that the chatbots were started out knowing only their own interests _ which of the possessions they wanted _ and not those of their negotiating opponent. But, speaking grammatical English, they figured out the reasonably just solution by themselves. They even at times employed deceit.

Why it's important: The research must now advance from the narrow focus of this experiment. But the proof of concept suggests more advanced digital assistants than commercially available at the moment that can not only organize your calendar but resolve complex conflicts, such as sales negotiations.

As set up, the Facebook researchers asked the chatbots to divide a nonsensical group of items between themselves _ two books, a hat and three balls. The bots understood their own interest because each of the items was assigned a value through a point system. The researchers also provided them dialogue questions and answers to use along the way. They could not walk away or lose all their potential points.

  • The result is interesting because it shows it's possible to build a bot system that can work through complex human behaviors "without having to truly understand what the complication is about," Alex Rudnicky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, told Axios. Rudnicky, who researches communication between humans and robots, said the next step "is to take that idea and try it on a different kind of negotiation."

Among the advanced capacities the bots developed: bluffing. "We find instances of the model feigning interest in a valueless issue, so that it can later 'compromise' by conceding it," the paper says. The researchers say that, ordinarily, deceit requires at least the ability to speculate as to your opponent's interests and strategy. But, they said, "Our agents have learnt to deceive without any explicit human design, simply by trying to achieve their goals."

Go deeper

47 mins ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.