MIT report calls for the study of 'machine behavior' as technology advances

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A new report authored by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and published in the journal Nature outlines the need for the establishment of a new field of study to better understand the abilities, impact and underlying mechanisms of artificial intelligence.

The paper's authors, including collaborators from universities such as Stanford, Harvard and Yale, and tech giants Microsoft, Google and Facebook, called for the study of "machine behavior," akin to research surrounding human and animal behavior.

"Machines powered by artificial intelligence increasingly mediate our social, cultural, economic and political interactions," they wrote. "Understanding the behavior of artificial intelligence systems is essential to our ability to control their actions, reap their benefits and minimize their harms."

Machine behavior, then, would be an interdisciplinary topic rooted in the field of computer science but also incorporating data from other sciences, as well as industries like healthcare, economics and politics that are already implementing AI algorithms into everyday tasks.

"We're seeing the rise of machines with agency, machines that are actors making decisions and taking actions autonomously," Iyad Rahwan, PhD, one of the paper's lead authors, told the MIT Media Lab. "This calls for a new field of scientific study that looks at them not solely as products of engineering and computer science but additionally as a new class of actors with their own behavioral patterns and ecology."

More articles about AI:
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Viewpoint: How health systems can integrate AI into stroke treatment
Cleveland Clinic, Case Western receive $3M NIH grant for machine learning-based imaging analysis

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