Nautilus

Machine Behavior Needs to Be an Academic Discipline

What if physiologists were the only people who study human behavior at all scales: from how the human body functions, to how social norms emerge, to how the stock market functions, to how we create, share, and consume culture? What if neuroscientists were the only people tasked with studying criminal behavior, designing educational curricula, and devising policies to fight tax evasion?

Despite their growing influence on our lives, our study of AI agents is conducted this way—by a very specific group of people. Those scientists who create AI agents—namely, computer scientists and roboticists—are almost exclusively the same scientists who study the behavior of AI agents.

We cannot certify that an AI agent is ethical by looking at its source code, any more than we can certify that humans are good by scanning their brains.

As these computer scientists and roboticists create their agents to solve particular tasks—no small feat—they most often focus on ensuring that their agents fulfill their intended function. For this, they use a variety of benchmark datasets and tasks that make it possible to compare different algorithms objectively and consistently. For example, email classification programs

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