Software Agents Fight Unseen On The Web

The gentle, scholarly world of Wikipedia seems like the last place that autonomous software agents would engage in a corrective fight to the death.

“An increasing number of decisions, options, choices, and services depend now on bots working properly, efficaciously, and successfully,” say Taha Yasseri and pals at the University of Oxford in the U.K. “Yet, we know very little about the life and evolution of our digital minions.”

This raises an interesting question. How do bots interact with each other?

“We find that, although Wikipedia bots are intended to support the encyclopedia, they often undo each other’s edits and these sterile ‘fights’ may sometimes continue for years,” they say.

In particular, Yasseri and co focus on whether bots disagree with one another. One way to measure this on Wikipedia is by reverts—edits that change an article back to the way it was before a previous change.

Over a 10-year period, humans reverted each other about three times on average. But bots were much more active. “Over the 10-year period, bots on English Wikipedia reverted another bot on average 105 times,” say Yasseri and co.

..it shows how relatively simple bots can produce complex dynamics with unintended consequences. It is all the more concerning given that Wikipedia is a gated community where the use of robots is reasonably well governed.

The idea that autonomous "software agents" or "bots" would fight it out online is almost fifty years old.

In John Brunner's 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider, computer whiz Nickie Haflinger happened to offend a certain Shad Fluckner, an employee of Anti-Trauma, Inc. When Haflinger woke up in the morning to find his power out, he took steps to discover the source of the problem:

A sweet recorded voice told him his phone credit was in abeyance pending judgment in the lawsuit that was apt to end with all his assets being garnisheed...

Lawsuit? What lawsuit?...

Then the answer dawned on him, and he almost laughed. Fluckner had resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the store and turned loose in the continental net a self-perpetuating tapeworm, probably headed by a denuciation group "borrowed" from a major corporation, which would shunt itself from one nexus to another every time his credit-code was punched into a keyboard. It could take days to kill a worm like that, and sometimes weeks.

Being a full-service science fiction author, Brunner not only describes the problem, but also its solution - the counter-worm:

He sent a retaliatory worm chasing Fluckner's. That should take care of the immediate problem in three to thirty minutes, depending on whether or not he beat the inevitable Monday morning circuit overload.

It was a common problem, as described in the novel:

According to recent report, there were so many worms and counter-worms loose on the data-net now, the machines had been instructed to give them a low priority unless they related to a medical emergency.

Via Technology Review.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/6/2016)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Computer ")

String Art Courtesy Of Robot Artist
The number of different ways to span a thread between a larger number of hooks is astronomical.

Tetraplegics Dominate Avatar Races
Well, just speaking brain-to-computer...

IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...' - Stanislaw Lem, 1965.

Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.' - Isaac Asimov, 1941.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Jaguar I-Pace Audible Vehicle Alert System For EVs
'Of course not a vehicle moved by means of internal explosions of a derivative of rock oil...'

Autonomous 'Fiberbots' Weave Large Structures
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

Birds Aren't Real - Wake Up, California! (With Bird Watching Guide)
'When he had first built them, they had been crude indeed, flying mechanisms with little more than a reflex-response unit.'

Self-Healing Material Pulls Carbon Out Of The Air
'... could seal the punctures.'

IRL Glasses Block Screens, Limit Vision To Real Life
'If you couldn't see the ads, how would you know what was fashionable?'

Testing The Single-Person Spacecraft
'...the lower part of the suit was simply a rigid cylinder.'

Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'

Fully Automated Farm Iron Ox Hydroponics
'Had these machines in some incredible fashion been provided with brains?'

BrainNet Social Network Of Brains
'I used my implant to tell MILLIE what we wanted and she took care of it'

Phil Nuyttnn's City Under The Sea
'Under the lower roof there was no water, but a clear and luminous atmosphere...'

IONITY Opens First 10 Fast-Charging Stations
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

Superstrong Multilayer Metal-Graphene Composite Material
Negligible increase in weight increased material strength by hundreds of times.

Deepfakes Imperil Democracy (George Orwell, Right Again)
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

String Art Courtesy Of Robot Artist
The number of different ways to span a thread between a larger number of hooks is astronomical.

Still Wondering If You'd Work For A Robot Boss?
'This is all coming to you courtesy of the simstim unit wired into your deck, of course.'

World's First Autonomous Tram In Germany
What's it like for autonomous trams when they're turned off at night?

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.