Humans are ready to take advantage of benevolent AI

LMU München
Autonomous bus, in Monheim, Rhine

Autonomous bus, in Monheim, Rhine | © IMAGO / Jochen Tack

Picture yourself driving on a narrow road in the near future when suddenly another car emerges from a bend ahead. It is a self-driving car with no passengers inside. Will you push forth and assert your right of way, or give way to let it pass? At present, most of us behave kindly in such situations involving other humans. Will we show that same kindness towards autonomous vehicles?

Using methods from behavioural game theory, an international team of researchers at LMU Munich and the University of London have conducted large-scale online studies to see whether people would behave as cooperatively with artificial intelligence (AI) systems as they do with fellow humans.

Cooperation holds a society together. It often requires us to compromise with others and to accept the risk that they let us down. Traffic is a good example. We lose a bit of time when we let other people pass in front of us and are outraged when others fail to reciprocate our kindness. Will we do the same with machines?

The study which is published in the journal iScience found that, upon first encounter, people have the same level of trust toward AI as for human: most expect to meet someone who is ready to cooperate.The difference comes afterwards. People are much less ready to reciprocate with AI, and instead exploit its benevolence to their own benefit. Going back to the traffic example, a human driver would give way to another human but not to a self-driving car.The study identifies this unwillingness to compromise with machines as a new challenge to the future of human-AI interactions.

/Courtesy of LMU München. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length.