Impossibility of unambiguous communication as a source of failure in AI systems

William J. Howe, Johns Hopkins University
Roman V. Yampolskiy, University of Louisville


Ambiguity is pervasive at multiple levels of linguistic analysis effectively making unambiguous communication impossible. As a consequence, natural language processing systems without true natural language understanding can be easily”fooled” by ambiguity, but crucially, AI also may use ambiguity to fool its users. Ambiguity impedes communication among humans, and thus also has the potential to be a source of failure in AI systems.