Symbols as a Lingua Franca for Bridging Human-AI Chasm for Explainable and Advisable AI Systems

Subbarao Kambhampati, Sarath Sreedharan, Mudit Verma, Yantian Zha, Lin Guan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Despite the surprising power of many modern AI systems that often learn their own representations, there is significant discontent about their inscrutability and the attendant problems in their ability to interact with humans. While alternatives such as neuro-symbolic approaches have been proposed, there is a lack of consensus on what they are about. There are often two independent motivations (i) symbols as a lingua franca for human-AI interaction and (ii) symbols as system-produced abstractions used by the AI system in its internal reasoning. The jury is still out on whether AI systems will need to use symbols in their internal reasoning to achieve general intelligence capabilities. Whatever the answer there is, the need for (human-understandable) symbols in human-AI interaction seems quite compelling. Symbols, like emotions, may well not be sine qua non for intelligence per se, but they will be crucial for AI systems to interact with us humans - as we can neither turn off our emotions nor get by without our symbols. In particular, in many human-designed domains, humans would be interested in providing explicit (symbolic) knowledge and advice - and expect machine explanations in kind. This alone requires AI systems to to maintain a symbolic interface for interaction with humans. In this blue sky paper, we argue this point of view, and discuss research directions that need to be pursued to allow for this type of human-AI interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIAAI-22, EAAI-22, AAAI-22 Special Programs and Special Track, Student Papers and Demonstrations
PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)1577358767, 9781577358763
StatePublished - Jun 30 2022
Event36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Feb 22 2022Mar 1 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022


Conference36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, AAAI 2022
CityVirtual, Online

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence

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