When the robots come for us, bad sci-fi has taught me, it’ll be teenage whizzes who save the world. In light of that, I believe that Blizzard and Google’s DeepMind Lab are taking the audacious and treasonous step of pre-emptively toadying to our future robot overlords. They’ve teamed up to release a machine learning API and toolkit to use StarCraft II [official site] as a testbed for artificial intelligences. In short, they’re trying to teach robots how to outthink and outmaneuver twitchy teenagers in war.
Congratulations, you’ve sold the human race out for… what? Smarter surveillance tools? Better self-driving cars? When those spy drones hunt us and your car transforms into a bipedal robot with you still inside, you won’t find it so exciting.
Launched yesterday, the StarCraft II AI API lets artificial intelligence developers and researchers easily hook their bots into SC2. Why would they want to do that? Well, beyond fun like the bot tournaments, SC2 is a good research environment to test and train AI in lots of ways.
Google say that the “rich, multi-layered gameplay” of SC2 “makes it an ideal environment for AI research.”
“For example, while the objective of the game is to beat the opponent, the player must also carry out and balance a number of sub-goals, such as gathering resources or building structures. In addition, a game can take from a few minutes to one hour to complete, meaning actions taken early in the game may not pay-off for a long time. Finally, the map is only partially observed, meaning agents must use a combination of memory and planning to succeed.
“The game also has other qualities that appeal to researchers, such as the large pool of avid players that compete online every day. This ensures that there is a large quantity of replay data to learn from – as well as a large quantity of extremely talented opponents for AI agents.”
So they’ve released tools, minigames, and other bits that teach robots war. Oh, and this isn’t just a one-off act of treachery, it’s ongoing as Blizzard will keep releasing anonymised replays to provide more data.
The DeepMind and StarCraft II blogs have posts with more information on all this, if you’re interested. Oh, and while you are here, check out Michael Cook’s RPS series Electric Dreams for a good long look at video game AI.
I’ve just checked in on an old friend, the self-driving Grand Theft Auto V car Charles, and oh god, Charles’ creator is working to give the bot a voice and teach it how to steal cars and shoot. We’re doomed.
It’s comforting to joke along and pretend that robots are why humanity will become extinct, isn’t it?