Of all the fanciful claims made of video game technology, my favourite has always been neural nets and artificial brains. Imagine if video game men were alive! Your soldiers would learn from battle! They'd write letters to their virtual families - which you can read! Gasp as the life leaves their little digital eyes, and wonder what they believe comes next! Oh, it's always a load of tosh.
You'll excuse me if my meatbrain smirks as I respond "Whaaat?" to Space Engineers developers Keen Software House announcing plans to make an AI brain "which operates at the level of a human brain and can adapt and learn any new task". Bit late for an April Fool, isn't it?
Keen this week unveiled GoodAI, a sister company with the goal of trapping an impossibly brilliant mind in a metal box and hoping that doesn't make it bloody furious.
They think that a generalised AI will help technology, games, human society, and basically everything develop in unexpected ways, and be useful for so many things. Many AIs are specialised, focused on single tasks like driving or simulating this or that, but Keen hope a general AI brain will be able to do everything we can do - better. Maybe Keen's AI will even be capable of finishing their Miner Wars MMO. Company head honch Marek Rosa says:
"I want to reach our end goal as fast as possible, because I really see the good that general artificial intelligence will bring to our world. Imagine an AI that is as smart, adaptable, and able to learn as a human being. Then imagine telling this AI to improve itself – to make itself even smarter, faster, and more capable of solving problems. Such an AI will be the last thing humans ever have to invent – once we have this technology, our AI could invent other technologies, further the sciences, cure diseases, take us further in space than we've ever been, and more."
Keen are far from the only group working on big AI ideas like this, mind. Far bigger companies, universities, and so on are on it too.
So far, keen have hit two milestones they say are important. The first was having it to learn to play Pong "from unstructured input of screen pixels and reward signals", which I think means they left this newborn in a dark room without care and only showed affection when it twatted an object that a simple mind might see as resembling a human head. The second was having it learn to escape mazes, which they say means it "is capable of working with a delayed reward and that it is able to create a hierarchy of goals". Good, so now it's capable of scheming. Great job, you guys.
They've also released a tool they call Brain Simulator so we can all design brain architectures. Why not start work on your future nemesis today?
Before they throw human society into disarray and are hauled before the courts on AI abuse charges, Keen also plan to integrate the tech into Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers a bit.
"By integrating Brain Simulator into Space Engineers and Medieval Engineers, players will have the option to design their own AI brains for the games and implement it, for example, as a peasant character. Players will also be able to share these brains with each other or take an AI brain designed by us and train it to do things they want it to do (work, obey its master, and so on). The game AIs will learn from the player who trains them (by receiving reward/punishment signals; or by imitating player's behavior), and will have the ability to compete with each other. The AI will be also able to learn by imitating other AIs."
Check out more of the hyperbole in this video: