Let the Stories Tell Themselves

I came across this article on Polygon describing some of the awesome tech behind the new and improved Storybricks Engine, which purportedly can generate stories from scratch. I was intrigued. The Storybricks team (currently working with the Everquest Next folks), seem to be taking sort of a simulation approach. The rationale is that if every NPC in the world had a complex model of emotions, personality, motivations, goals, desires, and capabilities, then they’d naturally start creating conflict with one another, so quests and stories would (hopefully) write themselves. A player who takes a stroll through the world will have a different experience every time, because the NPCs are constantly fighting and changing relationships.

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I for one welcome our new robot overlords

Apologies for the non-game topic: I stumbled upon an interesting perspective about AI, with a focus on effects to the human economy and lifestyle. Just a disclaimer, I’m a graduate student working on AI, and specifically AI that can replicate human creativity in game design. I’m not an expert, but knowing a bit more about how the sausage is made, I find the video to be overly dramatic and sweeping in its statements. But it’s the comments and discussion about the video that I find the most interesting:

From a non-technical and non-academic vantage point, this type of discussion is frightening, and perhaps even depressing. It evokes strong imagery of either utopian or dystopian societies. I find that odd, because in person it’s extremely difficult to convince someone that computers could ever be more than glorified calculators. Honestly, as I struggle to get my AI to do the most basic of tasks I have a hard time convincing myself!  But framed in an economic context, suddenly no one seems to raise a finger of doubt that computers could replace most of what we do.

So, a word of comfort from the perspective of someone who is actually building AI:

This stuff is only just barely getting off the ground. Yes, computers will inevitably become capable of taking over much of what we do, and will probably do it far better than we ever could. But that’s still a really long way off. Right now, “Machine Learning” is essentially just the art of classifying things into neat little piles. It’s really not that smart and requires tons and tons of human intervention and tweaking. From the outside, today’s technology feels like magic. If you’re worried about this stuff taking over your lives, you can take comfort in knowing that we (the magicians) are having a really hard time making progress, and have to claw for every inch. If there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s the glacial pace of academic bureaucracy to stop our robot overlords.

Happy thought for the day,