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,


3 thoughts on “I for one welcome our new robot overlords

  1. Fascinating topic and also slightly alarming. A lot of food for thought.

    “We think of technological change as the fancy new expensive stuff, but the real change comes from last decade’s stuff becoming cheaper and faster. “
    As it does so, innovators take over from inventors. Inventors make new things. Innovators find novel ways to use the obscure, single-purpose, existing technology to do many things and in so doing to make that technology less expensive and widely available.

    I think that was the area where the video was on shakier ground, and that also presents a challenge for you, was the area of creative computing. Computers are best at storing and retrieving information, and with a limitless amount of information, their ability to accept information and retrieve a solution may well be approaching miraculous. The ability to invent something not already in their database is a harder challenge. Like that musical composition.

    • Yup. I’ve actually written a musical program that can write far better compositions that I can (which unfortunately isn’t saying much). We’re already at the point where computers can learn how to do things from training data (rather than programmers teaching them how to do it). However, the humans still provide 100% the intuition: asking the questions, collecting the data, and interpreting of results. The machine simply performs the experiments and reports blindly.

      I see creative tasks such as illustration, animation, game-design, storywriting, etc. benefiting from advanced AI assistants, but not necessarily being replaced by true AI creators for a very, very long time.

      That’s why I’ve shifted my focus from “Creating an AI Game Master” to “Creating an AI Assistant for a Human Game Master”.

  2. It’s not the computers or AI that we should distrust. It’s the corporate greed motivations and lack of human oversight into said AI deployments that we must be concerned about. No matter how smart the AI, the real driver behind and AI’s creation is a profit motive. That’s not bad until profit at cost of other societal values (fairness, pollution, loss of human or animal habitat, lack of control, etc) are where fears arise. Pattern recognition of faces? Good AI. Flagging all middle easterners as terrorist suspects based on facial recognition? Bad. Who’s telling the AI what to do matters more than the Ai itself. Can Ai be constructed with built in protections against misuse? That will be an interesting development.

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