AI-ming at the enemy

Last year Google used its AI ‘Deep Mind’ to create a simple game called ‘Gathering’.  The object is to gather more apples than your opponent.  They gave the AI the ability, however, to stun their opponent with a laser.  Watch what happens:

To me, this is an artificial manifestation of very human responses in a world of perceived scarcity.  It is worth considering Sendhil Mullainathan’s work (Harvard) on this topic, and his and Eldar Shafir’s book Scarcity:  The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives.

It is also eerily predictable that the greater the scarcity, and the more “intelligent” the AI, the more often lasers were used in gameplay.  There is logically a competitive standard in this game – the ‘win state’ is determined, and that is the goal.  Therefore the machine will take whatever logical steps it can to achieve that state.  This is something I’ve often thought about when working with leaders in organizations:  To what extent are leaders ‘playing a game of competition’ – in all aspects of their work?

In a world of constant competition for (perceived) scarce resources, what really happens to collaboration and mutual benefit?

I do wonder if artificially intelligent companions (as they are coming into play, now) and systems will learn this mindset of individualized win-states from their human counterparts, and what that may end up doing to human-machine (and human/human) relations and the possibility of abundant, shared prosperity.

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