When I talk to my non-gaming friends (there are a few…well ok, I’m using ‘friends’ loosely here), I often talk about our work writing 3D navigation for AI. They all have the same two questions: Aren’t all games 3D? And how do you have robots in games?
Let’s put our collective coffees down and forget they asked the first question. It’ll make dealing with the second question easier.
Actually, I can sort of understand why they are confused about AI. It is everywhere. Sometimes it seems that every company is doing AI, in every industry, in every setting. Looking for information? That’s AI. Playing the stockmarket? Yup, use a bit of AI. Farmer wants to harvest their crops? Put your feet up, we’ve got some AI for you.
And does it matter? Does it matter that the term ‘AI’ is used in so many different ways? Well maybe not if you work in AI, because we all know what we mean when we use the term. So that’s fine then?
Well, not quite
Because although we all like to live in our sensible bubbles, we are all affected by the rest of society. Even non-gamers! And most people have no clue what AI is, and what it is not. Game AI is quite different from, for instance, AI in financial investment, yet we are all tarred with the same brush. And it’s the public who influence funders and regulators, who buy our products in big numbers and who put pressure on politicians. It’s not the hardcore who do all of this, it’s the semi-informed and mis-informed, and they present the biggest barrier to scientific and technical advancement. They have watched on the sidelines as Google has become more and more ‘human’: first it started ‘knowing’ what you were looking for, then it started ‘recognising’ your face. Not content, it then went to ‘searching’ and ‘deciding’ which were suitable car parking spaces.
“It’s not the hardcore who do all of this, it’s the semi-informed and mis-informed, and they present the biggest barrier to scientific and technical advancement.”
And recently it has launched Google Clips, which is a small camera that scans and take pictures of ‘interesting’ things. It actually creates memories of what is interesting, forgetting all the boring stuff. Just like a human brain! And this is what scares people. I think of it as the T2 Effect. People are just scared of machines taking over the world, just like in Terminator 2. Which makes me wish that AI could scrub Terminator: Genysis from my memory. But that’s for another post.
But this T2 fear is about machine learning, not about how AI can help us. In many ways, most of AI is mechanising and automating what humans do now, and this is not new. We had little to fear when washing machines ‘knew’ how to wash different loads, or when planes began to ‘fly’ themselves. So if we are to allay fears and not let society slow the progress of AI, maybe we need a rebranding exercise. Align fears with the definition. Machine learning as separate from AI. AI as separate from robotics. And gaming separate from, well, just let us have our fun.
And maybe we at Mercuna should be calling it something other than AI. Perhaps we need different, more specific, terms for different types of effort to simulate intelligence. But would anyone understand us?