Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Terminator's next target?

While reading some Traveller threads over on the Citizens of the Imperium forum I ran across a reference to an amazing story about Traveller that I've never heard before. It's about a real-life artificial intelligence program named Eurisko learning how to play Trillion Credit Squadron-

In 1981, Eurisko, ... easily won the Traveller tournament, becoming the top-ranked player in the United States and an honorary Admiral in the Traveller navy. Eurisko had designed its fleet according to principles it discovered itself–with some help from its inventor, Douglas B. Lenat, an assistant professor in Stanford University’s artificial-intelligence program.

"I never did actually play Traveller by hand," Lenat said, three years later. "I don’t think I even watched anybody play it. I simply talked to people about it and then had the program go off and design a fleet…When I went into the tournament that was the first time that I had ever played the game."

Eurisko’s fleet was so obviously superior to those of its human opponents that most of them surrendered after the first few minutes of battle; one resigned without firing a shot.

The full story of how it learns the best strategies and wins is fascinating. Not only did it win the 1981 tournament but the 1982 one as well. After the organizers threatened to cancel the tournament if Eurisko entered and won again, Mr. Lenat decided to retire Eurisko from the competition. Today, Douglas Lenat is a prominent researcher in artificial intelligence working as the CEO of Cycorp, Inc.

Wow, just wow. An AI program built to fight wargames designed by a CEO of a company named "Cycorp"! Man, if that isn't ready made script for the terminator show, I don't know what is. I don't know about you, but if I was that guy I would seriously be worried about meeting Sarah Connor someday.