AI Wins At Civilization II By Reading Manual

An MIT supercomputer-based artificial intelligence has learned to play the computer game Civilization II the old-fashioned way - by reading the manual.


(Civilization II is just a game, for now)

The research began with the computer game Civilization II. In the Civilization series, players must use advanced strategies and tactics in order to further their virtual reign. It's a complicated formula that can stump and frustrate even the most skilled human players, and that's precisely why it was chosen for the ambitious experiment.

The scientists aimed to see just how close an artificial player would mimic a living, breathing human, and they were surprised by what they found. The computer was equipped with the game instructions and allowed to use them to compare what was happening in the game. After a bit of trial and error, the computer began to perfect its play style.

The supercomputer has posted a 79% win rate on Civilization II, a game that models a planetary culture and encourages world domination. So much for a nice game of chess.

Science fiction readers are not surprised that machines are able to play strategy games and win. In his 2008 novel Player of Games, Iain Banks creates the character of Mawhrin-Skel, an intelligent machine that can play games well enough to help humans cheat.

"...I wanted to know, too. I came back long ago; I've been watching for the past five hours, quite fascinated. I couldn't resist finding out if it was possible... To be honest, I still don't know; the game is beyond me, just over-complicated for the way my poor target-tracking mind is configured... but I had to try and find out. I had to. So, you see; the risk is run, Gurgeh; the deed is done. I can tell you what you need to know..."

Gurgeh looked at the drone. His mouth was dry...

Mawhrin-Skel floated closer. "As I said, Jernau Gurgeh; I can fool these adding machines, no problem at all. Quickly now. Do you want to know or not?"

Via Yahoo News; thanks to Blue Monkey for the tip and the reference.

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