Saturday, February 24, 2018

Attention Gamers: The Centre For The Study Of Existential Risk Have Made a Civilization V Mod About Apocalyptic AI

Not being a gamer myself I can't really comment on the module's verisimilitude or apocalypto-graphics but we have visited* the Centre a few times, most recently last week, and can attest that their work would have been a hit with the 19th century melancholia crowd.

From Rock, Paper, Shotgun:
Researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (an actual real institution) have released a Civilization V mod exploring the hot new apocalypse everyone’s talking about: unchecked AI casually wiping out humanity in the name of efficiency.

If you’ve already clicked through the universe as a single-minded AI in Frank Lantz’s ace Paperclips, you might fancy this mod. Trapping a brilliant mind in a metal box does also have its benefits, you know.

The Superintelligence mod adds a number of AI technologies to the tech tree. This AI could help you usher in utopia and win or, if you don’t research enough tech to keep it in check, wipe out humanity as it converts the Earth into a giant fractal chessboard or summat to optimise everything towards its task (see above). Win some, lose some.

“We want to let players experience the complex tensions and difficult decisions that the path to superintelligent AI would generate,” said the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’s Dr. Shahar Avin, who managed the project.

“Games are an excellent way to deliver a complex message to a wide audience. The Civilization games series has an amazing track record of presenting very complex and interlocking systems in a fun and educating way, including major risk issues such as nuclear war and global warming.”...MORE
*2018's  Cambridge, Oxford Uni's, Electronic Frontier Foundation Report: "The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence:..."
and 2012's  BBC: "Risk of robot uprising wiping out human race to be studied" come to mind.
We noted in the outro from the latter:
One of the co-founders of the project is Martin Rees who is a bit of a Gloomy Gus.
On the other hand he's also the Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, President of the Royal Society between 2005 and 2010 and he accepted the £1m Templeton Prize which goes to people who make "exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension".
And being optimistic/possibly delusional about humanity's survival prospects we have, over the years. sprinkled tips along the trail:
New Doomsday Analysis Says Humans are Doing Better than Expected
Hi, me again, your little ray of sunshine.
NYT “How to Survive the Apocalypse” Forbes: "How To Doomsday Prep Like An Economist"
The Times piece has some good advice: a hoard of mini-bottles of booze used for either barter or the more traditional apéritif/digestif role can make the apocalypse more tolerable. Ditto for cigarettes.

Personally I think of the Wiemar inflation which highlighted the store-of-value character that the humble bar of soap possesses, especially for folks who don't directly own various means-of-production. And one of the lessons of Houston is how prized toilet paper and/or paper toweling can get.
As always we discourage gold as money, if you are going with shiny stuff, junk silver coins make more sense, both for recognition and divisibility.

After the jump we have a few other handy hints that may not be readily apparent but should probably be in your bag of tricks....
When the Time Comes, Will You Be Ready To Rebuild Civilization?
Yes you will !!

Possibly related:
FT: "Twelve ways the world could end"
Listicles, Financial Times style!