Who would have known that playing the Minecraft game would help testing artificial intelligence? This is what researchers at Microsoft believe.
Minecraft, if you don’t know, is a game that lets you create objects with 3D cubes. You need to use creativity and imagination to build objects by arranging the cubes. The game is available on all major PC, smartphone and gaming platforms. Here is a small video of what you can do with Minecraft:
So how is the Microsoft research team using the Minecraft game to develop artificial intelligence logic?
Aside from building stuff in Minecraft, you can also go on adventures. For example, if you can create a person using the blocks in the Minecraft game, you can make this person go on various adventures.
This Microsoft blog post explains how exactly one of the Minecraft game characters plans to climb a hail. Making a computer or digital character climb a hill might not be as difficult as it may sound to a technically inclined person, but what if the collector himself or herself has to decide whether he or she can climb the hill or not with the resources he or she has or does not have? This is the situation in the Microsoft experiment. The Minecraft game character has to learn how to climb the hill using the same types of resources a human being uses when he or she is trying to climb a hill. The same logic can be applied to performing other tasks in day-to-day life.
It’s not actually the original Minecraft game, it is a platform called AIX, which is a mod for the Java version of Minecraft that works within the game environment. The system components can run on Windows, Linux and Mac OS and the researchers involved in the artificial intelligence program can quote their agents in any programming language they are comfortable with. The artificial intelligence research team is being run by Katja Hofmann and her colleagues in Microsoft.
Why specifically use Minecraft? Katja explains on this Cambridge News link, “Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because it’s this very open world. You can do survival mode, you can do ‘build battles’ with your friends, you can do courses, you can implement your own games. This is really exciting for artificial intelligence because it allows us to create games that stretch beyond current abilities.”
The Microsoft team that is working on the new platform AIX is working at Microsoft lab in Cambridge, in the UK. Once developed, the platform will allow computer scientists all over the world to use Minecraft to test their own artificial intelligence systems.
As the above Cambridge News link says, it might be Stephen Hawking’s worst nightmare coming true: artificial intelligence becoming so intelligent that it takes over the world. Stephen Hawking often says that human beings need to be afraid of 2 things: artificial intelligence and alien life. Once unleashed, we won’t be able to control artificial intelligence and, if people are intelligent enough to travel to us from outer space, just like we do with less intelligent species, they are going to be so intelligent (interplanetary and intergalactic space travel requires technology we don’t know of) that they will think of us as animals and will try to colonise our planet just the way we colonise different lands.