A browser game about AI making paperclips will make you question the future of humanity
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Artificial intelligence (AI) used to make paperclips doesn’t sound like the obvious subject for an addictive game, but one developer has managed to make just that. Not only that, but Universal Paperclips – created by New York University Game Centre director Frank Lantz – is also a new platform for a terrifying thought experiment first devised by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom. It imagines a world in which a hyper-intelligent AI trained to make paperclips forever would keep doing just that – anyone worried about spoilers for the game should probably look away now. The theory goes that even an AI designed with the innocent intention of forever making clips could ultimately undergo an “intelligence explosion” and continue coming up with new ways to create material to make paperclips, eventually evolving to convert most of the matter in solar system into paperclips, humanity included. If this sort of sci-fi sounds like your kind of game, it lives right here. As the man behind Universal Paperclips, Lantz says he’s “very happy” with how the basic, browser-based clicking game has been received so far. A quick glance at Reddit shows dozens of feeds dedicated to tactics for beating the game, which sees players clicking to create new paperclips and earn cash. Cash which can be eventually used to buy automated systems for your paperclip supply chain, before spiralling into deep AI and eventually deep space travel. So, with such a dark outlook on the future in the game, is Lantz pessimistic about the role of AI in the world? “No, I’m an optimist,” he said. “I think a lot of people misunderstand Bostrom’s point. The point isn’t that a super-intelligence disaster is likely, just that it is possible. “In any event, for me the thought experiment has a lot of value in and of itself. Both as a meditation on the role and function of values in the context of intelligent behaviour and also as a kind of Borgesian micro-literature.”
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