Using AI and Video Games to Take over the World

A superintelligent computer is taking over the world.  How do video games fit into the master plan? MIT physics professor, Max Tegmark, gives us insight into this question in his 2017 book on artificial intelligence: Life 3.0.   

Life 3.0 - Wikipedia

In the book, a shady group called the “Omegas,” and their superintelligent computer, “Prometheus,” need cash.  Among their various tactics, Prometheus poses as thousands of workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, essentially taking over the platform. Then Prometheus hacks into companies to get inside information it can use on the stock market.  The next stop, video games:

“Prometheus could rapidly become extremely skilled at designing appealing video games, easily handling the coding, graphic design, ray tracing of images and all other tasks needed to produce a final ready-to-ship product. Moreover, after digesting all the web’s data on people’s preferences it would know exactly what each category of gamer liked, and could develop superhuman ability to optimize a game for sales revenue. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game on which many of the Omegas had wasted more hours than they care to admit, had grossed over $400 million during its first week back in 2011, and they were confident that Prometheus could make something at least this addictive in twenty four hours using $1 million of cloud-computing resources. They could then sell it online and use Prometheus to impersonate humans talking up the game in the blogosphere. If this brought in $250 million in a week, they would have doubled their investment eight times in eight days, giving a return of 3% per hour… By developing a suite of games each day, they figured they’d be able to earn $10 billion before long, without coming close to saturating the games market.” (Tegmark 2017, p.7)

This excerpt is packed with ways that a diabolical superintelligence can use data to make money from video games. Games are big business.  Statista puts the global game market around $140 billion in 2021.We’ve written about procedural generation in other posts (here and here), and this is procedural generation on steroids – it is when procedural meets reinforcement learning.

Superintelligent computers could make games more profitable more quickly. Prometheus can use data to make the game addicting and to target particular players and player types. This data includes widely available information on the Internet and social media about individuals and groups and their preferences. Prometheus will, of course, also use gameplay data. By continually analyzing and generating new games and features in existing games, Prometheus can maximize revenue from the sale of games, enhancements, and in-game purchases. Intelligence of in-game non-player characters can learn and also improve game engagement. The superintelligence can also help with marketing by creating a buzz about new games – building initial momentum and positive feedback – also potentially replying to or suppressing negative feedback online where it can.

Hmmmm.  Sounds like tactics we may be seeing already, with no Omega and no Prometheus…. yet….

Reference: Tegmark, M. (2017). Life 3.0: Being human in the age of artificial intelligence. Knopf.