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Uncanny AI: Artificial Intelligence In The Uncanny Valley
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Uncanny AI: Artificial Intelligence In The Uncanny Valley

May 30, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

Asperger’s syndrome is a less severe part of the spectrum, in which people generally show some form of above normal mental ability coupled with somewhat obsessive interests, and are somewhat disconnected and uncomprehending of the emotions of those around them. It's sometimes claimed that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s.

In its high specialization and complete inability to understand people, game AI shows very similar symptoms to people on the autism spectrum. It doesn't really have a place on the spectrum itself though, because it breaks out of the far end, being so narrowly active and empathically blind as to be beyond autistic.

The more comprehensive it gets though, the less machine like it seems and the closer it comes to behaving like a particular subset of unusual human beings. Advanced AI will probably follow a reverse trajectory down the autism spectrum before it really fools us.

As a result, I suspect that consultation with and evaluation by psychology departments may become relevant to game AI in the coming years, given that they're the most comprehensive resource in existence on human behavior,

Psychology generally has a hard time, often being accused of unscientific practice, and psychiatry is also accused of prejudice in the way it defines certain things as disorders. Psychology has been through so many upheavals, and has so many schools and movements, that to even define it as a single thing can seem like a stretch sometimes.

Furthermore, despite over a century of study, much of the human mind and brain remain a black box to us. We see what is going on from the outside, but have so far had only limited ability to measure and peer into what's going on internally.

This is where game developers are going to have some significant advantages over psychologists. If looked at from the point of view of hard data and proven theories, psychology is very difficult to penetrate.

However, where a scientist must test, measure, revise and prove things, game developers can simulate and create systems. Looked at in terms of unproven theories, psychology is a smorgasbord of ifs, maybes, and analytical skills rather than hard facts.

A lot of what we intuitively know about people remains immeasurable because of limitations on our technology and knowledge. For instance, the positive and negative valence of emotional states in others is obvious to most people through facial expression, voice intonation, posture, and so forth, yet none of these constitute an impossible to fake, objectively reliable measure, and magnetic resonance imaging has not yet reached a fine enough resolution to allow sufficient neurological observation.

While reliable enough for everyday interaction, the signs we read by second nature are not absolute. It is our unconscious knowledge of how humans behave that enables us to pick out the good fakes, and bringing that knowledge to light will take a lot of study and analysis.

Comprehensive knowledge of the mechanics upon which human behavior operates is a tall order, but luckily, while still a mountain we're yet to scale, a well informed AI performance is not so ambitious. By building towards more convincing AI, game developers are not becoming scientists, merely better magicians.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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