Monday, May 19, 2008

Are You Sure That Avatar You're Talking to in Second Life is a Person?

From the Associated Press comes an article yesterday about how researchers at Rensselaer Polytech have created an artificial intelligence that can operate a Second Life avatar. The avatar even has a name, Edd Hifeng.

Edd has a limited ability to converse, but what really makes this AI entity interesting is its ability to make inferences. In one example, Edd witnessed a different avatar switching a gun from one briefcase to another. Edd was able to infer that another avatar not currently in the room would believe the gun to still be in the first briefcase.

It may seem fairly simple to you and me, but this ability to make inferences has long been a weakness of artificial intelligence. Bridging this gap is a big step toward creating artificially intelligent entities.

I'm all in favor of this type of research into artificial intelligence, as long as it can be done responsibly. As a software developer myself, I do have some concerns about the days when computers become smarter than us. The Matrix and the Terminator are entertaining (but not very realistic) scenarios about what could happen if our creations decide that we have become obsolete. So while this type of research is continuing to advance, I'm going to be paying close attention to it and stopping by occasionally to check out how the Lifeboat Foundation's AIShield project is coming along.

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