While some advanced computer systems are doing things like cataloging every bit of trivia in the known universe or performing delicate medical procedures with extreme precision, researchers at MIT decided to teach their own supercomputer a different, yet equally important life lesson — how to play video games. And they didn't do it the easy way, by simply programming a series of if/then commands. No, instead they they taught it do something most human players refuse to: read an instruction manual.
The research began with the computer game Civilization II. In the Civilization series, players must use advanced strategies and tactics in order to further their virtual reign. It's a complicated formula that can stump and frustrate even the most skilled human players, and that's precisely why it was chosen for the ambitious experiment.
The scientists aimed to see just how close an artificial player would mimic a living, breathing human, and they were surprised by what they found. The computer was equipped with the game instructions and allowed to use them to compare what was happening in the game. After a bit of trial and error, the computer began to perfect its play style.
After studying every word the manual had to offer, the computer — which was equipped with no programming or information about the game itself — was able to rack up a stunning 79% win rate. The team at MIT says the game-mastering artificial intelligence they used could potentially inhabit robots one day, which would make for some very interesting Rock Band parties.
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