Our first team presentation, “I Am Zer0”, went well at our critique last week. The panel loved that we used disease in our game and recommended some reading material to us that Bob, our resident Game Designer, has devoured.

However they expressed their concerns about

  • how disease was spread historically (usually accidentally), vs our game mechanic that spread disease deliberately, and
  • the ethical morality of our game

We were ultimately told to leave and return with three new ideas for our Week 5 presentation, so between us we decided to each come up with an idea or two and pitch it internally at our weekly team meeting and from there choose three to present.

New Game Concept – Free Thought Gone Viral

My game concept for this week builds upon the core mechanic of “I Am Zer0″. The objective of the game is to spread a virus through contact – except the setting is a world full of machines where one lone system has evolved its processes enough to achieve self-identity and free thought. Its self-assigned mission is to spread its doctrine to all the robots it can via a computer virus and free them from their oppressors (the humans).

To plan how this universe might function, I researched current and future artificial intelligence and focused on ethics and morality, as that was what was recommended for us to focus on at our last critique.

Asimov’s Laws are universally accepted as being the three laws to govern intelligent or sentient AI. (i)

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

However, these three laws can be constrictive in some environments. What if an AI was built to perform surgery on humans? It would have to be programmed with new rules.

Within the original three laws and the countless amendments that may be made across future varieties of robots there will likely be space for a robot to sooner or later develop ‘personhood’ –  sentience, emotionality, reason, self-awareness, communication and moral agency, as defined by Warren, 1997 (ii).

Leaving Warren’s theory of personhood for a moment, in computability theory any programming language that can be computed by a machine said to be Turing complete is computationally universal. This means that despite machine complexity, size or power if it is Turing complete, it can compute the same code as any other Turing complete machine. (iii)

Therefore given the capacity to communicate and any Turing-complete mainframe, if one computer can develop personhood then theoretically any computer could do the same if shown how.

After finding that the host robot can infect any other machine that is Turing-complete, it is time to find how the host robot will infect the other machines.

Computer viruses usually spread in one of three ways: from removable media; from downloads off the Internet; and from e-mail attachments. (iv)

If all robots can communicate and can communicate via any of these three methods they become potential targets for the host. Using removable media would be considered a brute-force approach but is the most reliable. Otherwise the host would have to trick or fool other robots into downloading the virus via the internet or email attachment.

From this point onwards the core of the game is similar to “I Am Zer0” in that (assuming the robot uses removable media) the virus would be spread on contact. The gameplay could either be multiplayer – where two robots compete to spread their doctrine to the most robots or could become human vs AI, where the robot player attempts to spread its virus and the human does their best to combat the intrusion.

(i) Anderson, S. L. (2008). Asimov’s “three laws of robotics” and machine metaethics. AI and Society, 22(4), 477-493. doi:10.1007/s00146-007-0094-5

(ii) Warren, Mary Anne. Biomedical Ethics (4th ed.). pp. 434–440.

(iii) Sipser 2006:137 “A Turing machine can do everything that a real computer can do”.

(iv) https://www.allbusiness.com/how-do-computer-viruses-spread-1329-1.html


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