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Extra Credits: Season 3 Episode 19: The Singularity

TubeTube Administrator, ClubPA admin
edited December 2011 in The Penny Arcade Hub
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  • HenroidHenroid Radio Demon Internet HellRegistered User regular
    edited December 2011
    That motivational poster image for City of Heroes is hysterical, holy shit. :^:

    Edit - It was weird to see this topic explored by the way. It would've been quite a brief episode if they didn't have to explain what the singularity is. The idea that a mechanical system such as a video game being used to teach an AI is... I'm not sure if it's the best of ideas. See propaganda episode. What the AI would learn is what that specific set of software developers wants. Rather than true objective views.

    Henroid on
    Centrism is just the cowardly way to be a bigot w/o being explicit about it.
    American politics isn't 4D chess, it's just if you give a shit about other people or not.
  • ronzoronzo Registered User regular
    So I had noticed this didn't get posted here for quite awhile after it went on PATV, and that other stuff like Checkpoint and Blams don't always get posted the same day something goes up either. Would it be possible to have a combined thread for the "smaller" shows, or maybe find a new mod person to help out with making the threads?

    Just something I was thinking about and didn't feel like making a full thread for.

  • AegeriAegeri Plateau of LengRegistered User regular
    An AI taught to be "human" from playing WoW would be fucking terrifying. I shudder at the thought.

    The Roleplayer's Guild: My blog for roleplaying games, advice and adventuring.
  • anoncastilloanoncastillo Registered User
    This episode couldn't help but make me think of the pen and paper RPG Aberrant. For those of you who haven't played it, Aberrant was White Wolf's take on the superhero RPG. But while most superhero RPGs focus on superhuman physical abilities, such as super strength and the ability to fly, Aberrant also explored the idea of superhuman mental and social traits extensively, including mechanics for superhuman intelligence and charisma. The setting would make for an excellent backdrop for another game company wanting to explore the idea of the singularity, especially from a much more human angle than in most sci-fi.

    The mega-intelligence abilities make for a few interesting possibilities on where the singularity would lead to and how it would make the first few steps of its journey. Some of the abilities are very mechanical, such as the ability to learn languages instantly or have a photographic memory or do complex math in your head, and would probably be the first things any self-improving intelligence would come up with to improve itself. They're easy to conceptualize and provide a clear benefit, but other abilities offer subtler changes which would affect not only what they learned, but how they were able to learn. Consider having a perfect, video quality memory, to be able to look at past situations in light of new knowledge without being biased by that knowledge, having a memory that doesn't rewrite itself or fill in the blanks with old biases and new information. How much more would we be able to understand ourselves with such an ability? How much faster would we learn if we could go back and analyze every second in detail, learning more from a single action than most people learn from a hundred repetitions? Or an ability that allows you to analyze something and find all its flaws and weaknesses. How would it affect someone to use such an ability on themselves? To see all their shortcomings spelled out in detail? How would it affect their ability to overcome those weaknesses, to even know which weaknesses to overcome? Or superhuman willpower, allowing you to force yourself to consider other possibilities, other points of view, to overcome your psychological barriers to learning like confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, to actually address all the flaws you can finally see in yourself, and utilize the strengths you find? How would it affect your personality to be able to hold yourself to your own morals and beliefs?

    Some abilities even allow characters to change the way their brains operate. Consider having the ability to separate your mind, to be able to think multiple lines of thought at the same time, to consider multiple ideas simultaneously, or explore the same idea under two different sets of assumptions and debate the outcomes with yourself, knowing full well what each side of you believes and understanding why. One of the players in a game of Aberrant I played came up with a character who used this power in conjunction with another power which allowed him to move his mind to another body. Imagine moving a piece of yourself into another body, whether by such diabolical means or by some simpler method, like making clones of yourself. What would the social ramifications of such a system be? How differently would a person perceive of themselves if they were able to interact with themselves directly, as a separate entity? What would they do when their newly separated selves learned different things, had different experiences, and came to disagree with what is now each other, knowing full well that they came to different realizations through the same thought processes? How would such a social group evolve as its members become more and more varied, as the same mind begins to think differently from itself?

    And it is the social side of this advancement in ability that, for all the new possibilities provided, also provides a new pitfall for each one. What happens to society when a person can instantly know the best argument for their point of view? Will they use it to more fully explore complex ideas, or simply to better sway others to their side, right or wrong? What happens when someone who knows exactly what will be the most convincing to the most people persuades the masses to ignore those who are able to more fully think the issues through? What happens when someone with superhuman empathy, who can always tell if someone is lying, questions someone with perfect control over their social behaviors, who can prevent their tells from showing, who can think through a lie and know how they would think about it if it were true and therefore tell it as if it were true? Will our newfound abilities to better pursue the truth be undermined, prevented, even corrupted by the very abilities we gain from them?

    As the setting's timeline moves on, equally interesting psychological questions arise. Eventually, the story reaches a point where you see people who were born with superpowers in addition to those who developed them in adolescence or adulthood, which allows for the exploration of how different those who grew up normal and became superhuman would be from those who were born different. Would those who only became superhuman after having lived a normal, quirky, flawed life seek powers that cover their imperfections, such as instantly mastering skills they wished they had, while those who are born with the ability to learn faster would move past such obstacles sooner? Would those born superhumanly smart take their abilities for granted and and fail to pursue them while those born without would be driven to push themselves further? And if so, would they look back on their former, less perfect selves and seek to distance themselves by embracing more different, more alien ways of thinking? Would those born with powers be able to better adjust to them, adapting them to society instead of using them to break away from society, as growing up with technology has done for recent generations? Or would those who were born "normal" be better able to understand those without superhuman intelligence, while those who grew up with it are able to understand new ideas at a younger age before they have been biased by the culture surrounding them, causing them move further away in their own directions and leave societal conventions behind, as growing up with the internet has done for younger generations?

    Aberrant poses these questions in a way that hits even closer to home than the typical sci-fi exploration of alien and artificial intelligence. While Human Revolution may have hit closer to home in some ways than the original Deus Ex by exploring more modern societal issues, the issues of advancing intelligence were still kept at arms length from humanity by coming in the form of augmentations. By making the upgrades separate, mechanical things, the player wasn't pressed to identify with the changes they made to themselves. If they played their character with more humanity, it was because they didn't let the augmentations affect them, and if they played their character more alienly, it could be blamed on the augmentations, and not internalized. By exploring these issues through the lens of the superhero genre, the changes become a part of the person. You're no longer picking which pieces to add or take away from your character as you progress. You're choosing how to develop them, considering not only how they would change, but what they would change themselves into and what they would want to become if they weren't limited to the improvements conceived of by increasingly lesser minds. What would we become if we could literally rewrite our own reality to fit our will, held back only by our own ever growing imaginations? How would we change? Would we even be able to recognize, let alone interact, with our new selves? Or our old selves, for that matter. But as much hope and excitement as we would undoubtedly feel in reaching a point where we were able to modify ourselves, that excitement would only exceed the fear our former selves would feel because of the limitations of our current imaginations in being able to see just how far there is to go.

    Of course, some of these ideas almost have to be expanded on in the more freeform setting of tabletop gaming. Some of the questions would be extremely difficult to explore in a video game, if for no other reason than because the effects of many of these abilities would be harder to convey to the player effectively, and even harder to fit into the gameplay in any meaningful way (at least without a more layered and complex world than any we've been able to build so far), Then again, it would make for an interesting storyline to have a protagonist who can enhance himself in all the simpler ways like analyzing the weaknesses of others or mastering empathy trying to stop an equally superhuman antagonist who uses those same tools to improve himself and outthink you. And thinking about how the dialogue and storyline would have to be written to accommodate for abilities that let you detect when others are lying or learn the motivations of others makes me hope that such a game isn't as far off as I think it is.

  • HenroidHenroid Radio Demon Internet HellRegistered User regular
    edited December 2011
    ronzo wrote:
    So I had noticed this didn't get posted here for quite awhile after it went on PATV, and that other stuff like Checkpoint and Blams don't always get posted the same day something goes up either. Would it be possible to have a combined thread for the "smaller" shows, or maybe find a new mod person to help out with making the threads?

    Just something I was thinking about and didn't feel like making a full thread for.

    Tube has an announcement on this - says just wait if a thread doesn't show up. (Edit - Incorrect info, PM a mod about it)

    You have to understand that a major family-driven holiday just went by so things have hiccuped a bit, and it'll probably go on through the New Year. And if it does, just excuse it - this whole thing is a courtesy, not a service.

    Henroid on
    Centrism is just the cowardly way to be a bigot w/o being explicit about it.
    American politics isn't 4D chess, it's just if you give a shit about other people or not.
  • FalxFalx Registered User regular
    He also says you can just PM a mod, which is what I did. This episode also didn't show up on the "new on PA" frame on the main page, which might also be why it got missed.

  • RankenphileRankenphile Passersby were amazed by the unusually large amounts of blood.Registered User, Moderator mod
    If you don't see a thread right away, PM a mod. We do our best to get them up right away but with holidays, real life issues, family and finals all conspiring to steal our precious free time, sometimes it takes a little while.

  • ronzoronzo Registered User regular
    Oh yeah I totally understand why it happens, and have PMed mods in the past when i notice one isn't up

    I just thought it might be easier to just have one thread for all the checkpoint eps, one for EC, one for the Blams and so on.

  • FalxFalx Registered User regular
    I think the reason it's not like that is that it would make it less immediately obvious that there's a new episode/strip/other content.

  • TubeTube Administrator, ClubPA admin
    This isn't a thread for meta-commentary on the running of the PA Hub. Sometimes the unpaid volunteers at this forum will not divine the presence of a new video the very second that it is released. It's much more useful to PM them when it happens than it is to wait and then complain that they didn't get there quickly enough. They're not getting paid to be here.

    Hobnail wrote: »
    This forum has taken everything from me
  • FlayFlay Registered User regular
    edited December 2011
    Great episode, but I think some key points about the development of CPUs and Moore's Law, which is central to a lot of arguments for the singularity.

    Moore's law basically states that the number of transistors in CPUs (not processing power) will consistently double roughly every year, which in turn leads to more powerful processors. Singularitarians will often extrapolate this trend, meaning that (if the law holds) computers twenty years from now should have more than a million times the number of transistors that we have on modern CPUs. Unfortunately, once you start creating transistors on the molecular scale the laws of physics begin to limit the number of transistors you can fit on CPUs in their current format, and moore's law is currently projected to level out some time in the next three to five years.

    Supporters of the singularity will also argue that these physical limits will be circumvented by the creation of new technologies (in the same way digital computers overtook analogue computers), and this is somewhat true with the creation of 3D processors, although this still doesn't mean that the singularity is a given. But it's still very fun to think about.

    Flay on
  • DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do? Registered User regular
    Henroid wrote:
    That motivational poster image for City of Heroes is hysterical, holy shit. :^:

    Edit - It was weird to see this topic explored by the way. It would've been quite a brief episode if they didn't have to explain what the singularity is. The idea that a mechanical system such as a video game being used to teach an AI is... I'm not sure if it's the best of ideas. See propaganda episode. What the AI would learn is what that specific set of software developers wants. Rather than true objective views.

    I think the idea is to use simpler games, which are pretty unbiased. Less Skyrim, more Chess. Think along the lines of the movie "War Games". Chess and checkers are good tools for simple machines. When we start building computers that can compete professionally in Go we'll have hit a new marker point in technology. From that to even more complex games like playing professional Poker against live players and it's another new point in the technology.

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