I finished making the Prometheus level/version/minigame of Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: CPU Edition the other day, which means I’ve now had a chance to go through various of the required conceptual grapplings involved in this particular edition of the series. As per usual, my assumptions going in have been kind of rejected/realigned thanks to the realities of actually sitting down and building the game itself – perhaps the most important argument for making games a reality even if they just seem like a ‘funny idea’ or whatever. You may not entirely know what you’re doing. I rarely do.
Going into this game my idea was that the code would be more or less identical to the original game, except that I would disable user input and instead would have computer code (running on some kind of timer) triggering the required inputs – generally speaking this would mean the computer alternately triggering keypress events for ‘g’ and ‘h’ over and over again. It turned out, however (for me at least), that simulating keypresses (or mouse clicks) didn’t actually work out (fast enough) for me. I struggled with it for while, doing the usual trawling of the internet, but never found a satisfactory approach.
But the very fact it wasn’t working kind of fits into the narrative of the game, I guess. If I can’t get the computer to do things that way, then that’s simply not how the computer would play the game. It’s kind of a truism. Rejecting the kind of human-centric idea of the computer having to trigger keyboard input meant I could rethink how a computer might interact with the game, at which point it seemed suddenly very clear that the computer would simply call a function to cause Prometheus to struggle. Why would it bother to go a circuitous route? Above I called the method struggle() but now I’m calling it INPUT() for sheer computeriness.
Perhaps most importantly, when I run the game and watch the little Prometheus struggling bravely (forever), it seems to feel like something. It’s weird to look at, knowing the the code is both generating the situation and the response to the situation at the same time, kind of eery and wrong. Which is great, obviously.
So: so far so good and thanks for asking.
One thing I always enjoy about watching the Olympics is the way some athletes relate to each other immediately after an event. Some seem to retain a kind of burning hatred from within the heat of competition – fencers are pretty amazing for that. But a lot of them, on completing their race, act like the old friends they presumably are. Handshakes, exchange words, nods and smiles. The larger context of the various sports, that these people complete with each other regularly and know each other, is very pleasing. It looks like a nice feeling. It would be interesting if we could feel this way toward AI opponents. Can we?
And by my guru, I mean my guru. As in, I made him myself. I’m still working on my GuruQuest game and this evening that’s meant editing away at the ELIZA script to move it from psychotherapy to gurudom. It’s been pretty hilarious, but also a rather tough writing challenge. I’m trying my best to walk a line between kind of clichéd guru-stuff, but also trying to capture some amount of resonance for people who might actually want to take it moderately seriously.
Frankly, I’m a big fan of the mystical art of guruspeak anyway – the Tao Te Ching is a favourite book of mine, with its paradoxical sentences and existentially booming one-liners. It’s a great mode of expression that’s simultaneously a parody of itself, and extremely insightful and deep at the same time.
Can I write a chatbot script that achieves guru status? Well, here’s a transcript of a conversation I just had with GuruBot 1.0:
Me: I have travelled far. Are you a guru?
Guru: Who can say whether they are a guru or not?
Me: Then you are surely a guru.
Guru: Be uncertain.
Guru: This is the only world we have.
Me: There is no other?
Guru: Be uncertain.
Me: You already said that.
Guru: You may continue.
Me: What should I say?
Guru: Yes, what should you say.
Me: Help me.
Guru: Go on.
Me: I’m worried about the meaning of life.
Me: Is it all just a cosmic joke?
Me: Is there meaning in anything?
Guru: Do you hear the wind in the trees?
Guru: Is it Autumn?
Me: No, it’s Spring.
Me: I’m pretty sure it’s Spring.
Guru: A rabbit knows that it runs.
Me: Does it?
Guru: A dog knows that it barks.
Guru: A sleeper knows that he sleeps.
Me: I’m not so sure.
Me: Well what?
Guru: Why ask?
Me: Why indeed?
And on and on and on. He’s an indefatigable guru. He’s a machine.