Research is Weird: SF Worlds

This post is really to make you think about the way AI may work (or not), and to give you something to consider when you’re working on the imagined future of your game. However, I have to get there by way of the internet’s omnipresent shadow: porn.

Everyone who’s tried to dig out information about a specific topic will be familiar with the dangers. You start off with good intentions, then something catches your eye, then another thing, and soon you’ve no idea how you got so far down the rabbit hole or so far from your original topic. At least, it does with me.

This happens when you’re digging in libraries as much as it does online – it’s just that online makes it all much faster, and that much easier to get lost.

However, sometimes the internet just chucks the weirdness at you before you’ve even had a chance to stray. Sometimes the most innocent search digs out the porn.

Like everyone else, I often use Google to hunt out interesting articles, comparisons of figures, reviews of new games, and so on. So yesterday when I did an image search for science fiction tanks, I thought that would be fairly straightforward. Not much potential for confusion there, right? Well here’s a bit of the screen grab…

Gay tank.pngWait. Gay Tank? What?

Is this more of DARPA’s weirdness? They are a strange bunch. Nope, not this time. And oddly, it makes sense too. At least it makes sense when you apply a literal and unimaginative interpretation of the search requirements.

Gay Tank turns out to be a “military science fiction adventure” book by the wonderfully (pseudo)named Randy Dangle. That one’s still making me chuckle.

And yes, it looks like gay porn. Well, everything in its place (that’s anywhere but Utah if you’ve been watching the news). I just thought that this was an interesting illustration of all sorts of things: how search algorithms are fallible (as, presumably, will be our AI overlords), how things that look random often aren’t, how literal often means at least partly wrong, and how amusement can turn up out of the blue, however routine a task you’re doing.

To take the first of these, and to get round to my point, I’ve read all manner of doom mongering articles about the tech singularity and all things robotically disastrous. The robot uprising is imminent, apparently, and we’re all about to lose our lives as well as our jobs – except for those lucky enough to live on as an underclass of human slaves. Well, having worked with computers on a daily basis for 30 years, the only article of faith I hold about tech is that it goes wrong at random and in unpredictable ways. It’s just a matter of time. And I’m convinced that this will also be true of our AI overlords, when they arrive. Stupid literal decision making? Naturally. Send a legion of robot tanks to crush the human uprising? Here’s some gay porn instead.

And thus were our AI masters thwarted 🙂

Now that sounds to me like a far more interesting basis for a background, story or game setting than the improbably infallible and invincible robot foe we see so often. Of course, I get the value of the alienness of the implacable and perfect enemy, I just don’t buy the credibility. And credibility sells backgrounds, both emotionally and literally.

This entry was posted in Game Design Theory, Random Thoughts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Research is Weird: SF Worlds

  1. Sam Dale says:

    Rule 34 in full effect.

    “This happens when you’re digging in libraries as much as it does online – it’s just that online makes it all much faster, and that much easier to get lost.”

    But, there’s generally a lot less porn in libraries.

    “Randy Dangle”. Actually LOLed. And so did Val.

    Also, TV Tropes and SCP Foundation. Deep, deep rabbit holes.

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