The simulation theory postulates that the world we live is essentially a simulation created by a more advanced civilization: the theory says that as civilizations advance, they’re able to create life-like simulations of themselves, which in turn create simulations of themselves, which makes it quite unlikely that the world we’re living is base reality. It’s a hard concept to wrap one’s head around, but recent developments in AI have brought the theory much closer to reality.
VC firm Andreesen Horowitz has funded the creation of AI Town, where AI characters live, chat and socialize. The project is based on the popular “Westworld” paper which had put AI characters in a virtual environment and got them to interact with one another, which had resulted in them coordinating and throwing a party. The code is open-source, and allows users to create their own AI worlds and simulations.
“The primary goal of this project, beyond just being a lot of fun to work on, is to provide a platform with a strong foundation that is meant to be extended,” the project’s description says. “The back-end engine natively supports shared global state, transactions, and a journal of all events so should be suitable for everything from a simple project to play around with to a scalable, multi-player game. A secondary goal is to make a JS/TS framework available as most simulators in this space (including the original paper above) are written in Python,” it adds.
The project demo features a Sims sort of interface, in which 8-bit characters seem to walk around in a town. The characters all have names and detailed personalities — Lucky is always happy and curious, Pete is deeply religious and Alice is a famous scientist. There are some grey characters too — Kurt has a secret that’s been gnawing at him that he can’t share, Stella can’t be trusted and tries to scam people out of money, and Kira is happy on the outside, but sad and lonely deep within. These characters walk around the virtual town, which appears to have some trees and a lake. When they encounter each other, they strike up a conversation.
The characters remain faithful to their personalities as they talk to one another. The conversations are displayed in text boxes, and while somewhat hackneyed, does sound sufficiently real. At first glance, it’s hard to tell if these characters remember conversations they’ve had and use those as inputs to future conversations, but if that is indeed the case, we might have the first AI simulation on our hands.
And this could prove to be a fairly pivotal moment in the history of AI. If AI can create convincing worlds in which characters could interact, it could have a host of applications: these characters could replace NPC characters in videos games, and these worlds could become popular reality TV for humans, like a real-life Truman Show. And who knows, such initiatives might eventually throw some light on whether our own world might be one such simulations as well, and perhaps provide some clues as how to escape it.