The start of every dystopian future where machines rule the world and hunt down humans mercilessly is always harmless. Mankind teaches a computer some cool new trick which eventually leads the machine to become self-aware and finally heading out on a quest of total world domination. It seems though that the researchers at MIT have not paid any heed to the ample warning that pop culture has provided.
In order to determine whether or not a computer is capable of learning a language (one that is spoken rather than used to program) they came up with the novel idea of using Sid Meier’s Civilization V as a test bed. The game was set up to have a 50-50 chance of the computer winning at random.
Starting off with limited knowledge of the game, the computer was provided access to the instruction manual. After reading through the manuals the computer was actually able to pull up its win percentage from 46% to 79% which points in the direction that it is possible for a computer to learn a language and use the knowledge to interact with the environment.
Jokes aside, the achievement is perhaps another step towards making a machine that can be considered intelligent, since intelligence is only acquired by asking the right questions and learning. A machine that is capable of picking up human language and using it to interact with its environment would also have far reaching effects on how computers are designed and implemented, so here is hoping that this technology can take user interfaces to functioning voice based command systems.