Gaming and the Nature of Artificial Intelligence

by Mark Gellis

Robots have been part of science fiction and science fiction gaming for a long time. To some people, it is more interesting to play R2-D2 than Luke Skywalker, or to be Hal instead of David Bowman. But playing an intelligent machine raises some questions about how such beings experience both life and death.

If we are speaking of simple equipment that is not a character, there really is not a problem. A calculator that can also remember your wedding anniversary and even give you advice on how to repair an automobile engine is only a tool. A security robot that can see in near total darkness, track you by your body heat, and fire a machine gun at you is effectively no different than any other monster you might encounter in a traditional dungeon crawl. The GM can define whatever limits he wants ("now, for an extra 500 dollars, you can buy the software package that gives you a +1 on your 'Mechanic: Fusion Drives and Power Plants' roll") and go from there.

The question becomes more difficult when we start talking about NPCs and especially if we are talking about player characters.

The whole point of a truly intelligent robot, the kind one would run as a player character, is that it has a mind. It has a sense of self. But where does the mind come from?

Quite simply, we do not know the answer to that question . . . so everything in this article is speculative. But it is possible . . .

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: January 17, 2003

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