Can artificial intelligence be crowdsourced?

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Can artificial intelligence be crowdsourced? The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) thinks so. It recently released a video game in an attempt to collect new techniques that could be used to refine the ‘thinking’ used by unmanned automated vehicles.

The Agency, which is tasked with developing new technologies that could be of use to the military, has a good track record. Its efforts in creating computer networks that could continue to operate while sustaining massive damage led to the creation of the Internet in its original form in the late 1960s. Since then, it has been at the cutting edge of technology development for the military.

It is now working on an unmanned automated vehicle that can cruise around the ocean looking for enemy submarines and alerting the rest of the naval infrastructure when it finds them. This is a challenge, not only because such vehicles would have to navigate their way around commercial traffic, but also because enemy submarines don't want to be found. This creates a cat and mouse game between a robot and a live captain, effectively automating a real-life Hunt for the Red October.

Working on the assumption that many heads are better than one, DARPA has customized a gaming combat simulator called Dangerous Waters, produced by specialist software house Sonalysts. It has coded a simulation of its anti-warfare submarine continuous trail unmanned vessel (ACTUV) into the game for players to control.

With the players' permission, the downloadable game will send information about their gaming techniques back to DARPA, which will mine them for innovations in game play that could help to make the algorithms running the robot vehicle more effective.

Crowd sourcing artificial intelligence algorithms is an interesting idea, and I wonder whether it could be taken further. Could algorithms in other areas, such as stock market analysis, copywriting, or visual recognition be improved by sourcing information about human techniques on a massive level? It would be comforting to think that the wisdom of crowds could be writ large in code.

Stewart Baines

I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.