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A game about making paperclips has gone viral, and it's a sly nod to a famous thought experiment about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.
The game, as described by Business Insider's Matt Weinberger (one of the many staffers at Business Insider, myself included, who have become quickly addicted) is fairly straightforward: You are in charge of making as many paperclips as possible. As you progress and sell paperclips, you unlock various upgrades that make the process of paperclip-making ever more efficient and automated, until the game is basically playing itself.
Idea - Efficient - Paperclip - Factory - History
The idea of an ever-more efficient automated paperclip factory has a history in the world of philosophers and futurists contemplating the dangers and possibilities of a "technological singularity" in which artificially intelligent machines rapidly outpace human abilities.
In 2003, Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom published a paper titled "Ethical Issues in Advanced Artificial Intelligence," in which he discusses what could happen if humanity creates a "superintelligent" machine capable of quickly improving itself.
Paper - Pluses - Minuses - Entity - Side
The paper discusses some of the pluses and minuses of such an entity. On the plus side, a benevolent superintelligent machine would be able to solve all of humanity's problems, potentially ushering in a utopian golden age of health and prosperity for all. On the minus side, a malevolent superintelligence would be able to crush our species more efficiently than we could remove an ant-hill.
While the latter scenario has been explored innumerable times in...
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