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An MIT Computer Reads the Frickin' Manual, Plays Civilization

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tasked an AI with playing the first entry in Sid Meier's classic Civilization series. At first it played (and won) through sheer luck, but with a 46% success rate, it wasn't doing too well. That's when the AI began to teach itself English so it could read the game's instruction manual.

"Games are used as a test bed for artificial-intelligence techniques simply because of their complexity," said MIT researches SRK Branavan. "Every action that you take in the game doesn't have a predetermined outcome, because the game or the opponent can randomly react to what you do. So you need a technique that can handle very complex scenarios that react in potentially random ways. [Instruction manuals are a] very open text. They don't tell you how to win. They just give you very general advice and suggestions, and you have to figure out a lot of other things on your own."

The AI was able to learn a lot from the manual and its win percentage rose to 79%.


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