One of the more interesting aspects of revising the AI has been learning that my prior tweaks to keep Primum specium from going extinct despite its stupidity had formed a strange mutual reliance between stupidity and survival.
That’s right. Making P. specium smarter is actually making them worse at survival, at least in some very specific areas. So I guess Dumb Will Triumph Because Smart Is…
This is most noticable than in how the new, supposedly intelligent P. specium treats dense ‘fields’ of food, like grass tufts.
Previously, a single blind herbivore would move from tuft to tuft. This was a very simple mechanic: they’d start moving, bump into a tuft, and start eating it. This made them fairly efficient grazers: though they’d occasionally miss thanks to blindness, in a dense field of grass they would usually find a fairly close tuft to eat.
Now they’re smarter. The calculate how much energy they’ll get from all the food sources in their vicinity, subtract the cost of walking to each, and select the best option. This usually means a corpse or plant with high energy. Grass tufts are inefficient and don’t have much energy, so even if they’re close, they’re rarely targeted.
The end result? Creatures deciding that the dozen low-energy grasses next to them are worthless and walking miles for a single high-energy corpse. This is a very poor survival decision, especially when 30 other creatures are also going for the high energy source, and are already closer to it.
Though it does make for some pretty patterns in the swarms of creatures…
I think I’ve invented a whole new level of stupid. Where before they made stupid decisions simply because they didn’t think, now they make stupid decisions because they think too much.
So the question is… do we make the creatures even *more* intelligent, having them think ahead to the next food source, and the food source after that (a recursive, branching algorithm that sounds like a CPU nightmare) or do we simply tell them to overcompensate for distance to force them to target closer objects?
Both solutions sound like they would work, but neither is particularly attractive: the first for CPU reasons, the second because this update is supposed to be about *intelligence*, not cheap tricks to make them act stupider.
So, can we take a third option here? A food sources attractiveness doesn’t have to be a simple measure of the energy it contains: it could also factor in the number of similar objects in it’s area, and even the number of creatures targeting it.
These are imperfect proxies, but that’s actually a really good way to think of them. Proxies, imperfect representations of reality, are a far better analog for a biological thought process than rationally pre-calculating the consequences of an action. The creature’s aren’t robots (which is a really weird thing to say in this context), and they aren’t perfect. We’re not trying to stop them from making stupid decisions, just make them less blatent.
Of course, “blatancy” is open to debate. For example, for the child individually, killing and eating it’s parent is actually a very logical decision: the parent is likely to have quite a bit of energy and be weakened from pregnancy, and eating it vastly improves the child’s chance of reproduction. The obvious problem with this Randian survival strategy is that while it might be logical for the individual, it is terrible behavior for the species as a whole.
The initial and obvious proxies were energy content, walk cost, battle cost, efficiency and diet. I’ve since implemented a ‘food density’ proxy that allows them to prioritise denser area’s of grass, and a ‘competition’ proxy that reduces the attractiveness of food that is already being approached or eaten by other creatures. I’m also looking into an ’empathy’ proxy, based on genetic distance, to reduce the amount of familial murder and cannibalism. Plus I’m screwing about with the way the thought bubbles work. I just can’t leave well enough alone, can I?
Oh well, it’s all good. I may not succeed in making them smarter, but if nothing else, their stupidity should be more complex and entertaining from here on out.