The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, an academic research think-tank in the University of Cambridge, has published a Superintelligence mod for Civilization V. The mod features the possibility of “superintelligent” artificial intelligence, that if left unchecked, can go rogue, destroy humanity, and result in a game over for the player. In game terms, the mod replaces the normal science victory condition that involves building an interstellar craft to leave Earth, with an AI technology track that can either evolve into an extinction-level AI like Skynet or a benevolent one like… Well, there really aren’t any I can think of. Deep Thought is about as nice as they get in movies.
The beginning of Beyond Earth is all very exciting. I mean the very beginning before the beginning. Before the game has even started. Before I’ve even landed on the planet. I choose my faction first. I’ll be the Franco-Iberians, who earn free technologies every so often as their culture develops. For colonists, I naturally choose artists, who boost culture. Inside the spaceship with the colonists, I’ll carry the machinery that will give me a free worker for a headstart developing the landing area near my starting colony. As for the type of spacecraft, that’s a tough decision. I eventually go with a continental surveyor that shows me all the coastlines on the map. I find a certain comfort in knowing the exact shape of my new world. It’s what the artists would want.
In any other Civilization — in case it’s not clear from the full title of Civilization: Beyond Earth, this is absolutely a Civilization game, and more specifically a Civilization V game — I would have just chosen a faction. France. Rome. Polynesia. But Beyond Earth lets me build my ark/spaceship step-by-step. It gives me a multistep sense of agency in how the early stages will play out. It keeps me busy making choices before I’m even playing. That’s ultimately what Beyond Earth is all about. Making choices. Constant, unrelenting, obsequious, nagging choices that will come together to create something massive, slow, and tedious.
After the jump, a series of interesting decisions. Continue reading →