As the saying goes, if you put 100 monkeys in a room with 100 typewriters, eventually they almost surely would reproduce the entire works of William Shakespeare. Naturally, the point that is being made is about the nature of infinity. However, I would like to think that there is a sort of critical mass of monkeys that one can achieve to do great things. After all, if you only had 50 monkeys, it would take two infinities, right? I mean, how many monkeys does it take to achieve a sort of quorum after which you are truly able to start cranking out passable material? Heck, I suspect that if you have a certain “tipping point” of monkeys, you can accomplish great things.
The reason I started thinking about this obscure theoretical simian conclave was the recent posting of information regarding a different sort of gathering. (Lest I ruffle
feathers fur without meaning to, let me write the disclaimer first: I am not comparing the following people to primates.) The program for the upcoming AIIDE conference has been posted — and simply reading through the list of presentations has me a little squirmy in anticipation. I am hoping to attend — barring nothing unforeseen. (Of course, it looks like my Cubbies will be in the World Series that week. That’s OK. It happens once every 100 years or so — I’ll wait for the next one.)
There is an attraction to this, however, that goes well beyond the 26 sessions, 9 posters, 7 demos and invited keynote speakers along the lines of Peter Molyneux (who seems to be everywhere at once right now) and some schlub named Damián who I guess had something to do with an off-market title called Halo. (’Sup Isla? ;-) ) As I wrote back in June, much of the attraction to conferences like these is in simply being with like-minded people. And while the likely attendees at this magnificent event are likely not necessarily capable of piloting nuclear bombers like the chimps in ones in Project X, I’m thinking they will make for fascinating conversation.
So, three full days of nothing but AI education surrounded entirely by AI people? Gee, what the heck would we talk about? I would venture that by the 3rd day we won’t be scrambling for subject matter. Conveniently, it turns out that AIIDE tends to attract about 100 attendees — just like our quixotic literary anthropoids above. So, given enough time to chat (and enough coffee to fill Stanford Stadium) we could theoretically conceive of great things, right?
“Imagine you had all the top people in game AI together in one room…”
I have to wonder, though… what if we have more things to talk about than we have time available? I mean, it’s not every day… or even every month… that you get to hang with some of the top game AI people. It’s kinda like putting some serious pressure on the monkey brigade to put out. They may start wondering if maybe they shouldn’t ditch working on a whole play and just try to crank out a sonnet or two instead. Also, it isn’t like we don’t have plenty of methods of communicating even when we are not in the same zip code. We aren’t going to be incapable of communicating once we leave each other’s company. Still, there is something magical about discussing AI in person around whatever passes for a water-cooler (e.g. a burger and a beer). When you have people in the same room, like the critical mass of monkeys, things start flowing.
“… what would you want to discuss with them?”
So my question is this… imagine you had all (or at least some) of the top game AI people together in one room. What would you ask them? What would you want to cover? What would you want to know about their work? What would you ask these people? (Of course, we could ask Peter about his “significant scientific achievement.”) For that matter, what would you suggest that they ask each other? Even if you were just the fly on the wall (in a room full of monkeys?), what would you love to hear them discuss amongst themselves? What is so important to you in the realm of game AI… what is so much on the cutting edge that you want to know what the big guns think of it?