by Larry Peery

I realized not long ago that many Dippers today have never played the game with a human games master. They only know the judge and related computer adjudicated versions of Diplomacy. That thought led me to wonder, “When will artificial intelligent devices (e.g. RoboDippers) become viable players in either computer adjudicated or even FTF Diplomacy games? Imagine sitting down to a table of Diplomacy with players that look like R2D2 or one of those cute little humanoid robots you in see in Japanese ads? Could it happen here?

I grew up on a diet of science fiction fed by the likes of Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, Ellison, Greene and Norton. In fact, in the 1960s I helped introduce Heinlein and Asimov to Diplomacy; and I hotly debated the relative merits of “science” and “fiction” with Ellison at one of the earliest sci-fi cons; so the idea of robots of some kind playing Diplomacy didn’t seem strange to me. The question was, ‘How good would they be?”

When I raised the question of “Whether robots would replace humans at DipCons in the next 20 years?” with other hobbyists the consensus seemed to be:

  1. Artificial intelligence at the tactical level (e.g. making the best or correct choice out of a variety of options has been mastered;
  2. The creation of an artificial personality that can master negotiating has not;
  3. Can a computer or robot know the difference between right and wrong, and is that relevant in a game like Diplomacy? I was thinking of Asimov’s basic law that robots cannot harm humans and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hal were as vivid today as they were in the 1960s.
  4. The quirkiness or “unpredictability” factor was also an issue.

And finally, I wondered, “Is Diplomacy a zero-sum-game or a non-zero-sum –game?” When I asked that on Facebook I got a lot of replies. You can read them yourself.

For the moment it seems human Dippers are reasonably safe from RoboDippers. Isn’t that good to know?

Larry Peery

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