AI Worldbuilding Contest – Future Life Institute

This blog post is written by CDT Students Tashi Namgyal and  Vanessa  Hanschke.

Two Interactive AI CDT students were part of a team that won third place in the AI Worldbuilding Contest run by the Future of Life Institute along with their three non-CDT teammates. In this blog post, we would like to tell you more about the competition, its goals and our team’s process of creating the submission.

The Future of Life Institute describe themselves as “an independent non-profit that works to reduce extreme risks from transformative technologies, as well as steer the development and use of these technologies to benefit life”. Besides running contests, their work consists of running grants programs for research projects, educational outreach or engaging in AI policymaking internationally and nationally in the US.

The worldbuilding competition was aimed at creating a discussion around a desirable future, in which Artificial General Intelligence (AI that can complete a wide range of tasks roughly as well as humans) played a major role in shaping the world. The deliverables included a timeline of events until 2045, two “day in the life” short stories, 13 answers to short question prompts and a media piece.

While dystopian or utopian visions of our future are quite commonplace in science fiction, the particular challenge of the competition was to provide an account of the future that was both plausible and hopeful. This formulation raised a lot of questions such as: For whom will the future be hopeful in 2045? How do we resolve or make progress towards existing crises such as climate change that threaten our future? We discussed these questions at length in our meetings before we even got to imagining concrete future worlds.

Our team was composed of different backgrounds and nationalities: we had two IAI CDT PhD students, one civil servant, one Human Computer Interaction researcher and one researcher in Creative Informatics. We were brought together by our shared values, interests, friendship, and our common homes, Bristol and Edinburgh. We tried to exploit these different backgrounds to provide a diverse picture of what the future could look like. We generated future visions for domains that could be influenced by Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), that are often low-tech, but a core part of human society such as art and religion.

To fit the project into our full-time working week, we decided that we would meet weekly during the brainstorming phase to collect ideas and create drafts for stories, events and question prompts on a Miro board. Each week we would also set each other small tasks to build a foundation of our world in 2045, for example everyone had to write a day in the life story for their own life in 2045. We then chose a weekend closer to the deadline, where we had a “Hackathon”-like intense two days to work on more polished versions of all the different parts of the submission. During this weekend we went through each other’s answers, gave each other feedback and made suggestions to make the submission more cohesive. Our team was selected as one of the 20 finalists out of 144 entries and there was a month for the public to give feedback on whether people felt inspired by or would like to live in such worlds, before the final positions were judged by FLI.

Thinking about how AI tools may be used or misused in the future is a core part of the Interactive AI CDT. The first-year taught module on Responsible AI introduces concepts such as fairness, accountability, transparency, privacy and trustworthiness in relation to AI systems. We go through case studies of where these systems have failed in each regard so we can see how ethics, law and regulation apply to our own PhD research, and in turn how our work might impact these things in the future. In the research phase of the programme, the CDT organises further workshops on topics such as Anticipation & Responsible Innovation and Social & Ethical Issues and there are international conferences in this area we can join with our research stipends, such as FAccT.

If you are curious, you can view our full submission here or listen to the podcast, which we submitted as media piece here. In our submission, we really tried to centre humanity’s place in this future. In summary, the world we created was to make you feel the future, really imagine your place in 2045. Current big tech is not addressing the crises of our times including inequality, climate change, war, and pestilence. Our world seeks to imagine a future where human values are still represented – our propensity for cooperation, creativity, and emotion. But we had to include a disclaimer for our world: our solutions are still open to risk of human actors using them for ill purposes. Our solution for regulating AGI was built on it being an expensive technology in the hand of few companies and regulated internationally, but we tried to think beyond the bounds of AGI. We imagine a positive future grounded in a balanced climate, proper political, social and economic solutions to real world problems, and where human dignity is maintained and respected.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *