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Computers Learn to Cooperate Better Than Humans


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A new algorithm now allows computers to best humans at cooperative games.

Computers now can train themselves to cooperate in games in which the goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for all players.

Credit: PhonlamaiPhoto/iStockphoto

Computers have for the first time trained themselves to cooperate in games in which the goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for all players.

Brigham Young University professor Jacob Crandall and colleagues brought humans and computers together to play digital versions of chicken, prisoner's dilemma, and a third collaborative game called "alternator." Teams consisted of two people, two computers, or one human and one computer. Twenty-five different machine-learning algorithms were tested, but no one algorithm was capable of collaborating.

The researchers then imbued communicative ability among the computers by adding 19 prewritten phrases to be sent back and forth between partners after each term. Over time, the computers had to learn the phrases' definition in the context of the game.

The S# algorithm learned to cooperate with its partner in a few turns, and the machine-only teams cooperated at a higher rate than humans by the end of the game.

From Science
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