The Office of Naval Research is looking for John Connor. Actually, it is looking for over a thousand. The next MMOWGLI (Massive Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet) began on March 27 and wraps up tomorrow. Its topic: the emergence of intelligent machines.

Connor is the name of the character in the Terminator movie and television series who would lead the remaining human opposition to SkyNet. SkyNet is a sentient machine intelligence, as futurist Ray Kurzweil described in his 2006 book, the Singularity. And this Singularity does not like humans.

Online Wargaming and Real Problem-Solving

ONR has been sponsoring  MMOWGLI events since 2011. “Past games focused on combating piracy off the coast of Somalia; reducing the Navy’s reliance on fossil fuels; and streamlining the acquisition process.”

This event will use the talents of over one thousand game players to explore the issues surrounding machine intelligence. Can a machine become sentient? What sorts of events could trigger that Singularity? Would we recognize a sentient machine intelligence?

Is Sentient Intelligence Already Here?

Facebook tailors the ads that the user sees based on his expressed interests and his use of his newsfeed. In fact, the user’s newsfeed is driven by his use and interactions with friends. You see what Facebook’s algorithms think will interest you the most. Google’s search algorithms behave in a similar manner. Your search results are tailored to your browsing history, your geographical location and other data that Google has discovered about you.

The information that you search for, the people you interact with, the facts that you need to make decisions, are all determined by non-sentient “GoogleBook” algorithms. How does this affect your life, your decision making, as well as that of the millions of others also involved in the same processes?

“Technology has advanced to the point that we can see the Singularity on the horizon,” says Dr. Eric Gulovsen, ONR’s director of disruptive technology. “What we can’t see, yet, is what lies over that horizon. That’s where we need help from players. This is a complex, open-ended problem, so we’re looking for people from all walks of life—Navy, non-Navy, technologist, non-technologist— to help us design our Navy for a ‘post-Singularity’ world.”

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Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.