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AI can beat us at games—but sometimes, that’s by cheating

A new Atari-playing AI appears to use some underhanded tricks to get high scores when left to its own devices.

What’s new: An AI that learns through a trial-and-error technique called evolution strategies has been pitted against eight Atari games. Its approach gradually mutates the way it tackles tasks, keeping hold of the successful tricks and discarding ones that don’t work.

Any means necessary: But New Scientist notes that when playing the arcade classic Q*bert, the AI developed some unusual winning strategies. It found a software bug that it could exploit to get points, and a trick where carefully planned suicide allowed it to progress through the game.

Why it matters: On one hand, it shows how evolutionary approaches let AI succeed without any human help. But it’s also a reminder that we may need to place limits on which strategies AIs are allowed to use in order to achieve their goals.