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Researchers create a simple society of AIs playing out iterated prisoners’ dilemmas. They expect that everyone would quickly converge on tit-for-tat. But that’s not what happens:

Yet when we looked at the output of our simulations, where the strategies were free to evolve in arbitrary directions, we saw something very different. After an early, chaotic period, a single machine would rise rapidly to dominance, taking over its imaginary world for hundreds of generations until, just as suddenly, it collapsed, sending the world into a chaos of conflict out of which the next cycle arose. An archaeologist of such a world would have encountered thick layers of prosperity alternating with eras of ash and bone.

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