Here's a really cool experiment that demonstrates how neuroticism can pay off.

They say the meek shall inherit the earth, but these experiments with emotional computer programs (pdf) suggest it may actually be the neurotic. And that they'll probably take it rapidly by military force.

The Austrian researchers want games to be more engaging by having emotional, not just coolly calculating, computer players. Instead of just challenging your rational planning and decision skills, you'll have use your emotional intelligence too.

They created aggressive, defensive, normal and neurotic versions of the AI software in the war strategy game Age of Mythology, drawing on "the big five" emotional dimensions to personality recognised by psychologists.

The bots are able to switch between states of pleasure, pain, clarity, and confusion in response to events. The strength of particular emotional changes is related to the overall personality.

The neurotic bot was more likely than the others to distort hard facts about resources - like the amount of timber around - and flip between extremes of behaviour. And it was better than the rest.

I think it's more likely that unpredictable and varying strategies trump consistent strategies, rather than that neuroticism is inherently advantageous. Neurotic behavior can reduce the chance of getting caught on the losing end of a pattern, but it won't take advantage when the player has the upper hand.

As commenter Shannon Love writes:

I suspect the neurotic AI my prosper by virtue of its unpredictability.

Other AI's make decision largely based on evidence which in turn means that another player can come to a similar conclusion based on the same conditions and predict what the AI will consider the optimum strategy.

The neurotic AI,however, attaches arbitrary fictional weights to various inputs making it difficult for others to predict it actions based on the same inputs.

You see the same thing in chess in which a novice player defeats more skilled one by virtue of making sub-optimal moves the skilled player does not even consider.

An expert chess player, however, will beat a novice every time. What this experiment really shows is that the non-neurotic AIs just aren't very good.

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