Why a16z Built a Town for AI People

Nathan discusses AI Town, a virtual space where AI agents socialize, and its origins with a16z x Convex project members.


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Video Description

In this episode, Nathan sits down with three members of the a16z x Convex AI Town project: Yoko Li (Partner, a16z), Martin Casado (GP, a16z), and James Cowling (CTO, Convex). AI Town is a virtual town where AI agents live, interact, and socialize. They discuss how AI Town originated from Yoko’s companion app project, unpredictability as a feature in LLMs and interacting with models like they are lifeforms, and why they chose Javascript and Convex to build AI Town. If you're looking for an ERP platform, check out our sponsor, NetSuite: http://netsuite.com/cognitive


To borrow from a meme… we're in the podcast arena trying stuff. Some will work. Some won't. But we're always learning.


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(00:00:00) - Episode Preview: Intro to AI Town and the idea of AI as companions
(00:05:29) - Overview of AI Town and the simulation framework based on the Stanford Generative Agents paper
(00:08:24) - Yoko explains how the idea for AI Town originated from the companion app project
(00:10:41) - Yoko discusses how she built the initial AI Town prototype and wanted to make it multiplayer
(00:12:31) - The simplicity and elegance of the AI Town codebase
(00:13:52) - Interacting with LLMs is like interacting with lifeforms
(00:15:47) - Sponsors: Netsuite | Omneky
(00:18:25) - How Convex built a server-side game engine for AI Town
(00:19:28) - How Convex makes building a game engine easy with transactions and database support
(00:23:39 )- James emphasizes the power of functional programming paradigms like Convex for building AI apps
(00:25:02) - Using simple JavaScript so anyone could understand and extend AI Town
(00:28:39) - The group reflects on how JavaScript has become so powerful compared to languages like C++
(00:30:23) - How AI coding assistants were used in building AI Town
(00:31:22) - No open source code for the Stanford paper when they started
(00:33:25) - The interplay between programmer and AI model
(00:38:01)- Martin draws a distinction between using formal languages vs. natural language
(00:39:52) Unpredictability as a feature in LLMs
(00:43:21) The balance between formal language and unpredictable behaviours in LLMs
(00:43:59) AI Town’s future and the beauty of the community
(00:48:27) Are we living in a simulation?
(00:50:38) Advice for other developers in AI
(00:54:29) AI Town is a community project to be extended on

- AI Town (try it out!): https://www.convex.dev/ai-town
- AI Town Github: https://github.com/a16z-infra/ai-town
- Convex: https://www.convex.dev/
- The Sea of Tranquility: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/58446227
- Generative Agents, Interactive Simulacra of Human Behaviour: https://arxiv.org/abs/2304.03442


@stuffyokodraws (Yoko)
@martin_casado (Martin)
@jamesacowling (James)
@realaitown (AI Town)
@labenz (Nathan)

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Music Credit: GoogleLM

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