Forget Ant Farms, Scientists To Monitor Millions Of Digital Humans

from the yes,-but-who-will-be-their-Neo? dept

There's some hope that virtual worlds will serve as laboratories to test out various economic and social ideas. But for every people-based approach, there's always going to be an algorithmic solution as well. Researchers in Europe are planning on building a world where millions of software beings, all distinct and unique, will interact with each other. If the beings can be made with realistic human attributes, the thinking goes, it will help people study the impact of various events and government policies. But of course this assumes that the researchers can design these beings in some way that doesn't reflect their personal biases of how people behave. The real problem, though, is that it assumes we have the know-how to reduce a human being into lines of code. Realistically, we're probably not there yet -- certainly not in any position to be testing laws. Still, it would be good if more social ideas and theories did have to be tested, and it's exciting to see the various approaches for making this happen.

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  • identicon
    CloakedMirror, 19 May 2006 @ 2:20pm

    Will there be criminals?

    As we look at building this virtual world, will we be able to model the criminal and/or rebellious mindset?

    Will we be able to model the conservative vs liberal vs libertarian mindsets? What about various belief systems?

    Will we be the god(s) of these virtual beings? Will we instill in some of them a reverence and worship of us that created them, while having some that will act with disdain towards those that believe in a creator?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rory, 19 May 2006 @ 2:29pm

      Re: Will there be criminals?

      This sounds like the hair-brained scheme of some 50+ year old that's read one too many antediluvian sci-fi novels. The program, regardless of what its emulating, will only do what the lines of code tell it to do. Coded in emotions or religions are still only "coded in" and thus are just predetermined behaviours based on prewritten logic. There is hardly anything magical about this concept.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2006 @ 4:09pm

        Re: Re: Will there be criminals?

        Not necessarily, even for the past 20 years as artificial intelligence developed some of the most advanced AI's actually wrote their own code. By writing to the execution portion of the memory and rewriting itself on the fly the programs learn and adapt so that it can start to recognize patterns and learn about its surroundings.

        Of course the downside to this method is that when you shut the program down and start it again you start over with the base AI stupid intelligence.

        But Depending on the complexity with the ability it could be given to code itself gives it an intersting semblance of reality which leads to interesting results. In the 80's they had computer AI's that could perform simple tasks by interpeting a sentance entered into the computer, if it doesn't recognize a word it would ask for a definition and interpret that and by so doing learn.

        All you gotta do is get a basic modern civilization model down flash save the current memory structure there and continue it from later depending on how you want to test scenarios. Might be interesting, also could end up with someone creating Skynet. Never know how things could end up with the computer writing its own program.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous coward, 19 May 2006 @ 2:33pm

    let's see. how do we predict the impact of certain behaviour, laws, or government actions? i know let's build a multi-million dollar computer simulation that MAY work.

    Or we could.......ummmm...........open a history book?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 19 May 2006 @ 2:35pm

    Euronesians

    A world built by European scientists will "prove" that socialism is the answer to everything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SRNissen, 19 May 2006 @ 4:06pm

      Re: Euronesians

      Only if you share european values. If you think increased mean wealth is less important than increased mean wealth, a european sim would show that socialism is a bad idea.

      - SRNissen
      FABRICATE DIEM, PVNC

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    retsel, 19 May 2006 @ 2:52pm

    dude..

    dude its called the sims...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2006 @ 3:35pm

    I speculate that any attempt to model this will be based on mimicry--however detailed--of observed human behavior and will therefore be unable in the end to accurately discover new behaviors in new situations. I do, have faith that the simulation can be based on a politically unbiased computational model. That much is not in question to anybody rational who sees the kind of incredible things that can be computed nowadays. But instead I would draw your attention to the question of where the input into these presumably statistical models will come from. I cannot conceive of sufficient knowlege of the proper sort existing now--and if it did, it being without bias.

    So I guess it could be useful but its not going to predict the future. I wish them the best of luck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Prophet, 19 May 2006 @ 3:42pm

    people?

    All it really does come to down to just lines of code, especially once the robots take over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Planet Smasher, 19 May 2006 @ 3:58pm

    I've seen this before....

    Anybody ever see a movie called 13th Floor? In the movie, scientists have this super-duper computer running a simulation of humans in a world - the scientests discover, that they, themselves, are simulations.

    It was a real cool movie. It's kind of scary how life has this habbit of catching up with reality.

    Does that mean that Frankenstien's monster is just around the corner? Well, they're cloning sheep....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous coward, 19 May 2006 @ 4:13pm

    the american bots will be overweight and be wearing fanny packs. the french bots will be smoking and bad mouthing everthing. the mexican bots will be cleaning up after everyone and the puerto rican bots will be busy stabbing each other.

    anybody want to bet against me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NwEsT, 19 May 2006 @ 4:42pm

    Seems a lot like The Matrix. Should we really toy around with such complicated systems?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sickened One, 19 May 2006 @ 5:06pm

    Holy crap.. Talk about over thinking.. Most of the above posts are from blithering idiots.

    Minus 2 from that crowd. NwEsT & retsel

    "Matrix" and "The Sims" way to sum it all up without over complicating things that won't prove anything else then more people are stupid, then smart.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Curtis Edenfield, 20 May 2006 @ 6:11am

      Re: Sickened One

      "Matrix" and "The Sims" way to sum it all up without over complicating things that won't prove anything else then more people are stupid, then smart.


      So your saying we can sum up the entire human psyche in a program simpler than the Matrix or the Sims? We are talking about the human brain right?

      Near human AI in a computer program, do we really want something like that to exist?

      I'm not a relegious person, but I would rather leave the cration part up to the higher being that started this thing we call Life.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike, 20 May 2006 @ 8:16am

    The scientific sims

    I wonder if they'll take population analysis to it's darker corners? Yes folks I'm talking about the snot nosed Pakistani in the pay booth at your corner gas station. Or, will they adhere to percentages and make a few maladjusted types? Maybe a serial killer
    or two, or how about a group of pedophiles trading
    old sears catalogue pictures over the internet. The complexity of the human race coupled with the squeamishness of modern political correctness will make any meaningful research impossible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Syona, 20 May 2006 @ 8:57am

    Welcome to the Matrix...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin Ear, 20 May 2006 @ 9:23am

    It'll never work...

    IMHO, to do this properly, the 'scientists' would have to start with a single pair of 'sims', and give the database a reference library of every book or document that has proved to be important to our society. They would then have to instruct the AI to populate the world using the database as a guide. Eventually, the world would be populated by a more or less reasonable equivalent to the current state.

    The problem I can see is that the individual sims won't have the richness of experience that the true human population has. Every moment we live adds to our ability to translate what we have learned into the way we live our lives. The simulations won't have this option. Free will cannot be simply coded, nor can individual genius that can turn a society with a single idea, whether it is good or bad.

    Disregarding that the program can be constructed and the coding written, the scientists will never achieve a 'sim society' that will truly represent our present day society. You might as well build an any farm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ben McNelly, 20 May 2006 @ 10:08am

    I find it amusing..

    I mean, isn't it funny that by the time we figure out what makes everything tick, it will all be over?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      M&M, 20 May 2006 @ 9:20pm

      Re: I find it amusing..

      It's more ironic than amusing... Heck, we'll all fry or drown because of global warming before this is ever finished... The human race is almost always "too little. too late".

      We know there are problems, and we know there are solutions, but let's stick our heads in the sand a little while longer and build another model or create another fact finding panel before we do anything. Let's spend a few hundred billion studying it instead of a few billion fixing it...

      Typical...ironic...and sad...for the children anyway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NIcko, 21 May 2006 @ 3:29am

    Why Write the Code?

    If Scientists want to watch a simulation of society, why start form scratch when we already have many Online creations which can be studied using real people rather than inteligent AI code. Take Everquest 2, WOW etc.. These 'games' have millions of worldwide players all helping to create new societies with economic and social behaviours.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2006 @ 7:25pm

      Re: Why Write the Code?

      I was thinking the same thing. Why study simulations when you can test online worlds with real people, but then I realized that people paying money for an online game are less likely to put up with things than real world people. It's hard to impliment a taxation policy in an online world where your playerbase gets pissed off and move to another game, though in the real world people might complain about a certain tax policy but still pay it and not move to canada.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Softmod Wii, 29 Nov 2010 @ 7:24am

    Realistically, we're probably not there yet -- certainly not in any position to be testing laws. Still, it would be good if more social ideas and theories did have to be tested, and it's exciting to see the various approaches for making this happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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