[ExI] A game that can't be made, but should. =P

Alan Grimes agrimes at speakeasy.net
Wed Sep 15 04:58:51 UTC 2010

I had posted this a week ago to some formerly moderate-volume but now
mostly defunct lists. Back in the 90's I didn't join extropy-chat
because it was far too high-volume and because someone else named Grimes
was banned! (I'm banned from most other transhumanist lists...) Anyway,
everything after the "om" is what I had to say for myself the other day.
I have been contemplating a follow-up to wrestle with some of the more
ethically and psychologically/neurologically problematic parts of the
posting but I'll leave digging those out as a challenge for this list. ;)


Oh my god! I'm writing an 'om' posting after a several year hiatus. =0

I have been watching a lot of Terminator: The Sarah Connor chronicles.
It's so good that I feel like one of skinner's rats that kept pressing
the "play next episode" button just to get the jolt to the pleasure
centers. =P While it's conceptually tied to the paradigms of the first
and second movies, it is pretty good none the less. Anyway, that's not
exactly what I've been meditating on, just a digression.

What I want to talk about on this eve of the first day of Fall (don't
let any nerd tell you otherwise, fall begins precisely at sundown on
Labor Day, depending of course on which part of the world you live in.)

I have a lot of ideas about what a person could become. Some ideas exist
in our culture, many many more don't. What would kick ass would be if
you could experience these without first making any major commitments.
This post will sketch out the practical challenges involved in creating
a technology powerful enough to accomplish this.


While the uploaders have hijacked all of transhumanism for their own
ends, which my own investigations have shown to be largely sexual in
motivation. That should not be a surprise to anyone. What bothers me are
several things. First there is the problem that it is just not my thing
(and they think I'm dim-witted because of that). The deeper issue is
that they are willfully ignorant of many other transhumanist modes of
being that few people can even imagine. These ideas deserve their day in
the sun to be evaluated and adopted by anyone who would choose them.

I feel a technology that allows a minimally enhanced individual to be
able to experience and experiment with alternate forms of being without
having to make any major irreversible commitments. Some people are
satisfied by doing this with second life. I'm not. Second life is just a
bunch of crude polygons and half-inch tall humanoid avatars that people
spend real money on customizing to no practical end. Papers could surely
be written about what psychological defects would allow a person to
identify with his avatar so strongly that he insists that Second Life is
another "reality".

What we need is something on the order of The Matrix or The Thirteenth
Floor. We need a system on that order of complexity or the
experiment fails. We need a system that doesn't merely catalog and
render polygonal objects but a system that actually supports the
existence of digital artifacts that exist orthogonally to the
computational substrate. That is, objects built on abstractions that are
so invisibly tiny that only a determined observer could prove that they
exist. Only in that way can the richness of something that deserves to
be called a virtual reality can emerge.

There are two good examples of what I mean. In Second Life, you can
sketch out a stick of butter on a plate. OK. Now take a knife to it.
Does the knife cut it? Depending on how the butter and the knife are
configured, either the knife would bounce off or it would slide right
through without changing the butter at all. Similarly, you could jump on
an apparently glass table from any altitude and it will not break, I
tried. =P Another thing you can't do in second life is merge avatars

What I'm saying is that I need a simulation that is at least as powerful
as my imagination. This shouldn't be hard at all given how pathetic all
the uploaders make my meat-brain out to be. Honest people should be able
to see that this is a grand challenge problem that is only beginning to
be addressed by the entertainment software industry.


Now how do you put yourself into that virtual sandbox? The first
approach would probably be to tap into the human sensory motor system
and map that directly into the avatar. The problem with that is that it
limits you to basically humanoid avatars. It also prevents you from
experimenting with alternate mind platforms and configurations including
collective consciousnesses and stuff like that.

Wait a minute? What did I just say? I just suggested the impossible,
didn't I? Perhaps. But hear me out first! What if you could obtain a
neural interface that didn't link to your motor areas, but instead the
deepest reaches of your subconscious. Now if you could use that neural
interface to mind-meld to a NPC AGI already embedded in the world, you'd
be in business.

Obviously, the NPC AGI systems (plural), are also a grand-challenge
problem. Ideally, there would be several species of avatar and each
would have its own unique mentality. I expect the post-neural
architectures to be the most interesting. I expect those to be efficient
enough to run on hardware that is already commercially available at
human equivalent levels and beyond. However, emulated human brains will
need either some kind of hybrid computer (a concept dating back to the
early days of computing, recently being revived.), or the performance of
a machine on the scale of petaflops. To be any fun, each user should
have a private space where he can operate entirely unconstrained by
social norms (and perhaps a public space), that is big enough to hold at
least a few hundred diverse sentient NPCs.

The game would have no structure, the goals would be arbitrary.
(Actually, this has been an idea that's been brewing in my head for a
year or two, only now given its full form). The beginning of the game
would be kind of like the sims. You start out as a 3rd-person observer
and then select any arbitrary avatar to inhabit, could be anything, I
don't have room here to provide a catalog of the initial avatar
selection. Ideally the game would be updated from the network so that
each time you initialized a game there would be an expanded or refined
variety of avatars to choose from.

The initial environment would be a simple village or town or something,
who cares about the details... You can idle around the town as long as
you like as long as none of the other (sentient) NPCs does anything
rash... The next part of the game would be an exploration/questing deal
where you get to do some adventuring in the body you chose and try to
gain access to one of the hidden temples. Each temple would contain a
seed of a different, and very alien civilization. From there you could
go back to idling in that transformed state or the game could switch to
a strategy and conquest game. Ultimately, it would morph into a game of
civilization where you manage your empire or connect to the network and
try to conquor other empires on the network.

That is somewhat problematic because my experience with on-line games is
that they tend to be winner-take-all and aren't forgiving at all of
casual players. =(


I don't propose that this game should be an end in itself. Instead my
goal, should I be able to produce it, would be to provide a whiteboard
on which ideas can be presented and shared through first-hand experience
permitted by the neural interface.

My goal in writing this posting when I should be getting my sleep, is to
provide a vision to the members of these diverse groups. I hope that
this vision can become a goal that inspires people to do actual real
work to bring it to fruition. =(

It frustrates me to no end that people are so idle these days that they
aren't even chewing lotus blossoms and masturbating over their substrate
fetish. =(

Powers are not rights.

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