Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Role playing games and robotic simulants -- the future of games and the evolution of mind

Fantasy Economics - Why economists are obsessed with online role-playing games. By Robert Shapiro

I was discussing this topic with a colleague today. He mentioned how one company used "sweatshop" low wage Mexican game players to outsource the tedious work of building initial assets in many role playing games.

That led me to the next logical step -- robotic players. I was inspired by an old science fiction satire about a world in which the costs of production had fallen so far that consumption became a duty rather than a privilege. Only the rich could afford to live without constantly consuming goods. The protagonist breaks the viscious cycle by building robots to consume things. Ok, so it's not the same thing at all -- but that's how my brain works.

I don't mean simulated players within the game -- the game wouldn't allow that. No, simulated players outside the game. They don't have to strike keys, but they need to generate keystroke and mouse motion signals. They don't have to read the screen, but they need to be able to "interpret" the digital stream representing onscreen objects.

Observed within a game the avatar for such a simulated player might seem clumsy ... even a bit "mindless'. Or they might seem oddly smooth but "stupid". They would, however, react with lightning speed to certain stimuli. They could kill game-rabits and the like very well. They'd never advance far in the game, but they could earn a lot of low level script.

And there could be a lot of them. Thousands. Millions.

Just like robots in the real world. Or just like frogs.

Of course the game masters might come up with tricks to detect robots. mini-Turing tests that would a robot would fail. So the robots would get smarter. One human might manage a hundred robots, constantly on call to solve Turing tests the robots could identify but not resolve. The robots might be supplemented by rats responding to a rat-VR version of the game. Eventually rat tissue plated out in growth chambers would play a role.

And so it goes.

Eventually the robots/simulants become a part of the game. Other simulants compete with them. Some get their own tv shows.

And do it goes.

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