Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Synthetic Mirror

The DoD is allegedly interested in creating a virtual world as a proving ground for psyops, disaster response, and so forth.

Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a "synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information", according to a concept paper for the project....

SWS also replicates financial institutions, utilities, media outlets, and street corner shops. By applying theories of economics and human psychology, its developers believe they can predict how individuals and mobs will respond to various stressors.
A few weeks back, my pal Dan McEnroe mentioned a tentative attempt to calculate the carbon footprint of Second Life avatars, whose physical absence is made conspicuous by their consumption of real-world resources, much as clothes and bandages - and London's "floating dust and smuts" - revealed the shape of the Invisible Man.

That assessment didn't take into account the social costs of surveillance or fraud in Second Life. Even so, it sounds as though the DoD's ghost world will be far more power-hungry, in every sense of the word:
"(SWS) is a hungry beast," Blank said. "A lot of data will be required to make this thing even credible."
That's putting it mildly. The creator of the project "wants SWS to match every person on the planet, one-to-one." Given the role that resources play in conflicts, one would ideally want SWS to model individual and societal resource consumption...including, I presume, the consumption required to create and maintain SWS. This comes tantalizingly close to Borges' "Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, coinciding point for point with it."

Meanwhile, Ciudad Guayana, a sort of virtual city designed in the 1960s by urban planners from Harvard and MIT, is deteriorating:
The white-collar employees at Venezolana de Guayana, which manages many aspects of life in the city, say they do what they can to improve the situation. “We are trying to impose order on a difficult situation,” said AndrĂ©s Cabezas, the corporation’s vice president for territorial development, who oversees the building of new neighborhoods for squatters.
Maybe an exquisitely detailed computer simulation could help us to identify the precise points at which reality has fallen short of theory.

(Link via WorldChanging.)

1 comment:

roger said...

maybe the map will become the territory. or we will all be virtualized.

damn all. i can't remember whether to take the blue pill or the red to escape the matrix, which is fast becoming as scary as whatever the alternative could be.