Re: virtual nation building

From: Richard Steven Hack (
Date: Sun Feb 24 2002 - 14:39:03 MST

At 02:16 AM 2/24/02 -0800, you wrote:

>> (c) design a way to do what you want while staying in the society by
>> side-stepping, breaking and/or subverting the rules without
>> getting punished seriously for it.
>Lately I am down enough on the way things are going to doubt if
>anything but some variant of (c) is currently viable.
>Yes. But you have to allow a lot of freedom, at least as much as in the
>real-world, to have a true virtual society/world evolve. You need a set
>of basic "physical" laws and a few constraints on the inhabitants. You
>also need that world to be taken seriously and have serious potential for
>real gain and loss and the creation of real value. It needs more than to
>just be "fun".
>A decentralized peer-to-peer system has its own many problems of
>course. Much of a virtual state would require massive amounts of storage
>of computational state. Decentralizing that and yet keeping its coherency
>would require much cleverness and a lot of redundancy. For some types of
>such worlds really meaty server machines are essential for many lesser
>classes of machine's owners to play at all. The servers do not have to be
>stationary in meat or internet space of course, but they do have to
>exist. Some stationary servers could also be in secret, hardened,
>difficult to stop, locations. Perhaps you could even have such a thing
>claim the privileges granted to a religion and religious community.
>Yes, and a part of the difference is a difference in bandwidth and
>concentrated computational resource needs.
>If we don't have a hell of a lot more than that in five years then I don't
>like the odds for freedom enough to reach Singularity.
>You need real goods beyond entertainment items that are produced within
>the VR and real goods that flow in the reverse direction if you are going
>to effectively create a new kind of society in virtual space. The current
>e-commerce might move into such a v-world in a big way. Major data
>storage and representation, at least of some types, might turn out to be a
>natural. But if you pull in real commerce from outside then outside laws
>and restrictions and politics come with it. So this might not be a fine
>idea even if viable. You need things that are produced naturally most
>competitively in such a space that are seen as a value outside.
>- samantha

I agree with your c) option. A virtual nation (VN) or virtual community
(VC) *might* be one way to do that on a larger than personal scale. I'm
not fully convinced of this yet.

One problem I see is that a game universe is populated by those *with* a
"like mind", i.e. they want to play the game. A virtual nation wouldn't
have that any more than a real nation does. You'd have conflicting
desires, attitudes and varying capabilities and resources and the end
result would a duplicate of the real world - a Darwinian competition with
losers and winners. One interesting question would be: would the nature
of the VN change the nature of the winners - i.e., would Transhumanists
tend to be the winners if they built the VN?

Reason's basic problem is he assumes you need a "fairly large number of
potentially right-minded people". I'm not convinced there is such a
number. I suspect "true" Transhumanists (or even sympathizers) are less
than one percent of the population.

I would like Reason to detail how the Everquest people are doing
black-market economics in the real world.

See my reply to Reason on Hakim Bey's (Peter Lamborn Wilson) "T.A.Z."
(Temporary Autonomous Zones) - a similar concept. I wonder if Wilson has
considered MMORPGs.

The problems with Reason's notion that the game could be designed to
support a lib development is simply that the game rules can be subverted,
hacked, or - if irritating enough to enough people - simply abandoned. The
more the game must approximate the real world, the less likely the game
world can control real-world behavior *in* in the game.

I agree with you that it need to be more than just "fun". But "fun"
shouldn't be ignored. How about a game where sex and its pursuit and
satisfaction was a factor. THAT might bring in a LOT of people and be VERY
profitable - and influential as well in altering attitudes. That would
attract state oppression, of course, but the state's inability to control
the 15 million or so porn sites bodes ill for their suppressing a virtual
"Sex World" - especially if the system were as distributed as the Internet
is and more so using encryption, peer-to-peer technology, etc.

As for bandwidth, that's coming, if more slowly than originally
expected. As for computation needs,. you have Linux Beowulf cluster
technology - free and effective and a way to use those 300 million obsolete
PCs we read about. A peer-to-peer network of Beowulf clusters and more
work on true distributed processing might produce enough power to run a VN
or VC with some security. In any event, in ten to twenty years, the
computing power will be here. Intel is predicting 20GHz PCs within the
next three years...

I agree with Reason that a Singularity is unlikely within five years. I
give it a minimum of twenty years and don't really expect it until around
2050 give or take ten years.

As to products produced in such a v-space, again virtual sex must lead the
way as it has on the Net. Again as indicated above, this leads to
suppression, but the question remains: how effective a suppression?

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