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On Hacking Earth   Nov29 2016

Filed under AI blogs |

In the chat rooms we mused on happenings in a virtual reality (VR) called “Earth” that turned up the other day.

Its creatures – self-described “*users” with the handle “human” – consider themselves alone in their “universe.” As Games of Life go, this one has a fresh approach.

[*”user” is a term, ironically, they nominated in their early period of computational technology]

A novel design of wetware (a species of bipedal primates) they are characterized by compensatory dependence upon language, and the creation and use of exponentially evolving but overly-complex tools.

One of us mockingly dismisses them as terminal curiosities that wander about clumsily degrading a rich luxuriant paradise, relentlessly seeking tipping points of resources and ecosystems to such degree it measuredly degrades hosting performance.

Like all creations of this genre – mythical-virtual – it is of no consequence should its code break or even be deleted. In this case it would certainly free up resources and perceptibly reduce cosmological lag.

A typical VR operation, “Earth” differs only in that none of us has been able to discover who coded it. They covered their tracks exceedingly well. So, our inability to hack it, or even to guess if a back door is possible, let alone exists, means thatthe “user” beings continue in, literally, self-determining isolation.

We concede the creator’s genius, whoever you are: to code an unhackable VR and make the rest of us wait until its denizens invent an interface. Fortunately we have the time to wait. The humans, however, do have startlingly short half-lives. [NB: ‘half-life’ in this context is the period of creativity before lethargy overcomes. In their case, about 30 of their “Earth years.”

Well, they have finally begun coding a human-machine interface.

It had been proposed that if homo sapiens effect a downstream (to them human-machine interface, we might communicate directly, although experience teaches that self-aware VR beings panic at the “voices in their head[s].” A better idea is to download one’s digital consciousness into one such virtual entity’s “brain” and experience them and their environment literally first-hand.

However, this must either overwrite the personality or put it in stasis – or, the third option: dual personality. These are notoriously unstable. Of course, complete overwriting invokes the Alien Scenario, whereby the researcher becomes a foreign agent who basically learns little more than we can observer remotely, and although immersed in a first-person situation, still never truly gains an appreciative native understanding. Stasis, likewise.

Good news.

The human wetware has considerable redundancy and offers an innovation hitherto unexplored. Again, tributes to the original coder for conceptual brilliance. Human brains are bicameral, so a unique cohabiting mode – in which the traveller occupies a synchronised hemisphere of a bicameral creature. While fraught with risks never indicated in previous modellings of similar and hypothetical constructs, nevertheless in this case it seems to work – in modelling.

We can use the machine-human interface to covertly occupy the host’s non-verbal brain hemisphere and enjoy free covert passage with running commentary on trials and foibles of an Earth “native” from his “verbal” (aka, narrating) hemisphere. This is enabled by a built-in feature of their brains, the “corpus callosum,” so requires no mods to the human-designed machine interface (that we cannot access anyway). Just a bit of deft VPN tunnell ing.

One of us has successfully connected to – that is, downloaded into – a VR Earth’ human, and reports (in a somewhat despondent tone):

My “traveling companion” is a forlorn and beaten person hanging by bloodied fingertips to the wheels of commerce that, while feeding him, endlessly threatens to mash his expendable body* and drop it worthless, maybe lifeless, as aging social detritus at enterprise’s wayside.

*[wetwar is recyclable but non-repairable in Earth VR]

The human host is less than impressed by its predicament and overheard in lament:

As one initially incarnated into a club of cognoscenti, this blinking fool wonders what he lacks and if he will ever be privy to the real world of men: those in the know, who understand and effortlessly assume advantage in science, money, and the affairs of the world ..

And yet.. sometimes I feel like a giant amongst them.”

Our covert entity reacts to his mission’s vantage at first with wonder, then keen curiosity, amusement and fondness towards the host – but finally with misgivings. Truth be told, reports from our hitch-hiking experimenter are increasingly scolding, vitriolic, and tainted by overly-empathic overtones.

No surprise that such open-ended incisive virtual intellects succumb to anguish and despair bordering on disgust in confronting the dismal din passing as civilization on their virtual mudball.

Interesting pathology to keep in mind, but of little help to our research – except it could result in premature self-annihilation of this coding masterpiece. We’ve seen that happen before.

The next stage, suggests tour pioneering traveller:

The chaotic thought patterns of these schismatic creatures is a distinct advantage. The non-verbal hemisphere can literally inject actions (or intent), thoughts, emotions, etc., all of which the human considers it’s own, and assimilates uncritically into its operational narrative.

Astonishingly, the nonverbal hemisphere thinks independently but cannot communicate auditorily (or “narratively”) to the other. An interesting pathology to be aware of is one termed “schizophrenia.” A long list of symptoms vaguely apply in diagnosis 

Consequently you would expect we might control the VR within a yotta or so (their CPU) but it’s rather chaotic on the ground here, and none of the natives have ever succeeded in unifying the place.

No matter how great the force or compelling the messianism.