The sentient Love Machine: Second Life creator planning metaverse Singularity?

Paul Raven @ 04-02-2010

Regular readers may remember me mentioning LoveMachine Inc., the new project of Second Life creator Philip Rosedale, back in November of last year. At that point, all the signs pointed toward LoveMachine being a start-up that intended to develop a reputational currency system for virtual worlds… and for all we know, it probably still is.

But thanks to SL uber-journalist Wagner James Au, we hear that Rosedale and company have added another project to the company roster. Its title? “The Brain: Can 10,000 computers become a person?”

Rosedale has long been interested in artificial intelligence, and the metaverse would seem like the ideal platform for that sort of research. Rosedale is playing his cards close to his chest at this point (and the cynic in me suspects that there’s an element of publicity-seeking involved, which I’ve gone and indulged by posting about it), but given LoveMachine’s open-frame “pick a task and join the team” approach to recruitment and the number of floating tech geniuses in San Francisco, I’d guess he’s no less likely to make progress than anyone else in the same field… provided that’s where the company’s focus stays put, of course.

And there’s no guarantee of that, either. LoveMachine’s remit is somewhat peripatetic, as is its culture, with Rosedale and chums setting up shop for the day anywhere they can find comfy seats and free wireless internet. Even if the dreams of metaverse AI come to nothing, LoveMachine may end as a blueprint for a new sort of company that, as Au points out, sounds like something out of William Gibson’s early novels: a loose, ad-hoc collective of tech geeks and console cowboys, working wherever they can find a flat surface and some bandwidth, building new things in imaginary spaces.


More thoughts on the LoveMachine

Paul Raven @ 17-11-2009

Thanks to New World Notes, we get a little more detail about Philip Rosedale’s LoveMachine system, the reputation-based closed economy we mentioned yesterday.

Cory Ondrejka was Linden Lab’s CTO until 2007, and he was instrumental in developing the LoveMachine system as it operated within the company; here he is explaining a little more about how it came together:

One of my tasks was to invent a new system for employees to give each other feedback, one that would be fun, so easy everyone would use it, and that would generate interesting aggregate information about how individuals and the company were doing.

The design that emerged was tipping.

Tipping — via an internal web tool — would be a positive-sum, transparent game, a way to publicly thank a fellow Linden for going above and beyond. Finding a crucial bug, crunching some extra numbers, helping you figure out the right person to take a question to. Think “Twitter plus $1.” The key was to make it a small amount of money, as a payment makes it real but you don’t want to distort behavior with meaningful payouts.

Tipping was designed to solve three problems: help Lindens know what their fellow employees were doing, generate aggregate data on connections within the company, and identify extreme outliers. It wasn’t clear to me if your tipping rank would be important, but it might be meaningful data if you were generally at the top or the bottom of the list.

He also has suggestions on the problems that LoveMachine – or similar systems – may need to overcome if they’re to be of genuine utility:

The challenges that emerge, of course, fall into three broad categories. First, we optimize for what we measure, so unless you know what you are measuring exactly aligns with business goals, there are going to be misalignments. At Linden, people wrote tools to make it easier to use The Love Machine by irc, chat, email, and the web. This created “pile-on voting”, where an employee would thank someone and other employees would also deliver love to the recipient. This made the amount of love received a function of the time of initial delivery and the communication channel used, which may or may not have been desired. Second, people don’t like just being numbers, they want to understand what they can do to improve, so while The Love Machine should provide additional context for peer and manager feedback, it clearly can’t replace those conversations. Finally, with a transparent system like the Love Machine, are those ranked at the top retained? Are employees who leave or who are fired near the bottom? If not, you may introduce more communication and management overhead rather than reduce it.

If there’s one thing that can be said for certain about reputation engines, it’s that they’re not going to be an easy fix. I guess we’ll only really find out if they work once someone builds one successfully…


LoveMachine Inc: Second Life founder’s reputation-as-currency start-up?

Paul Raven @ 16-11-2009

Love, Second Life styleOh, to be a CEO of a tech start-up… they can get bored of their projects even faster than the public can, y’know. Actually, that’s a little unfair – Philip Rosedale, the man behind Linden Lab, hasn’t lost interest in Second life so much as he’s looking for a new fish to fry with his new company, LoveMachine Inc. [image by Mrs. Bones]

What does LoveMachine do? Apparently it’s developing a system of the same name that was used by Linden Lab as a points-based incentive tool:

Linden employees gave and received “love” for a job well done. If an employee was well-received amongst his or her peers, their accumulated love currency was redeemable for a cash bonus at the end of the month. Similar to social capital systems like Whuffie Bank, it appears that LoveMachine may become a reputation currency system for businesses.

Interesting to see another outfit chasing after reputation economies as a potential business model… and restricting such a system to the limited and manageable confines of discreet organisations makes sense, as closed economies are inherently easier to manage. I expect they’ve heeded Bruce Schneier’s advice on reputation economies, too:

You’ve all experienced a reputation economy: restaurants. Some restaurants have a good reputation, and are filled with regulars. When restaurants get a bad reputation, people stop coming and they close. Tourist restaurants – whose main attraction is their location, and whose customers frequently don’t know anything about their reputation – can thrive even if they aren’t any good. And sometimes a restaurant can keep its reputation – an award in a magazine, a special occasion restaurant that “everyone knows” is the place to go – long after its food and service have declined.

Details of the LoveMachine plans are understandably sketchy at the moment. However, Rosedale and company have got a public worklist of jobs that they need a contractor to take on, and – if you live in the San Francisco area – they’re looking to hire. [hat tip to Fabio Fernandes]