Fractal levels of simulated reality, forsooth!

Paul Raven @ 13-10-2010

I’m sure I ran a story similar to this a while back, but I’m damned if I can find it in the Futurismic archives, so I’m gonna mention it anyway: it’s the one about the folk building logic-based processors within the virtual spaces of computer games, the latest example being the insanely popular (and rather lucrative) Minecraft. Find blocks of material with the right in-game properties, chain ’em together, and hey presto, you’ve got a simulated arithmetic processor made of non-existent lumps of an entirely fictional substance. Whole lotta meta, right there.

I think the reason I love these stories is because of the extrapolatory end-point: the implication is that given simulated spaces of sufficient size and complexity (and sufficient player-hours, or clever macros to obviate the need for such), one could build a computing device within that simulation which was itself capable of running a simulation within which another computing device could be simulated. Sort of like Nick Bostrom rewriting Lavie Tidhar’s “In Pacmandu”… it’s simulated turtles all the way down! Now, where’s the door back to my origin reality, please?


Metaverse therapy

Paul Raven @ 24-09-2010

New Scientist reports on psychotherapy in Second Life:

One of the first applications of avatar therapy was in treating social anxiety disorder, a crippling shyness that can confine people to their homes. James Herbert, head of the anxiety treatment and research programme at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was among the first wave of researchers to investigate avatar therapy. Encouragingly, clients generally rated the treatment highly, though there were exceptions. “Some patients and therapists reported frustration with not being able to see the individual’s face,” he says, and sometimes technical difficulties interrupted the sessions.

Avatar therapy has also helped people with phobias. In real life, the usual treatment is to gradually expose people to the source of their fear, but this can sometimes be difficult. An avatar therapist can introduce the phobia source while remaining in complete control, scaling the experience up or down according to the client’s reaction.

In fact, many of the conditions treated by face-to-face talk therapy can also be treated virtually, including depression and anxiety. Avatar therapy is proving useful for more diverse conditions too, such as traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome.


What’s cheaper than outsourcing to the developing world*?

Paul Raven @ 22-09-2010

Easy: outsource to the metaverse. Wagner James Au of New World Notes points to a post by software guy Max Klein, who discovered the cheapest way to get native-speaker translation work done is to offer it to Second Life’s polyglot clades of regular residents:

How did I reduce my cost from $9000 to $46? No, I didn’t do it by brainstorming or by being clever – but by a chance discovery as I was reading the BBC news website: I found an article about the second life economy.

Second life is filled with people who want Linden Dollars. They come from all over the world, and for them it’s just a game. They will willingly spend 30 minutes to translate the article for you for 20cents, which is 50 Linden $. For that, they can get accessories, funiture, clothes etc. within the game.

For them it’s easy work that allows them get something from within the game. For me, it’s an insanely cheap native language translation to languages like french, italian, etc.

A chance discovery, a few days getting used to the game, and I saved myself $8950 bucks.

And thanks to Mister Klein, I now have a new idea for how to make my name in the metaverse: I’m gonna start the first virtual union. 😉

More seriously, though, I can see how starting some sort of employment bureau in SL for this sort of work could be a real moneyspinner; where there are savings margins of the scale that Klein is claiming, there’s plenty of space for middlemen. Things have been quiet on the metaverse front, at least as far as meatspace news is concerned, but a goldrush on those low low wages is sure to look very appealing to cash-strapped meatspace businesses…

[ * This title ignores the proposition that SL and other metaverse realities are, in some respects, developing nations themselves… ]


One hundred years of cyborg solitude

Paul Raven @ 21-09-2010

21st September 2060; New Southsea, Disunited Kingdom

September is the old man’s favourite time of year. This morning New Southsea basks in the upper twenties as the summer sear fades out, and the high tides leave less silt in the streets. “Shorts weather, young lady,” he mumbles around his post-breakfast smoke, smiling in the sunlight as the post-grad girl clears away the crocks, boots up the base-unit for his ancient spex and helps him over to his scarred thriftwood desk. “Great day for an etymological celebration, I reckon.”

She can’t help but agree; he’s a grumpy old bastard a lot of the time, but his enthusiasm’s infectious when it takes him. Someone somewhere in New Southsea celebrates some marginal anniversary or festival every day of the year, but as obscure temporal landmarks go, today might take some sort of award. She’s surprised by how much she’s been looking forward to it… though again, she figures she’s just tuning into the old man’s vibes somehow. The reason seems inexplicably unimportant. Continue reading “One hundred years of cyborg solitude”


NEW FICTION: IN PACMANDU by Lavie Tidhar

Paul Raven @ 01-09-2010

I’m very pleased to welcome globetrotting flyer-in-the-face-of-convention Lavie Tidhar back to the digital pages of Futurismic, and once again it’s with a story that stretches – or at least seems to stretch – our guidelines to breaking point, upsetting a few apple-carts full of sacred cows along the way. “In Pacmandu” is something a little out of the ordinary, even for us… and perhaps even (dare I say it?) for Lavie himself.

Are you ready? Then begin!

In Pacmandu

by Lavie Tidhar

  • GoA universe, Sigma Quadrant, Berezhinsky Planetoid, sys-ops command module

It has been two weeks since the disappearance of the Wu expedition.

We are gathered at the sys-ops command module of the Berezhinsky Planetoid, Sigma Quadrant of the Guilds of Ashkelon universe. The light is soft. Music plays unobtrusively in the background. Outside the windows it is snowing lines of code.

Present in the command module: myself, CodeDolphin, Sergei and Hong.

Our task –

‘Find out the fuck happened.’ Continue reading “NEW FICTION: IN PACMANDU by Lavie Tidhar”


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