Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, July 23, 2007

DOD Creates Sentient World Simulation


The Register is reporting that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in building a digital world with billions of nodes representing every human being on the planet.

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 provides an environment for testing Psychological Operations (PSYOP)," the paper reads, so that military leaders can "develop and test multiple courses of action to anticipate and shape behaviors of adversaries, neutrals, and partners".

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.

This news brings to mind the intriguing question: Are we already living in a simulation? The thinking behind this admittedly far-fetched idea comes from just this scenario, whereby sentient races will find benefit in research projects that simulate different types of worlds.
Alok Chaturvedi wants SWS to match every person on the planet, one-to-one.

Right now, the 62 simulated nations in SEAS depict humans as composites, at a 100-to-1 ratio.

One organisation has achieved a one-to-one level of granularity for its simulations, according to Chaturvedi: the US Army, which is using SEAS to identify potential recruits.

Chaturvedi insists his goal for SWS is to have a depersonalised likeness for each individual, rather than an immediately identifiable duplicate. If your town census records your birthdate, job title, and whether you own a dog, SWS will generate what Chaturvedi calls a "like someone" with the same stats, but not the same name.

Of course, government agencies and corporations can add to SWS whatever personally-identifiable information they choose from their own databases, and for their own purposes.

And with consumers already giving up their personal information regularly to websites such as MySpace and Twitter, it is not a stretch to imagine SWS doing the same thing.

"There may be hooks through which individuals may voluntarily contribute information to SWS," Chaturvedi said.

SEAS bases its AI "thinking" on the theories of cognitive psychologists and the work of Princeton University professor Daniel Kahneman, one of the fathers of behavioural economics.


How long can it be before PCs are powerful enough to allow home users to play around with complex simulations?


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Anonymous said...

Whether we are living in a simulator or not is easy : if it is possible to recreate humans in a simulator, there will be many simulators running, but there exists only one reality. So chances are that we are indeed living in a simulator. Now to find out how to hack this software (that's called doing miracles).

Anonymous said...

I'd argue that it is easy to determine if you're living in a simulation. Are there software glitches? If not, you're probably not. I can stretch my mind far enough to accept the possibility of being computer code, but the concept of a giant computer simulation without bugs, say being able to walk through walls every now and again in certain regions on a recurring basis, I can't.

Unknown said...

JEmerson, you're assuming glitches would be on a scale you'd notice.

A glitch could be that one of your simulated atoms could pass through a wall, but as you as a whole still couldn't, you'd never know.

Also, you're assuming something about the likelihood of glitches. They could be extremely rare or never happen at all. If you were part of the simulation you'd have no way of assigned adequate probabilities to anything like that.

Anonymous said...

Ah, hence the need for NSA snooping.

jbe said...

It will also effectively predict the thought processes and action of individual American sheeple, thus "legitimizing" the use of preemptive action against people they think are threats...