03 February 2010

LoveMachine: Virtually the Singularity?

A few years ago I had the good fortune to interview Philip Rosedale, the creator of Second Life. Now, say what you might about that virtual world, and what it has become, but there's no denying its splendidly metaphysical origins:

There's a book I read ... that we were talking about a lot, which really informed our design, and that's Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. That was one of the most important things because it was in 2001, 2002, that we got into this idea that the way online games worked was just completely inconsistent with what we're trying to do, and that Everquest or online games of the time were what Jane Jacobs was talking about when she said that planned cites all failed.

Then you read Death and Life of Great American Cities, and what that says is that it all has to be random. The randomness gives way to overlapping behaviours where some people are walking to go to the store, some people are walking to their home, some people are walking to go to work. Those people all run into each other, there's a kind of a commons behaviour where they'd like to just double click on their work and get there immediately, but they can't: they have to walk. That means they entertain each other: some of the times you're the one being entertained, and some of the times you're the entertainment, that's kind of what Jane Jacobs said. And we were like, oh yeah, that's exactly what we want. Because if the world is just created by everybody, then you'll have this very haphazard, crazy kind of feel to it, and that'll be incredibly powerful the way New York is.

The Mystery of Capital was like a follow on to that, because it said for people to build that way everybody has to own their own intellectual property - including of course physical real estate - in a very explicit way with alienability and all that stuff.

Rosedale left Linden Lab a while back, and has been working on something memorably called LoveMachine. Now we have the first inkling of what that might entail - and it's suitable big:

Recently, a Second Life veteran named Hikaru Yamamoto told me about the plans she'd heard Philip Rosedale was cooking up for his new company, LoveMachine. He wasn't just building a public version of Linden Lab's employee rating system. Turns out that was just one project. A somewhat more ambitious goal, she told me, was, well, creating a sentient artificial intelligence which existed in a virtual world.

"He wants it to live inside Second Life," as she put it to me. "It will think and dream and everything." Indeed, the company's website now lists as one of its three projects, "The Brain. Can 10,000 computers become a person?"

Never a dull moment with that Mr Rosedale...

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