From Project Persephone

PmWiki: Virtual Exovivaria

Virtual exovivaria are exovivaria simulations - virtual worlds. Such worlds incur no costs except computational ones. They carry no risks except perhaps for social ones. With these advantages, they can serve Project Persephone in several ways - some functional, others recreational. The aim is make a world worth talking about, if not dozens of them.

To be useful, however, parts of these virtual worlds must be limited: they must match what's physically possible in telebotically maintaining an ecosystem in Earth orbit. In all other respects, however, users and developers would be free to do anything that's possible in CGI software. If true exovivaria ever come into being, virtual exovivaria will probably continue to have uses for the Project.

Practical uses

Virtual exovivaria can be classrooms, laboratories, playgrounds and places to begin the test of citizenship for true exovivaria. In these roles, they will complement another approximation of true exovivaria: terrestrial prototypes?. However, unlike terrestrial prototypes, virtual exovivaria will be able to simulate some aspects of life and telebotic operations on orbit that can't be prototyped on Earth.

Among their uses:

Practical limits

Virtual exovivaria will be different from most virtual worlds in important ways. (But see the caveats about avatars and augmentations, below.) The differences all relate to the goal of eventually hosting vital societies (virtual) and ecosystems (real) in orbit.

An augmentable reality simulation

Within these simulated limits, however, almost any degree of "augmented reality" overlaid on the physical simulation should be permitted. Let's say someone wanted to pose their avatar seated on a simulated grasshopper perched on a simulated twig, waving a custom-designed flag, perhaps to "stake a claim" on some contested land. What's to stop them, if the API? permits it? Needless to say, users should have access to similar privileges in real terrestrial prototypes of exovivaria as well, and in any actual (i.e., orbiting) exovivaria, though only at higher prices, prices that some Project-internal market determines.

To be sure, the augmentations couldn't directly cause anything in the simulated physical environment. A user, through an avatar, should be able to direct a simulated telebot to pluck a leaf, but the avatar itself couldn't do the plucking.

Apart from this limit of "ghostliness" in the augmentations, however, allowing users to draw on any MMORPG? concept could be very useful in market-testing. Let's say that the augmentations grow to the point where they begin to cloud the simulated exovivarium. They might even reach the point where they reduce user interest in maintaining the ecosystem being simulated. That bad trend would be an excellent game-design diagnostic: it would say that the reality you're trying to simulate is not compelling enough, and that an exovivarium must have more of something, or else it will be abandoned.3

A future after the first orbit

If and when exovivaria become real, virtual exovivaria will probably still be useful. They may even become more popular than ever.

To own some real estate in a real exovivarium, perhaps bossing a few telebot and avatar crews to add value to one's property in orbit ... this should be the social pinnacle of Project Persephone society. But pinnacles invite climbers. Virtual exovivaria could form the foothills and lower slopes.

People need to start somewhere in any society, and in Project Persephone, many of them won't start with much money at all. Some will even start with the idea of making money in exovivaria that others have paid for - whether virtual, terrestrially prototyped, or orbiting. For the chance of getting to the point of making things happen in orbit (whether for fun or profit), many people wouild move first through the virtual exovivarial worlds, learning the ropes and the ethics. Then they can move onward to terrestrial analogues, learning yet more. After climbing a naturally-forming ladder of ascent, they can hope to eventually earn the right to do real work and own real things within real exovivaria. After all, real exovivaria are likely to remain relatively scarce for quite a while. Scarcity can sometimes do more than enhance the perception of value. It can also induce a sense of value into the steps and stages required to qualify for, or afford, the experience that's scarce.


1 All three of these effects could be doubly significant if telebots are capable of hopping, as has been proposed for robots on the Moon and on Mars: Fraser Cain, "Hopping Microrobots", Universe Today, Dec 9, 2005

2 And necessary, in the case of otherwise-unmanageable pests or pathogens that snuck in somehow - scenarios that it would be irresponsible not to simulate.

3 The virtual world users' knowledge that it's a simulation, where things can't really die, could make any such diagnosis a lot less meaningful. But that's an important purpose of the more expensive terrestrial prototypes (where real living things can die): to calibrate the virtual worlds against real biophilia. Some interplay between the two design spaces should be expected.

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Page last modified on September 12, 2020, at 11:27 PM