back to article Sentient world: war games on the grandest scale

Perhaps your real life is so rich you don't have time for another. Even so, the US Department of Defense (DOD) may already be creating a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda. The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It a what if machine from Futurama!

    So, what if all drugs are legal and taxable in the whole world, what whould happen then?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Future ?

    "Future wars will be asymetric in nature. They will be more non-kinetic, with the center of gravity being a population."

    In the old days, wars usually involved a population too. They supported their governments views and formed an army to go and fight for their beliefs. Apparently, this is passe - from now on we are going straight to the condition where the legitimate government has been nullified and it's just the pesky local population left to subdue.

    So what exactly has changed ? (apart from the evermore explicit arrogance of the Americans ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H invaders)

    Hearts and minds people, hearts and minds ...

  3. Marvin the Martian

    Life is like a sewer

    ... what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it in the first place. So too with this.

    Nice graphs, but this is coming from the people who are mildly surprised that if you destroy a sizeable country's entire administration and do not replace it immediately, the country descends into anarchic hell. Does it matter that the whole, fractional and divided country was kept together by a feared and hated dictatorship? Possibly, possibly not that much if you see how quickly looting starts anywhere where the electricity goes down.

    Anyways, so far for scepticism. Call a Systems Biologist, or better even, a statistician in Evidence Based Medicine for a ludicrously optimistic quote, and he [for it strangely seem mostly males] will explain how omniscience emerges.

  4. george

    Good game?

    Can I get this on the 360? :)

  5. PH

    Mirror Worlds

    Re: "SWS to match every person on the planet, one-to-one".

    Some interesting fractal iterations will kick in at this point because some of the emulated humans within SWS will behave due to having just used a reality model as a decision-making tool. A model within a model within a model...

    Now that's going to give really accurate predictions, isn't it?

  6. Greg Nelson

    Fascinating Captain

    The greatest threat such people pose comes from their desperate need to peer deeply into their scrying device and see what the future holds. When the real world doesn't match their prediction and nothing more can be done to tweak their magic box they then turn to tweaking the freedoms of those they are trying to model. Surely if their all seeing eye can't see all that is and will be then the fault must lie with those of us they are modeling. If the military and those charged with protecting us can't accurately model our behaviour in order to protect us then the answer must be in laws that channel our behaviour in ways that make us predictable and therefore the more amenable to protection. This stuff, the people who sell it and the people who buy it, buy into Platonic worlds including the best of all worlds Plato brought forth in the Republic wherein the Guardians ruled. Hopefully the pretty lights and all that is shiny will keep them miles off course from achieving any real sense of how social things work.

    If the people flogging this stuff were to register for wedding gifts they would ask for one each of each Platonic ideal laid up in heaven.

  7. Ed Deckard

    Won't work...

    ... unless the underlying assumptions of how individuals react to events and how they influence each other are correct, as well as a way to objectively quantify how they react (subjectively!) to a variety of events. Psychohistory (as in Asimov's Foundation stories - this is what the program amounts to, right?) would require ridiculously accurate measurements of stuff we have no idea how to measure at all right now, plus it would probably have a pretty near "event horizon" after which predictions would have such low probability as to be useless. Add to that the capacity of individuals and small groups to influence events all out of proportion to their size (think al-Quaida) for the butterfly effect and... yeah, useless or worse than useless.

    The way to test it would be to set the program at some point in the past and let it run to a given date, then check the predictions against actual history.

    It will probably make the most awesome strategy game engine, ever, though. Can't wait for "Sentinent World: Rome" to come out.

  8. Andrew Barratt


    Looks like a load of rubbish to me.

    Pretty soon the Americans will be able to justify invading another country based on their SimpleWorldScenarios....

    Its just a mechanism that politicians can use to defer blame from there own shoddy decision making... Maybe the american regime does need some help figuring out what to do if you have a hurricane though....

    Does anyone remember the machine Intelligence from Team America.....

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like it's a sims game for politicians

    They have to know how every human thinks on the planet earth. But the state of the mind can not be downloaded from the internet. They can use it as profile database, much like germans used their census data to filter out unneded people (jews) from their population. Sadly it looks like the military leaders want to choose who is needed and who is not. On the other side, if they could collect enough data to run the simulation they could understand how to make peace too.

    Interestingly there were some recent research in japan about how can one human alter the course of history with his/her ideas alone without actual financial and military power. According to the theory the simple event of a man missing a commuter train could result in a war. (much like the lack of artistic acknowledgement of hitler led him to join the german forces in wwi and later getting him to the idea of a new german culture) I would really like to see a model predicting this...

  10. Uwe Dippel

    Just got this in my email:


    we are so sorry, but we will have to nuke your place in the next 30 seconds. But, please, don't despair, you have been placed favourably in Second Life, as well as Third World. We will also continue to export you to more parallel universes.

    Take care && Forever,

    Your DoD

  11. Brennan Young

    They obviously didn't pay attention...

    to Michel Foucault (who deconstructs the whole cause/effect thing).

    And if they didn't even pay close enough attention to Machiavelli before invading Afghanistan and Iraq (he advises against exactly what the USA did in both cases), and if they didn't even pay attention to their own intelligence reports about WMD, or 9/11, what hope is there that they will actually use this very expensive project for anything except 'fair weather' predictions?

    That's if it even works. Seems to me it builds on fairly shaky and self-referential assumptions about 'why things are the way they are' (back to Foucault again).

    Gathering knowledge is one thing, but using it wisely is not something the American Miltary have demonstrated great aptitude for. (Pearl Harbour onwards).

  12. Grant Bearman

    Harsh Realm - Yet Again

    A simulation for wargaming with the entire population in it?

    I think it was done rather well in the tv series Harsh Realm, complete with glitches and bugs, back in 1999.

  13. frank denton

    Mirror Worlds - next take

    It's obvious that the SWS can't have enough computing power to simulate itself within its simulation, except as a rough approximation. If major decisions with far ranging effects are taken by those in power, basing them on SWS predictions, then it is vital that the simulation takes adequate account of SWS influenced decision making.

    Hence, what is needed is a bigger, more powerful computer that can....oh, wait, I've read this sci-fi story before.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better Idea

    They should put this project to better use and use all the data to make the perfect partner match up. After all isn't it better to make love not war?

  15. Lewis

    No winners.

    Haven't they seen Wargames?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To the first hacker to break in:

    Would you like to play a game?

    (and with all those outside data sources, that may not be much of a challenge)

  17. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I want a copy !

    Seems like the ultimate online MMorpg to me. I'de to simulate a 10-kilometer wide asteroid on Washington D.C., Can this do it for me ? Where can I buy the program ? Does WalMart carry it ?

  18. Michael Corkery

    I can't wait

    to see a simulation that accurately models how "group-think" and other peer-pressures influence decisions of administration and military personnel using expensive toys to justify life and death decisions.

  19. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Holy Quarrel

    Any one else remineded of the short story "Holy Quarrel" by Philip K. Dick?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those who have it are not always those who get it

    At the same time, when state universitites or medical research institutions get enormous funding cuts, the US Military is wasting once again billions of dollars (and energy) in the process of hoping to bring an order to their mess. Who knows, maybe the parallel simulator will tell them eventually that the only wise move is to get out of there, or as WARP (Joshua) put it in War Games (..."Strange game, the only wise move is NOT to play"). It seems to me that those who have the means are not always the ones who get the idea.

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