Tuesday Topsight, January 30, 2007
Multiple deadlines this week, plus meetings -- but interesting stuff keeps rolling in.
SimCollapse: Green LA Girl Siel gave me a heads-up about "Climate Challenge," a Flash-based simulation game produced by the BBC that gives players a chance to control Europe's climate and economic policies for the 21st century. Your goal: bring down overall carbon emissions without crashing the economy or being driven from office. The designers have done an excellent job of making the simulation complex enough to be hard without being so abstract as to be impossible. It's easy to end the game with one of the three conditions (climate, economy, popularity) doing great, and possible with some thought to end the game with two of the three doing at least reasonably well. I have yet to hit the right balance of all three.
The choices you're given are plausible, but not overly timid. Not all of your choices are particularly green, and you have to pay attention to issues like water and food supplies on top of everything else. It's a game that lends itself to experimentation. Fortunately, the game moves quickly, so that you can play multiple rounds in one sitting without feeling like you've just blown your whole afternoon.
I still have my default lament for simulations, though: it's neither open nor transparent. There's no way to tell what assumptions went into the underlying algorithms, let alone add in new options. Still, as a lunch time diversion, it's pretty cool.
Altruistic Forensics: BoingBoing's Xeni Jardin reports regularly for National Public Radio's "Day to Day," typically on the kinds of nifty but superficial topics that BoingBoing readers love: new tech at a porn convention, emotion detection gear, 3D digital brain maps, and the like. Her latest set of stories, however, looks at much deeper and important topic: a group called the Forensic Anthropology Foundation of Guatemala, which provides expertise in forensics to groups hoping to identify the remains of people lost to political violence and natural disasters. FAFG does the work that few people can, but all too many people need.
If your only experience of Xeni Jardin is that of a flirty blogger, you really need to read and listen to these stories. This is powerful, meaningful work. The first two stories are now up, and the pieces will continue through this week. Thanks for doing this, Xeni.
Digital Protest -or- Hey Hey! Ho Ho! 1011100!: Despite there being all of about 14 people who actually spend any time there*, Second Life is definitely the virtual world flavor of the year. All sorts of organizations are opening up virtual homesteads in SL, from IBM to the government of Sweden. The World Economic Forum, taking place right now in Davos, Switzerland, is another group with a Second Life footprint. Reuters in-world reporter, "Adam Reuters," has interviewed quite a few of the WEF attendees who have created digital alter-egos, including Arianna Huffington, Peter Gabriel, and Fareed Zakaria.
The security at the real WEF is notoriously robust, but apparently that obsession with security hasn't yet translated to the virtual world: a protester with the group DaDavos waltzed into the WEF area in SL with a big anti-Davos placard. As he was apparently quite polite about the whole thing, no attempt was made to wrestle the avatar to the ground.
* I know there are more than 14. Even Clay Shirky admits that there are more than 14. I kid! I kid!