I have a number of software projects in mind that I lack the skills to develop myself. The first is a very advanced project called the Digital Tao, which was the subject of a paper I wrote for Tallinn U. The Digital Tao is a vision of future automated resource-based economics mediated by Social Capital tracked through Social-Semantic Networking and a common Semantic Desktop platform. Semantic Web technology is bleeding-edge computer science, so it’s probably beyond the scope of things here, but here is the paper for those who want to take a look at this concept.
Next is a concept called Hyperborea; a VR social platform based on a P2P architecture and the use of generic Web data resources.
Because most VR and graphic chat application development is done by people from the computer game industry, it tends to conform to their orthodox notions and as a result typically makes the same set of mistakes over and over again. First, they’re usually based on a notion of monetization through virtual real estate speculation. They think they can make money by create this large collective mass of virtual space they can parcel-out to end users. Ultimate ownership of the real estate of the environment compels a reliance on centralized system architectures, which if the platform becomes popular quickly becomes unwieldy. Third, used to thinking in terms of environments as ‘content’, they overlook the fact that VR is, in fact, a social environment and thus the most important features to end users are not those involved in building and customizing the environment but the creation, customization, and potential expression of avatars. The result of these misconceptions is the ‘ghost town’ phenomenon common to platforms like Second Life where vast areas of uninhabited fenced-off space clutter the virtual landscape while a handful of location dominate in active population, constantly overloading their non-proportionally distributed server resources.
Using a P2P approach, Hyperborea would use client apps to interface to mediate user communication in an environment whose data is distributed across the web using conventional, generic, file/data hosting. And so the environment is potentially as big as the web itself. However, it has no one persistent collective space. Spaces, regardless of scale, exist and persist only according to their active occupancy–according to their social relevance–and the active client programs linking to them. When unoccupied their data is simply stored. And so the Hyperborea VR environment is a kind of multiverse of pocket space that are task-specific in design, can be privately or publically owned, and which pop in and out of existence as actively used. A distributed blockchain-like database, possibly hosted on light servers akin to DNS, would maintain the simple state data of the collective environment; where to link to environments, who’s active and visible, what environments they are in, what the general traffic in different environments is.
Recognizing that VR is a social space, Hyperborea would be heavily focused on the craft of the avatar, its automated behaviors, and the potential for interaction between avatars. It is premised on the idea that VR is a performance space where people ‘perform’ for each other. The monetization model of Hyperborea is primarily the creation of tools for the platform and the independent development of environments, avatars, and accessories, script coding, and discrete environments hosting things like MMO games or exclusive environment artwork and thus employing some kind of paid access. The general platform, however, would be completely open.
The P2P architecture of Hyperborea would be specifically intended to allow the client program API to host bots that interface to the collective environment just like human end-users and have all the same interface capabilities. This is intended to allow the platform to become a research platform for AI. Hyperborea would be the development of a native habitat for AI.
The next software idea I’ve been thinking of is an Open NARS based platform for personality/behavior craft that can be applied to both digital characters (including Hyperborea bots) and personal robots. It would be a graphic based modular programming environment that allows for the creation of behavior trees and learning matrixes to allow people to customize their digital characters and personal robots personalities and behaviors. While some developers are starting to clue into the social nature of robotics and the potential value of robots as companions and entertainers, they have still overlooked the notion the craft of behavior programming as a hobby in itself and attraction to robot use that could expand the value of these robots beyond what any one company could hope to develop by itself. Consequently, most current ‘companion’ robot designs have absolutely no capacity for customization and expansion except at a very low/deep coding level.
The next idea I have is a big one called the Telebase. It would start as a telebase simulator game and then work up to the creation of actual, physical, telebase prototypes on Earth and ultimately their deployment in space. ‘Telebase’ is a portmanteau of ‘teleoperated base’ and is a facility where telerobots of various kinds are used to build and maintain a working more-or-less self-sufficient facility in a remote location–particularly in space. A telebase is like machines playing Minecraft in real life, or as I like to call it, the best model train layout ever–the kind you might one day move into.
Telerobotics is, in fact, the most likely way we are doing things in space in the future. And the telebase is the most-likely kind of facility with which we would pre-settle space in order to lower the cost of pre-establishing the In-Situ Resource Utilization infrastructure to support later manned settlement–if we ever even need it. Ultimately, the only human role is space is to be a solution to telecommunications latency for operating telerobots, which will eventually be obsolesced by AI doing the same thing but being able to travel to space by telecommunications rather than elaborate spacecraft. But in the meantime, there’s a lot of interesting development to do in telerobotics which makes space much more accessible to a broader segments of society and commerce–albeit relying on access by proxy–while also greatly expanding the potential applications of automation on Earth.
And there’s a lot of potential fun in this. A prototype telebase can be like a community model train layout that people access via the Internet. There’s this endless potential for invention and creativity. Bear in mind that the modern computing revolution actually started, at MIT, with the Tech Model Railway Club. Right here on Earth we have this vast assortment of environments that really challenge what robots are capable of and the logistics of deploying them. Right now there is an emergent (particularly in Japan and Germany) but still lesser known area of the RC model hobby focused on scale construction machines. And these models are real robots in their own right, featuring advanced microhydraulics and complex control systems. I look at these and think, this is how machines homestead. What if we actually developed purpose-built robots like this to actually build practical stuff in remote locations with the goal of one day sending them to space? What if we made an open global space program built on these community-created prototype telebases? This is something huge numbers of people could directly participate in–unlike just about everything else in space development right now.