Memes and MindShare

Thu, 3 Mar 1994 16:58:00 PST

For those fans of the meme idea, here is part of a letter forwarded to me
that may be of interest.

D. Read

..... I've spotted a few
interesting emergent evolutionary dynamics in SimLife, which I'd be glad to
share with your group. I believe that there is lots of other stuff going
on that I haven't noticed. I can talk quite a bit (probably more than
anyone would care to hear :-) about the inner workings and assumptions of
SimLife too.

I'd also be happy to show MindShare, such as it is at that point in time.
As I understand your interests are in cultural evolution, I'll mention here
a little bit about the origins of MindShare... After finishing SimLife, I
had a very healthy appreciation for the power of Darwinian evolution. I
was even more enthused about cultural evolution. Finally Lamarck has his
day... I decided tat I would try and model a society of people, who can
pass memes amongst themselves. These memes would relate to survival in the
environment the people lived in. Sounds like a good plan, right?

Well, the first problem was how to express memes. I designed a language,
with a limited vocabulary, and several grammar templates for making
sentences. However, simulating the language was a bit too large of a
problem to work on in the time frame of developing a game. I ended up
going too far down the "rathole" of generative grammar and natural language
interfaces, and all the other nasty stuff that seems to have stalled the
promised blossoming of artificial intelligence. ....

The language interface
now s much simpler, where communication occurs by passing tokens that
represent prefabricated sentences. The sentences usually have parameters,
such as what object or person is being referred to. But the meaning of the
sentences is hard-coded into the software, and thus the language won't
evolve. The strategy of the game has shifted to requiring the player to
assign "talents" to the population that he or she controls. These talents
produce various goods and services, using the natural resources of the
MindShare world, and the labor of the simulated people (sims). Thus, the
game has become more akin to SimCity, with talents roughly the equivalent of
zones (except that there are about 40 talent types as opposed to three zones).

So what, if anything, evolves in this system? Hopefully the society itself
will grow and adapt to the changing environment as resources become
exploited and the labor pool grows. The way that the sims carry out their
talents will be hard-coded in the software. These algorithms will be
parameterized a bit with suggestions of which resources to use or avoid. I
plan on allowing the sims to pass around suggestions of such
parameterizations. In general, though, MindShare is a game.....

Ken Karakotsios
(408) 268-3815