Sunday, February 15, 2009

Daemon's bot-mediated reality

In the entertaining and new paradigm-defining ARG thriller Daemon, Daniel Suarez makes some interesting philosophical claims at a broader level. One is that democracy may not be viable in a technologically advanced society. This could be the case, but is more likely to be true due to other tweaked and adjusted political models, hopefully with the support and participation of a larger portion of the population, superseding the special-interest group democracies of today.

Power and counterbalances evolve in lockstep
The claim in Daemon regarding democracy and more generally about a society composed of unmodified humans is that individuals or small groups wield too much ability to destroy. This could be true, terrorism is a familiar current example, where a few people can impact many others, but a more likely possible future is that responses and countermeasures evolve in lockstep with any new power-wielding phenomenon. For example, top-down and bottom-up ubiquitous satellite surveillance, cams and sensor networks are problematic in many ways but a potential counterbalance to terrorism. Another classic example is that a society in which a nanovirus could circulate worldwide and dissolve all rubber tires overnight (a rather dramatic response to petroleum dependency!) might also have the norm of downloading open-source security patches from the web for quick printing via personal nanofab.

Childhood's End theme: bot-mediated reality
A second interesting aspect of Dameon is the exploration of the ‘Childhood’s End’ theme – that humans in their present state are incapable of operating a sustainable society and that order can only be achieved through outside intervention, also that present humanity is just a step in the evolutionary chain on the way to the next tier of intelligence. In Daemon there is a new kind of order which is more distributed and possibly sustainable but not really different in providing a better society for all but just in installing new hierarchies of video game-style leveling–up together with the usual story of enfranchising the disenfranchised, as ascribed by one person. Individual actions are snapshots and disconnected from their import.

Forget Reality TV - nextgen is Augmented Reality TV: botnet replaces Judge Judy, ARG players determine real-life actions and events
New world order in our hands
Daemon is laudable for taking on the grand challenge of envisioning how a new world order could evolve though a mediated narrowly intelligent botnet and artificial reality gaming overlay to the physical world. The key point is that we are already steps away from this world and that the building block pieces are in place now (e.g.; GPS networks, pervasive botnets); it is up to us to determine whether the future incarnation is positive or negative, whether it reinforces or destabilizes current interests and influences and how societal and individual actions are motivated and executed.

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