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March 1st, 2011

gfish: (Default)
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 12:24 pm
As I have ranted semi-incoherently about in the past, I'm a big fan of the idea of reputation economies. I find them more comfortable, less alienating, and compared with monetary systems the incentives are much better aligned with encouraging what I would like people to be doing -- being interesting and creative without being jerks. There aren't many environments in which reputation economies really work, but they're spreading, and I have high hopes for the future.

Naturally, I spend a lot of time thinking about the ramifications of how you implement such a thing in a large, heterogenous society. The best fictional example I know of is whuffie, which is the term I use for lack of anything better. The book doesn't really go into details, but it's an interesting structure. I'm not sure it would work properly with a simple mind-computer interface. Sure, being able to directly monitor someone's reactions would be a big part of it, but that only measures positive stimuli. I can give negative whuffie is someone is a jerk, or positive whuffie if someone invents something awesome, but I think it still fails the basic janitorial test -- do people get properly compensated for boring, unpleasant jobs like cleaning bathrooms? (Not that monetary solutions are particularly great in this domain!) I don't really notice clean bathrooms -- I just dislike dirty ones. In this case it isn't enough just to give negative whuffie to someone who didn't clean up after themselves. Having everyone scrub the toilet every time they use it would be very inefficient. Some things are best done in digest mode. And even if we were to do that, how much negative whuffie do they get? It would depend on the exact state of the bathroom before they used it, and how do you put an exact displeasure value on the incremental grungification of a bathroom after one use? It's silly.

The only way I can see around this problem is by having the brain implant be able to run counterfactuals when assigning whuffie. It isn't enough to ask how much I enjoy the clean bathroom, but somehow that has to be contrasted with how much I would have disliked it had it not been cleaned. It seems unlikely that this could be done in the concious brain, it would just be too distracting. So we need to be able to run simulations of your brain to see how they react to hypothetical simuli. This is starting to sound like the interface technology in Aristoi, where you could calve off background personalities to go deal with problems online.

The counterfactual assessments need to be time limited, however. It's unreasonable to keep accumulating whuffie for a bathroom that I cleaned a year ago. And at some point, the cognitive burden of millions upon millions of hypothetical scenarios is going to be unrealistic, even if they are being run offline in some subconcious corner of your exo-brain. If the bathroom is very dirty when I clean it, and then someone else tidies up slightly an hour later, they shouldn't reap my rewards, nor should that significantly diminish my whuffie. Now you need to run counterfactuals on if the second person hadn't tidied, if neither of us had done any cleaning at all, and on an entirely simulated scenario in which they tidied but I had never cleaned. I'm willing to grant the ability to do this to most people's satisfaction for a few layers, but no more than that. Hopefully this would only tend to happen in densely crowded areas, where the shear number of people appreciating your efforts would make up for the fact that they have to be dropped off the simulation horizon much sooner than normal.