Glory. An American Civil War game by GMT. Photo: en.wikipedia.org
A few days ago, conversation turned to the interesting possibility of instantiating an unsolved problem as a computer game. The idea was that good play, in the game, would map one-to-one onto increasingly better solutions to a difficult problem. To take a example that is possibly outlandish, imagine somehow creating a computer game that was the direct equivalent of an NP-complete
problem, so that when a player won the game, they would have effectively solved the problem; for example, they might have produced a minimal solution to the Travelling Salesman Problem. Players around the world could engage, perhaps unknowingly, in solving interesting questions. The difficulty of course is in finding, or creating, a one-to-one mapping between a game and a problem.
But then the conversation turned to a possibility which, once raised, seems so blindingly obvious that one must assume that it is already being done. It is this. “Big Military” intend to launch a campaign in the near future. They know the terrain over which battles will be fought, they know the likely supplies that both they, and the enemy, will have and Big Military have had their computers simulate a host of possible scenarios for the impending war. But, they don’t know whether their computer has explored all the “solution space” that a human might examine. So they create a Reality War Game and launch that on the world. Secretly, of course. Gamers play the game over the Net just as they would any other game. The difference between your genuine game and this one is that the military not only designed the game, they run the hub as well, and analyze all the traffic. And the innocent gamer gets to help them out, perhaps even buying the game and inadvertently funding a war against their own country.
Contributors: Mark R. Diamond, Angela O’Brien-Malone
A row of colourful shopping trolleys. Photo: en.wikipedia.org
I described a simple improvement to supermarket service. An additional feature that could be incorporated into the front-of-store terminal would be a means of downloading the location information into a hand-held device such as a PDA or mobile telephone. One could also have shopping list information in the PDA uploaded to the supermarket terminal for checking and matching against a map of item locations.
Contributors: Mark R. Diamond