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Losing a sense of autonomy or control of your day is a huge fear for most people. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is tapping into that horror with what could be its weirdest experiment ever.
MIT’s brilliant engineering teams and developers never shy away from complex problems or radically new ideas. However, this one sounds like it’s fresh off the pages of a Black Mirror script.
Controlling one man to save the world
The new program is called BeeMe, and it gives those watching the ability to completely control every aspect of a person’s day. The project’s slogan doesn’t exactly give a sense of ease, either: “See what I see. Hear what I hear. Control my actions. Take my will. Be me.”
“BeeMe is the first reality augmented game. In times where algorithms make most of our decisions for us, one individual will entirely give up their free will for a day, to be guided by a large crowd of users through an epic quest to defeat an evil AI. Who is in charge? Who is responsible for one's actions? Where does the individual end and others begin?
“BeeMe will redefine the way in which we understand social interactions online and in real life. It will push crowdsourcing and collective intelligence to the extreme to see where it breaks down.”
There is more of a story to this and a goal, according to MIT. MIT Media Lab student Niccolo Pescetelli told Business Insider that participants will have to work together for the human being used in this experiment to succeed against an evil force.
"The event will follow the story of an evil AI by the name of Zookd, who has accidentally been released online,” Pescetelli explained. “Internet users will have to coordinate at scale and collectively help the actor (also a character in the story) to defeat Zookd. If they fail, the consequences could be disastrous."
In fact, working collectively is written into the name. “Bee” implies that MIT Media Lab wants users to work together with a “hive” mindset to succeed in the game.
The extent to which this gameplay allows participants to interact with the actor hasn’t been divulged yet. However, there are hints throughout BeeMe’s Twitter that could give clues.
As of this writing, there seem to be two ways to control the actor via web browser. The first is by writing custom commands like “open door,” “eat breakfast,” and other simple commands. The second way looks similar to Reddit’s upvoting process. Once a command makes it to the top via public votes, the actor will do that thing.
No one knows who the actor is, but the MIT team told Business Insider that it would be a trained actor -- not a random person. The whole experiment is scheduled to last two hours, but there’s room for the audience to make the gameplay longer.
The event will be broadcast online at beeme.online. Currently, there’s no limit for the number of users supported on the website.
Trick or treat? pic.twitter.com/1Dr2Z0JGis— BeeMe (@beeme_mit) October 15, 2018
Other creepy MIT programs
This isn’t MIT researchers’ first foray into the weird and the spooky. In fact, the prestigious university normally does something creepy to celebrate the Halloween season.
In 2016, the MIT Media Lab created the Nightmare Machine. This artificial intelligence system took seemingly normal photos and warped them into unnerving images. As more people contributed to the process, the AI learned more about what freaked people out. Thus, the images got progressively creepier as the program went on.
Last year, an MIT programmer created “Shelley,” a storytelling AI system. The horror-story generator was aptly named for the creator of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. “Shelley” shared its stories both long and short on Twitter, where followers could engage with the AI and give it more prompts for spooky stories.