Parasites and pollen, oh my!

Following on the heels of our great idea I started work on developing the parasitic organism that would rely on passing avatars for transport around the world. Pictured here in fact, is our first little parasite.

The goal of this parasite is to be unobtrusive. Reason being is that I can already here many residents complaining about them. To avoid a situation where a battle cry is called out to thwart my parasites and exterminate them from SL, I'm going to have to implement a few features to try and foster a positive relationship between these creatures and the whole of SL.

One way I hope to make these parasites unobtrusive is to make them shrink... and quite literally be as physically unobtrusive as possible. I say "shrink" because I don't intend for them to always be the smallest prim-size possible. In fact, they can be any size they want -- but when a potential avatar walks by, the parasite will shrink down to a very tiny size as it prepares to lock on to it's target.

They will also make themselves phantom when they are in mid-transport in order to avoid bumping things or bothering an avatar. I hope it will allow them to move freely without interrupting or stalling the free movement of avatars. Which just happens to be a positive thing for both parties.

Lastly, these will be terribly simple creatures in order to minimize complaints that they "case lag." Since they won't move on their own, I can keep their strain on phsyics low and leave room for the ever-important genetics system I hope to implement in all of my creatures.

Now I wonder what kind of unexpected uses and behaviour we'll see from these parasites on a large scale...


At August 02, 2005 12:29 a.m., Anonymous Copper Surface said...

Nice. I'm new to SL but find it's a nice environment to watch algorithms in action. Anyway, I just wanted to suggest NetLogo as a possible tool for flocking experiments offline.

At August 02, 2005 9:41 a.m., Blogger BK said...

Why a parasite? If you want them to be non-obtrusive or beneficial, why not make a symbiont? ;)

At August 02, 2005 11:56 a.m., Blogger Hiro Pendragon said...

Great, more open sensors all around the grid. Do you realize this is very similar to the same way the first Internet worm came about?

It seems like a cool experiment, but can you please keep it only to land where people have opted in? Physics + sensors + active scripts = lag.

At August 02, 2005 2:01 p.m., Blogger Craig Perko said...

It's been more than a year since I was on SL, but back then, this would have been borderline illegal.

I love artificial life more than just about anyone I know, and I certainly explored SL's capabilities on that front, but I couldn't think of a less questionable way to distribute them.

I also couldn't think of anything they could do which wouldn't be flat-out illegal. In order to keep the harpies off your back, you'd need to somehow make these parasites helpful. I couldn't think of anything.

But that was over a year ago. Hopefully, the scripting language has matured, or at least stabalized, since then.

At August 03, 2005 7:53 a.m., Anonymous louis platini said...

Call them butterflies (not parasites). People like them :-)
And let them evolve like the figures in Dawkins book (Blind watchmaker?): let people decide if they should continue to live or not.

At August 03, 2005 2:00 p.m., Blogger Icon Serpentine said...

Certainly valid concerns and wonderful comments everyone, thanks for the feedback!

I completely understand the "lag" issue and am heavily considering it in my designs. It's not my wish to unleash laggy fury on the grid!

Some of my ideas to limit their movement would be to make them "killable" by avatars or as an "opt-in" method, give them access to a list of parcel owner names who's parcels they may safely find refuge in.

As for benefits, I'm not sure yet. I was thinking perhaps instilling a sensitivity for lag which would tell them to constantly seek the sim with the least server load.

I dunno.. suggestions?

At August 05, 2005 12:18 a.m., Blogger Hiro Pendragon said...

Hybernation mode? You could effectively script an near-event-less state that had only a touch event, that a critter could go into if lag is sensed. I think opt-in is your best (and only) method, but these are cool enough where people will WANT to allow them in - maybe have the opt-in value to be an integer - on how many a person would allow on their land. I love the evolve idea... probably you'd have to hard code something to ensure that when one is born, the old one dies (or is returned to you, or perhaps dumps its whole data settings to email / XMLRPC so you can track evolutions)

At August 05, 2005 5:52 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not make them hitchhikers rather than parasites? They will be better accepted if they ask for a ride.

At August 10, 2005 10:57 a.m., Blogger urban_toaster said...

Hey, That's cool! Whatever you do, opt me in! The name's Rabid Penguin.

At August 10, 2005 3:32 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have huge concerns with this, in that someone is already wreaking havoc on my very expensive island with their bs scanners and such.

My sim went from 1100 FPS to an average of -400. I use very little open listening devices, have a few sets of show/hide pose balls out for visitors and generally keep it well maintained.

Why should I pay for your experiment?

At August 15, 2005 12:39 p.m., Blogger Icon Serpentine said...

I like Hiro's idea of a 'idle' state. They would have to be minimized to a single slow scan repeater (5 secs? more?) for nearby av's in a fairly small scan field. Detection could then switch to an active state and yadda yadda.

Death is definitely a part of these organisms -- my idea for opt-in was the ability to easily kill them on touch.

The problem with opt-in is the parcelling of land in SL -- tracking who is in and who's out would be more difficult than simply maintaining a list of sims.

Also, having their ability to travel dependent on a 'yes' response from the passing avatar restricts the free-ranging directive of this experiment too greatly.

See, free ranging on a large geometric scale requires a certain amount of individual directive and necessity. In essence, it requires a level of thought for a group to migrate; one that is beyond what I'm willing to give my creatures just yet -- and could be beyond the scope of power available to SL.

By making "parasites," their movement and survival is dependent on other creatures who do have the level of thought required to move across large geometric spaces. Avatars seem to have that requirement (for the most part. ;) down.

Thus the parasites would move with the ebb and flow of avatar traffic. They can only survive where there is enough traffic passing through and will die staying in one place too long.

I'm glad there is discussion on this topic at any rate. You've all influenced these creatures in some way by talking about it. Hopefully an organism can be born from this -- and many more discussions.

Yay knowledge.

At August 15, 2005 3:59 p.m., Blogger Morgan Mirabeau said...

I'm still very new to SL, but I think this is very cool. When I first learned of the possibilities in scripting, I had similar thoughts to your parasite idea. I'd thought about it more along the lines of a "disease" that would spread when avatars performed certain actions. These could be airborn, or perhaps chat-communicable, or, with all the sex in SL, how about an STD? :)

Of course, this is perhaps the next step from your idea, which other people are concerned about, and rightly so. This could easily be made in to some sort of malicious virus.

To combat the negative effects, perhaps when the "disease" is passed along, it could die, but before doing so report the location of the transfer, the avatars involved, and the method of tranfer to some external database. In this way, you could chart the disease's spread without actually inducing lag, since the disease object wouldn't be persistant. It could also be seen as a way to make a social network chart, akin to "six degrees of seperation".

I can also see others coming up with "innoculations" for the "disease", and perhaps resistant strains evolving from this process.

There are ethical considerations that you've already brought up, such as lag, and perhaps others, such as privacy. However, I'm confident that these concerns can be ironed out and your concept allowed to flourish. Best of luck.

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