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Green Simulated City that gets built

Coupling a serious game to the real world
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There are probably many attempts at coupling parts of computer games to the real world. Serious games also allow people to change their minds about new policies, lines of thinking, etc... so they can become very concrete, even though indirectly.

GOAL

The idea is to develop a computer game that simulates the construction of a city. Nothing new so far. Let's call our city 'Viridianopolis'.

The multi-player game continuously evolves, but at given intervals, chunks of it are built in the real world.

The goal is to build a green, sustainable, liveable, futuristic, zero-carbon city from scratch, based on real parameters.

Clean energy is the starting point of everything else.

LOCATION

Say we locate it on the coast of Northern Mauritania [link] - this place, because it's very sunny [link] and especially windy [link] there. You can use solar and wind energy. There's one big wind-turbine and one big concentrated solar power site. But that's it. Other resources in this desert: sand, salt and lime. Sea-water. So you can make glass (just a suggestion) or desalinate water. For the rest, the place is dry, empty. And it's your task to start building with these scarce resources. Obviously, in the real world we will cooperate with the few local people who live there.

The sustainability of everything produced in and traded by the city will be measured by a whole range of parameters (soil, erosion, water and energy use, carbon balance of products and services, etc...).

COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION

Now the crux of the matter is that users get shares in the city, according to their contributions made during its design phase. As they play, they help design the city, and they make interventions that could either last, or be deleted by other users. You can only delete someone else's design or a part of it if your new proposition scores better on the carbon footprint and incomes.

A counter indicates all the carbon-expenses (you can't go above zero) and potential incomes of all actions (you could grow tomatos in greenhouses, irrigate them with desalinated water and export them at market prices; but you could just as well choose to use available resources in another way). All calculations are based on a complete life-cycle assessment of products and services.

You can make an intervention, and run a long-term simulation, based on real data. To see where the balances go.

(Some inputs like labor are not included or taken from a baseline. Other valuations of available resources will be calculated at current market prices.)

Anyways, you see the point.

1. Say you build part of the city as the first user. You get 100 points, points are assigned to the simulated balances (carbon/income).

2. User 2 comes in and proposes a new design that scores better on the parameters. The chunks which he changes, count for his points.

3. User 3 comes in and builds an entirely new proposal, which scores much much better; this then becomes the new starting point.

Population growth is driven by simulations of people procreating in the city, taking real life parameters. (They need food, water, etc...).

As the city evolves, after a given deadline, parts that have reached a virtual 'optimal' level of efficiency (parts that remain unchanged by the vast majority of users, because they are seen as most efficient), are built.

Users who contributed to this part get rewarded, they get a share in this part of the city. For each type of intervention, you get points (it won't be easy to assign points to each action, but could be done). Shares are of course tradeable.

In the computer game, you can't change parts of the city that have already been built in real life. Unless you pay the value of the shares that this chunk represents. This is a constraint that will make the connection between the real city and the simulated city tangible.

In short, the shares allow for a sense of competition, but the game as such is based on cooperation and on clear constraints.

SIMULATION

At very regular intervals, the city's long-term future is projected by running a set of simulations, again based on real-life parameters. This will prove whether it is sustainable.

On the basis of these simulations, players can try to improve on the results, by redesigning parts of the city and its activities - this is the game, a continuously evolving process that should tend towards ever increasing efficiency.

We need someone to put in the starting capital for the wind-turbine and the solar plant (and maybe to build some other firsts). But eventually, the city must become entirely profitable all by itself.

INSPIRATION

Inspiration for the idea comes from a group of people who have been making ice in the desert, by using wind power. They also grew vegetables and melons. There, in that dry but windy desert of Northern Mauritania [link].

Conclusion I'm not entirely clear on the system of shares and on how to assign points and on the feasibility of simulating stuff based on real parameters. It's a bit confusing for the time being. But I'm curious to see suggestions from Halfbakers!!!

django, Jul 17 2007

Viridianopolis http://maps.google....867676&t=k&z=9&om=1
Northern Mauritania is just a suggestion [django, Jul 17 2007]

Sun http://re.jrc.ec.eu...ries/afr/4-gs13.png
Rather sunny place. [django, Jul 17 2007]

Wind http://www.geni.org...ica/Wind/africa.png
One of the best spots on the planet for wind power. [django, Jul 17 2007]

Making ice from water and wind http://www.saharawind.com/testsite.htm
Cool people. [django, Jul 17 2007]

Body Without Organs http://webpages.urs.../bwodefinition.html
BwO, please don't define it. [django, Jul 19 2007]

[link]






       I'm all for well designed cities, but I'm not sure if this is the best way of achieving it.   

       If the game algorithm is sophisticated enough to determine the 'sustainability' of a particular city design, why is any human input needed at all? That is, couldn't you just leave the algorithm to churn through millions of random potential designs to find an optimal solution?   

       Also, things like livability are exceptionally difficult to calculate. What appears a paradise on paper may turn out to be a sterile wasteland in real life. (and a really windy desert would not be my first choice for an ideal city location).
xaviergisz, Jul 18 2007
  

       The problem with simulations is that they cannot incorporate real innovations - they usually work within a set of variables. So a radical idea - say, a Caulerpa farm to provide hog feed - would not be assessable by the simulation unless you could reduce it to a set a variables - and really there is no way to know how to reduce something like that to a set of variables.   

       As regards the model, I think that evolution is a better way to improve things like this. Rather than overwrite a prior model, I use it as a starting point then set my version to compete against the parent. This is done in games like RobotWar where sourcecode is made public.
bungston, Jul 18 2007
  

       What you would need is an online game where users can request specific objects, ie "Hey admin, some guy at MIT just discovered that you can make doodars from whatsits that produce thingamies, please program this into the game as I want to make one".   

       [xaviergisz] The computer would probably conclude that the idea city has a 2km square building with no windows with everyone living in 2m x 1m drawers.
marklar, Jul 18 2007
  

       //based on real parameters// - and what parameters are these?
zen_tom, Jul 18 2007
  

       /If the game algorithm is sophisticated enough to determine the 'sustainability' of a particular city design, why is any human input needed at all? That is, couldn't you just leave the algorithm to churn through millions of random potential designs to find an optimal solution?/   

       Sure, but the game allows users to learn, and they get a share in the city. This share represents real capital, that can be reinvested.   

       Also, users pay a fee to play, and they can make money out of their shares. This should be an incentive for them to play.
django, Jul 18 2007
  

       [django], I like it. I do. If nothing else, getting people more involved in understanding actual input vs. output makes it worthwhile. I think projecting it, as conceived virtually, into an actual physical entity might be a little overly idealistic (actually constructing a city gets a liiiittle spendy), but as a model it presents some intriguing possibilities. One of the difficulities the profession of architecture needs to deal with is the interconnectedness of, well, everything. You can design a zero-carbon footprint building in terms of its functionality, but what was the impact of extracting/producing the steel, concrete, brick, etc. that went into the structure? Or the shipping? How does one building relate to another? Can multiple buildings share mechanical systems? The Dutch are doing that quite effectively, actually, where an entire small city uses the same 'central air' system... But I digress. Your proposal would require some massive number-crunching power for something like a 'game', but I applaud the effort. And who knows... the development of algorithms for dealing with these issues in the context of gamespace could lead to real-world improvements in our existing cities. It seems like you're really into the idea of it becoming an actual city, and I agree that would be cool, but 'just' getting more of us to try to understand where the stuff we use comes from would be huge. In the meantime, here's a bun. Don't eat it all in one place.
gus_webb, Jul 18 2007
  

       I wonder if a concept like this could stay virtual and be incorporated into one of those massive multiplayer Warcraft style universes. I understand that virtual money in those games has real-world money equivalents.
bungston, Jul 18 2007
  

       Great idea. You'd have to make sure the optimal areas you're building work independently of the work in progress though, results might not match the model otherwise.   

       You know, if the model environment did get advanced and accurate enough, you could use it in conjunction with carbon-trading.   

       I see it working as a worldwide testbed for new emissions-reduction schemes, which could then be implemented in reality in order to claim and sell carbon credits in the current global market. Lower emissions could then be demonstrated (with reduced effort?) by modelling the current system and the proposed changes.   

       A way to get more people involved... Institute copyright? In a virtual world, shouldn't be too hard. Instantly everyone has the incentive of being able to sell their scheme, idea, invention or cultural change, able to demonstrate results while concealing technical details. You could end up with a lot of money being ploughed into research for profit, which might produce impressive results.   

       Sorry. Wandered off on a tangent. Love it, though. [+]
cpmcc, Jul 18 2007
  

       Shouldn't this be titled "Green Simulated City that gets built?"   

       I hate to throw down the pedant card and all, but there seems to be a grammatical error in the title...
ye_river_xiv, Jul 19 2007
  

       'Le virtuel c'est le réel, en tant que tel'. 'Real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.' Simulacra, quoi.   

       There is no subject, there is no object, there is only pure immanence and the Body Without Organs!!!
django, Jul 19 2007
  

       Sp.: built
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 19 2007
  

       Oh, I see ;-)   

       Thanks.
django, Jul 21 2007
  
      
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