Algorithms: Rules of the Game

A Polyculture of Interacting Algorithms

Before beginning this section, it may be helpful to orient to a desired, if radical, framework for what is being discussed. Numerous algorithms are posited, but none are yet built or tested (to be clear). Currently there is a panoply of algorithms which may critically contradict. Let this be for now, like a paradox. Because a core notion here is that the algorithms would overlap complexly, unpredictably, just like in an ecosystem… with numerous algorithms triggered or operating at once, the actual apparent outcome (the “event” on the user’s screen) is co-determined, with algorithms simultaneously amplifying and canceling out one another’s results, mixing/blending in their ultimate effects. The chaos implicit in whatever outcome does appear on a user’s screen is actually considered a desirable effect, as it mimics our experiences of encounter (wondrous, mysterious, often serendipitous) in natural, wild realms. Here, we’re invoking a polyculture of algorithms, co-influencing outcomes, most of which (non-Constitutuional ones) members can freely interact with and configure autonomously, like going under the hood and modifying the vehicle’s engine. The magic or chaos innate to a “polyculture of interacting algorithms” may be considered as part of the wonder of the platform games themselves—that no one, neither CEO or head platform programmer, can 100% dictate your user experience, nor could they even fully know what is going to happen next in your user experience.

Innovating (and cross-calibrating) the algorithms = Improving game playability and raising rewards

As was discussed in Singular Path: Self-Actualization, Cosmos’ value proposition is that it provides a highly flexible/customizable, but also built-from-our-best-thinking framework, or container, upon/within which the fulfillment of human potential flourishes. “Our best thinking” is constantly evolving because the system is continuously learning from itself. This “best-thinking” framework would be iteratively, elegantly designed of feedback loops for organizational, group and individual learning; there’s minimal-to-no “wasted energy” in the system, in part through a process of the platform and user adapting to each other reflexively and as quickly/smoothly as possible. Human realization can flourish in this framework because we are putting the power in every user’s hands to creatively define their experiences and results–and, to the extent the platform does not or cannot accommodate them, the opportunity to construct their own custom configurations: whether that’s in the realm of their attention feed, spaces they inhabit, friends and collaborators they spend time with, applications/plug-ins they use, etc. This is accomplished not just by tweaking the system’s “on rails” settings, but by building on top/within it, oftentimes through collaborating on desired features as articulated via user stories/proposals, desire lines, or “pain points” (all of which are types of feedback).

The ultimate set of algorithms is what governs gameplay. Within game play you have fixed rules (constitutional—which lend stability to the “frame” of the game) and variable rules (playbook—templates/patterns for using the game optimally [like: strategies and methods] that are customizable & easy to innovate/build upon through engagement). The total combination of constitutional (relatively-fixed) and user-informed (relatively-variable) settings at any given point constitutes the body of rules , enabling and constraining certain types of gameplay (see: Constitution and Playbook, Generative and Limiting Feedback loops/algorithms, next).

Exercising discernment and making the right choices as to what rules are “fixed” (structural)* (I.e. located in the Constitution) and what rules (or range of possibilities) are “flexible/modular/variable” (I.e. Playbook) is important to the systems design. *Not to say they can never be changed, only that the cost/investment to change them is substantial enough that they remain relatively “fixed.” And, too, perhaps there’s no “right” choice, but there are “optimal” or “of-our-best-thinking” choices.

The right balance between control and freedom must be struck. Mistakes in this regard—if unnoticed and uncorrected—could have catastrophic effects in each or any of the three “tripod legs” of the system:

  1. Improper calibration of the economic/financial algorithms, and Cosmos could bankrupt itself (e.g. by allocating too much money to the liquid Litcoin and then experiencing a “run on the banks.” Or by generating bloated retained capital (and inappropriately constraining control thereof) so the system’s “life energy” only trickles around, resulting in painfully slow development of features or meager service of members’ needs. We should carefully examine who we serve, what folks are willing to pay (and for what), our capacity to meet those needs, how many folks we therefore need to reach “scale,” and how Litcoin can be programmed, all for maximal circulation of capital among vested members.
  2. Improper calibration of the social/community systems —this is a vast field of risk, reliant on human intelligence & sensitivity to feedback loops to keep healthily balanced! What rules (or norms/standards) for how we interact are appropriate to enforce at the constitutional level, versus what freedom for self-expression can we afford to let members develop for themselves? What basic community rules or practices create a structurally-sound container for diverse and wide-ranging interactions? What are the costs and benefits of encoding certain norms as systems-wide standards for “appropriate” behavior? What are the costs of not making norms explicit, of not fostering participants to attain success in practicing certain cultural pillars? How are escalating conflicts handled? Etc.
  3. Improper calibration of the technological algorithms can also result in multiple, compound difficulties. So many choices become effectively embodied in the technological structures; this is at least as complex a field (and deserving of the utmost of careful human attention) as the social/community systems. One key aspect of this concern is user experience : for all Cosmos’ added complexity (added freedoms), if the user experience/interface is not highly-integrated and effective—if it results in more frustration than joy/happiness—then this represents a critical risk affecting Cosmos social AND economic systems, as well. So far, we’re promoting the complexity and customization of Cosmos as a feature—but if it costs a user copious time, energy and study to adequately learn Cosmos’ systems, then the potential benefits of the system will be forfeited by users who simply quit bothering.

See the interdependent loop here?

  • Social capital circulating and growing funds/fuels economic systems

  • Economic systems growing funds/fuels technological systems/capacities growing

  • Technological systems growing fuels the potential fulfillment of economic and social capital across members

Such interdependent loops can be gamified, whereby the users and the system places “bounties” on the fulfillment of certain ideal potentials. Users collectively strive to furnish the resources to reach that potential. Getting to fulfillment of that potential is like “leveling up” in that one regard, perhaps resulting in the issuing of a new version of that thing, featuring increased benefits and reduced bugs. Collaborating with specialists from across the Cosmosphere, examining the interacting algorithms across the platform’s organizational, technological, sociological, cultural and economic systems, a committee would define a cross-calibrated “best guess” for “overall leveling up goals” in the form of a feedback loop that is postulated to raise the entire system up . This may involve just a “weaving together” of goals autonomously articulated already in various departments of Cosmos. The result would be a complex goal, consisting of multiple granular components, theorized to be “the next maturity level” for Cosmos “to reach its full potential.” These components can be fulfilled nonlinearly, but once “leveling up” finally touches ALL implicated systems, an entirely new “version” of Cosmos would be announced and celebrated, with new badges, perks, and benefits “unlocked” and available instantly to all users throughout the system (e.g. reduced membership costs, new “seats” for more users opened up, new features and capacities, more paid jobs, etc.). Members would participate in defining, resourcing—and eventually benefitting from–the “leveling up” terms. (See more about this in Leveling Up and Leaderboards).

Now that we’ve considered how Cosmos would approach gamification and the goals of gamification in the abstract, let’s dive into the next level of detail, into how the system would functionally provide tools, utilities, and services in a progression-oriented gamified framework. Read on for some proposed examples of Constitutional (governing) and Playbook (user-customizable) algorithms in the system, followed by a proposed framework for the co-informed, tangible products, services and utilities provided through the platform.

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