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Four rules for a better future

More on why gamers will rule the world


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(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Not to be confused with the product testing that happens prior to a video games being shipped, game testing is a way of modeling and simulating real life conditions, and by adjusting and fine-tuning decision-point variables, game designers will have the ability to optimize systems and recommend changes for large-scale implementation.

RULE #1 – Every system can be modeled, game tested, and optimized on a broad scale.

All good systems have built-in mechanisms for checks and balance. The best ones not only keep people honest, but also place reasonable limits on the cost of government. While modeling a system and turning it into an interactive experience with simulated real-life risks and rewards will indeed be challenging, it is still very doable. The part that most people miss is that simulations like these can be constructed, tested, and improved prior to implementation.

As an example, if the U.S. government had game-tested the Affordable Care Act prior to implementation, they would have found hundreds, perhaps thousands of ways to improve the system before hiring all the people and writing all the operations manuals. Game testing systems like this can also be applied to every change in the tax code, social welfare, business incentives, legal changes to the constitution and much more.

RULE #2 – Future technologies will enable us to extend the field of play far beyond the digital world. Whenever an injustice has occurred on an international level, our first reaction is that righting a current wrong should be handled by state-run policing agencies like Interpol or the FBI.

But as with all quasigovernmental agencies, politics, budgets and resources come into play. With the recent rise in human trafficking incidents around the world, officials are struggling to piece together all the data to grasp the big picture of what’s happening. In short, this is an epic problem.

A company called Insecam has emerged as the first large-scale aggregator of over 73,000 unsecured webcams from around the world. If Insecam were to whole-heartedly endorse efforts to stop human trafficking, the number of cams on their network would mushroom to tens of millions overnight.

In just a few years, it will also be easy to visualize a combination of flying drone cams, walking people cams, and drive-by car cams that make their way onto this network, with all of the cameras tied to facial recognition software.

If gamers were given just a few data points concerning sightings of individuals after they were reported missing, or pattern changes in the lives of suspected perpetrators, they could instantly stitch together critical points of intersection, begin building traffic diagrams, and profiles of those in close proximity to the ones being abducted.

If we consider the way Reddit users rallied after the Boston marathon bombing, this is not a far stretch at all. The trick will be to expand it into a global camera network that reaches into even the most remote places on earth. Adding a series of gamification elements to the mix, such as reward-based incentives, either monetary or non-monetary, the pushback felt by human traffickers will be almost instantaneous.

Any trafficker that has their face plastered all over the 6:00 pm news or pushed out to countless millions on some gamer’s hot-issue hotline will not be in business long.

RULE #3 – Game testing is an iterative process requiring continuous ‘leveling up’ to optimize and fine-tune system performance.

One example that most people can relate to will be game testing our current tax code. Though an expansive form of testing may start with just income tax, an expanded version of the test could include everything from sales tax, to estate tax, property tax, special district taxes and much more. The result of this kind of testing may well be one new tax system that replaces all the old ones.

RULE #4 – Future systems will bear little resemblance to those in existence today.

Technology is forcing a natural evolution in the way systems are being designed and operated. But the natural pace of change in most governments is woefully out of step with the pace of what’s happening in the rest of the world. Competition between governments is generally a good thing, forcing everyone to try harder. But the best-run governmental systems in the future will be game-tested prior to implementation and retested, and retested, and retested.

Each new wave of testing will bring about more change, and the natural pace of system evolution will increase exponentially. Future generations will have little understanding of how complex and badly our systems were run in the past.

Final Thoughts

Modelling and game-testing our systems is a cause with epic meaning. Game designers will love the challenge. Game players will enjoy being part of something far bigger than themselves. Politicians will love it because it gives them a logical path to answers. While I’ve purposely glossed over many of the details in implementing this strategy, it remains entirely doable and well worth the effort.

At the DaVinci Institute, we’ve launched a new game design course as part of our DaVinci Coders School. In this context, it’s easy to see how game modeling and testing will soon become some of the most valuable skills in the world.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Am I just giving gamers another excuse for flittering their life away or does this have real potential?

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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