Would you let strangers dictate your actions within a virtual reality if you knew you’d be safe? This Halloween, MIT did just that. Their social experiment called BeeMe began at 11 pm ET on October 31st and lasted for a little over an hour.
In the course of the game, the Internet users controlled the actions of a real-life person who had to stop a fictional evil AI entity called Zookd. The commands given to the actor could’ve been anything that wasn’t illegal or endangered the well-being or privacy of the actor. The players voted on the commands, and the player complied with the ones that gathered the most votes. Spoiler alert – Zookd was defeated. You can catch a glimpse of what went down on the Halloween night in the video below the article.
A carefully controlled social experiment or a glimpse into the future?
MIT is by no means the first to organize an experiment where a group of people controls the actions of a single person. However, given the impact of technology on our lives, BeeMe is arguably far more reaching than its predecessors. The fourth wall is smashed as a single person surrenders their free will to the rest of the world to save humanity.
This is not the kind of “Choose Your Own Adventure” most millennials grew up with. And yet… The aim of BeeMe was to “shed a new light on human potential in the new digital era.” This implies that the people behind the project have a pretty good idea about the challenges facing human interactions today.
The line between the real and the virtual is getting more and more blurry with each technological innovation. By partaking in BeeMe, Internet users showed that they are willing almost to erase that line completely.
Breaking the 4th wall
So is BeeMe the beginning of an end of the fourth wall? There are indeed arguments for and against that, and they’re pretty relevant. Just look at the popularity of the “Black Mirror” TV series! However, BeeMe was, for all its intents and purposes, a carefully controlled lab experiment.
The high degree of control made it safe for the actor, but it can also be argued that it limited the possibilities for other players. So it’s hard to estimate the extent of its implications at this stage. We eagerly await what MIT has to say about Halloween of 2018 – and we can’t wait for 2019!
YouTube: MIT’s Black Mirror-esque ‘BeeMe’ Experiment Will Let You Control Another Human on Halloween Night (b/60)
Photo credit: The feature image “Elmo” has been done by Mark Sebastian.
Sources: Niccollo Pescetelli (MIT) / Shannon Liao (Verge) / BBC / Dave Mosher ( Business Insider) / Newsforkids.net