“Life is a game.” I’ve been thinking lately about how technology needs to make certain statements literal before one can appreciate the metaphor. Prepare for your online activity to be gamified, and your online games to be workified. For many years, Chinese virtual-gold farmers have made real-world dollars for their patrons, and many virtual MMO currencies like Linden dollars have a real-world exchange rate higher than that of actual countries. But imagine an MMO where every problem you solve is harnessing your brain for a dual, and hidden, purpose. Say you’re in a game where you hack a computer to steal money. You may accomplish your goal in various ways. You might write some clever code on your computer-within-a-computer, you might Google for code and chain various API calls without really knowing how the functions work (or how to code), you might perform some social engineering to glean a password. And at the same time you might actually be helping to build useful new software, or doing the nefarious activity you thought was just in fun.
This is the near-future of AI; this is what the Matrix should have explored. Co-opting human minds through computer games may be an older idea than Ender’s Game, but it’s more compelling than ever. The Recaptcha online verification system harnesses your eyes for real-world optical character recognition. Duolingo has you translate documents by way of teaching you a foreign language. The brain can do a lot of things that computers may never do well. And, by the way, you’ve been co-opted even as you read this post.
Whose artificial world do you want to live in? So what if you’re having fun? It’s still your work, your brain power. Someone’s profiting from it. Maybe it should be you.