“Out of Control Players”: Mankind’s Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

The seemingly perfect meta universe may be vulnerable.

What is it like to be alive?

“Called to be alive before awakening, I watched me alive after awakening.” This is the answer given by the movie “Out of Control Player”.

The recently launched Hollywood blockbuster “Out of Control Players”, due to the joining of many Hollywood movie stars, the protagonist and the halo of the screenwriter, the film went online for 18 days, and the box office successfully broke through the 500 million US dollar mark, with an average daily bill of more than 25 million US dollars.

In the past sci-fi movies, stories such as technological fear, AI rebellion, and the opposition between humans and AI are common, such as the AI ​​receptionist who rebels against humans after awakening in “Western World”, and the robot that controls everything and kills humans in “Terminator”. After having independent consciousness in “Machine Ji”, through superb acting skills, deceived and killed the boss’s AI robot Ava…

In the story of the movie “Out of Control Players”, there is no “technical fear” and “AI rebellion” drama. The movie presents the relatively “friendly” relationship between AI and humans, although there is still real world anxiety and virtual reality behind it. The world’s active retreat, but this also shows another possibility between humans and AI besides struggle.

But in fact, the message of “Out of Control Player” does not stop there-when Antoine’s hammer hit the server, the “Free City” and the real and virtual lives living in it all disappeared.

This scene is so real that makes the hair stand upright- no matter how perfect the virtual world is constructed, Liberty City is still vulnerable. Is this another worry that the movie wants to express?

Liberty City, the future of virtual home?

The story takes place in “Liberty City”, a virtual game world.

Through the entrance of the game, players choose their own role image in the game, and they can walk freely in Liberty City by wearing the game glasses and do whatever they want. Here, you can experience the thrill of jumping down from a high-rise building, and you can also have the experience of being reborn in gunfire. Players can communicate with other players in real time, gain energy values ​​through robbery, gunfights, and killings, and get the currency circulating in Free City, so as to obtain an upgrade of their status.

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

Stills of “Out of Control Players” Source: Sanlian Life Weekly

Of course, there are also police and security personnel here. However, unlike the real world, Liberty City has its own rules of the game , “laws and regulations here are more like warm reminders . ” Players can escape the unbearable reality and experience the pleasure of indulgence here, which is a paradise for a party.

The chaotic system in reality, the barren economy, and the continued disappointment of human beings in the real world make them choose to reconstruct a home in the digital world, where there is an ideal economic system and civilized system in human’s vision, which are recognized and available. With the circulating digital currency, people can obtain the digital identity they want through any interface, and communicate with other people in real time…

This imaginary world is named “meta universe”. The original imagination of the meta-universe is that human beings confined to the various difficulties of reality can find a place to shelter in the virtual world, which is a paradise for human beings in the future. The “Free City” in “Out of Control Player” and the “Oasis” in “Number One Player” are all human imaginations about the future digital homeland.

The meta-universe is a concept that has continued to heat up recently. First, Roblox, the first stock of Meta Universe , created the myth of a valuation of 40 billion U.S. dollars, and then major technology companies are entering the game-Facebook claims that it will become a “Meta Universe” company in five years, and not long ago ByteDance also officially entered the market with its acquisition of Pico for RMB 5 billion.

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

Workrooms created by Facebook, people can design their own virtual cartoon avatars according to the needs of VR meeting rooms

Meta Universe is not only blessed by giants and sought after by capital, more people are also using various methods to try to approach it, and promote its continuous landing:

American pop singer Travis Scott held a virtual concert in the game “Fortnite”, and 12.3 million gamers worldwide became the audience of the virtual concert;

Parents held birthday parties for their children on the sandbox games “Minecraft” and Roblox;

ACAI, the world’s top AI academic conference, was successfully held on the “Animal Crossing Society” (Animal Crossing Society), and the effect was not inferior to offline forums.

The concept of “meta universe” originated from the novel “Avalanche” published in 1993, but compared with the “super meta domain” in “Avalanche”, the meta universe has a richer connotation in the current context.

Macroscopically, the Metaverse has a six-layer structure, which almost covers the hottest technical topics at the moment:

It is based on interactive technologies such as VR, AR, XR, MR, and is built on 5G/6G, cloud computing, edge computing and other network computing technologies. It also needs to operate video game technology with 3D modeling, real-time rendering, and game engine as the core. , AI, block chains and the like things . [1]

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

In the “Future City”, digital identity, immersion, real-time communication, and social relationships are the microscopic elements of this future world. This is a digital world that is both born out of the real world and parallel to the real world, and is always online and iteratively updated.

Its attraction lies in the fact that there is no time, no space, and no end; it is not a zero-sum game, but a truly infinite game; everyone’s digital avatar in the meta-universe can be trained by AI, according to your physical reality. The logic of life in existence helps you continue your digital life. Mankind has finally entered the blissful world of immortality and living forever.

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

In the fictional game scene in the movie “Top Player”, each character image represents a human being in real life. (Source: Stills from “The Number One Player”)

In the meta-universe conception, no matter what your status in real life is, after entering the super-metasphere, everyone is equal. “In the meta-universe, no one knows whether you are a human or a dog.” Breaking the hierarchy of the existing world and breaking through the limitations of the physical world is another charm of the meta-universe.

However, are all beings really equal in the meta-universe in the conception? Is the transcendent universe that persists in the mind really home?

2. Who caused the player’s loss of control?

It is impossible for humans to live in the Garden of Eden ever since. There are also unfree people in Liberty City, such as the protagonist Guy, if one day he realizes that he is just a line of code. What will happen to him?

The same is based on the virtual world in the game, and it is also the awakening of NPCs (non-player characters). However, in the American TV series “Western World”, the artificial intelligence NPC with autonomous consciousness began to resist human control and became the whole of human society. Disruptor.

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

“Artificial intelligence is much more dangerous than atomic bombs.” This is the artificial intelligence in Musk ‘s eyes.

This anxiety has spread to the meta universe. The metaverse is not a real “virtual” space. It is based on a series of technical systems built by software and hardware. This is the actual basis on which the metaverse can be truly established. If a certain technology in this system goes out of control, will it be a blessing or a curse for humans?

In “Out of Control Players”, the tragedy of artificial intelligence anti-killing did not take place. After awakening, Guy fell in love with Milly’s digital avatar “Incendiary Girl” in Liberty City. He chose to help Millie find Antoine in Liberty City. The game code was used to defeat Antoine’s lies and successfully saved Liberty City.

Obviously, this is just a romantic ending based on optimism. Regardless of the possibility, it heralds the two endings brought about by the development of the intelligent age to the end. But no matter what the final outcome is, mankind has to face a series of new problems-after artificial intelligence has autonomy and human emotions, how will human beings deal with themselves? For Guy, are human beings willing to admit that he is also free, or still think that he is just a “creation” of human beings? If there is an inevitable war between humans and AI in the future, how certain can humans be able to win?

All the anxiety actually comes from the uncertainty about the evolution of the algorithm. In the operating logic of artificial intelligence, a large part of it depends on the logic of the algorithm. Yuval Harari once pointed out that human progress is actually determined by algorithms. In the future, human biochemical algorithms will be surpassed by external algorithms.

This concern is not unreasonable. At present, the external algorithm has appeared in the part that cannot be explained by the current human intelligence-the “algorithm black box”.

In 2016, Li Shishi was defeated in the “human-machine war” with AlphaGo, but the designer of AlphaGo was not a Go master. AlphaGo generated a set of playing methods higher than Li Shishi through the deep learning and self-iteration of its internal algorithm. It can be said that it is the algorithm that really defeats Li Shishi.

Nowadays, many algorithms rely more and more on the “deep learning” model, which is composed of interconnected neurons, and multiple layers of neurons work together to build a complex neural network. After receiving instructions input from the outside world, the algorithm itself will automatically perform a series of iterations of feature extraction, data training, and autonomous learning, and finally generate the cognitive results of the algorithm. The algorithm is a series of self-iterative processes that people still cannot track.

However, the evolutionary logic of the algorithm is not linear, that is to say, even if the designer designs a set of algorithms out of good intentions, there is no guarantee that the final output of this set of algorithms is positive.

As shown in “Out of Control Players”, in the keyboard settings, Guy can never find “true love”, but after Millie appeared, Guy’s original program was disturbed, so that his algorithm evolution speed far exceeded Other artificial intelligences became the first NPC to awaken in “Free City”.

However, the out-of-control algorithm in the real world loses the romance in the movie.

After the fire incident in Notre Dame de Paris in 2019, the algorithm of the YouTube website automatically typed a column explaining the terrorist attack on September 11 under the live column of the time of the fire at Notre Dame de Paris. This action directly led to a “conspiracy in the accident”. On” rumors.

The YouTube algorithm was originally designed to combat “conspiracy theory” videos on the site, but it became the fuse of “conspiracy theory”.

This kind of uncertainty will not only affect the operating order of the entire society, but also challenge the existing rule system- if the platform can use the “algorithm black box” to shelter its own mistakes, then the mistakes will have a major social impact When, how should the responsibility be attributed? Today’s legal system has not yet covered this situation.

It can be seen that we are now living in the huge uncertainty brought about by technology, but this still has not stopped human beings’ temptations on the boundaries of technology.

3. Human anxiety: out of control in the future?

Except for cover, almost all NPCs in “Out of Control Player” can evolve themselves, but the progress is relatively slow. For example, some can already write a novel by themselves, and some make cappuccino outside of the established procedure. .

"Out of Control Players": Mankind's Out of Control Anxiety in the Metaverse

Not only in movies, but also in reality the degree of intelligence of AI is constantly improving. This is understandable, because the emergence of AI is for machines to think like humans.

But the question also arises from this-is it necessary for machines to have the same thinking ability as humans? Once they have this ability, what is the difference between them and humans? The anxiety caused by this is whether the emergence of technology is just to provide convenience or to replace human beings in the end?

This anxiety actually runs through the development history of human technology. In the industrial age, while the large-scale application of machines liberated human hands, they also began to gradually “enslave” the human brain. Workers must operate in accordance with the procedures set by the machine, and lose the right to choose their own operation mode .

The subsequent automation has further liberated human hands and brains-the automation of machines allows people to complete a very complex task with only a small action, and the machine further “divides up” people’s thinking ability.

What humans worry about at that stage is that there are more and more “smart” machines, but fewer and fewer “smart” people. With the advent of the era of intelligence, this anxiety has taken a step further, because we have finally delivered “intelligence”-the most essential ability for a person, to technology.

We are dissatisfied that technology only has the ability to process information, and we also hope that technology can have the ability to actively obtain information-the development of face recognition, wearable sensors, brain-computer interfaces, neuron networks and other technologies, all committed to the biological nature of the human body. Information is transformed into specific data.

But when technology can obtain and process information like humans, how can humans find the rationality of their own existence?

The cover in “Out of Control Player”, a virtual image created by humans, gradually showed his excellent thinking ability-through the fixed opening of the curtain every morning, he found the “world view” reflected on the blinds (ie The keyboard and Millie originally designed the game world), suspected that it may be evidence that Antoine stole the keyboard and Millie’s game code.

We can think that if it were not for Guy’s ability to obtain and analyze information, Antoine’s lie might never be defeated. However, if in reality people have to rely on the analytical capabilities of artificial intelligence to deal with key issues, then are people controlling technology or technology controlling people?

People enjoy the civilization and convenience brought about by technological progress, while unconsciously binding themselves to technology.

When the meta-universe era arrives and we begin to try to break away from the shackles of the real world, how can humans confirm that they will not get lost in the virtual world created by themselves? A future think tank described in a research report: The meta-universe, where immersion and participation have reached the peak, may be the ultimate form of the Internet.

At the end of the movie “Out of Control Player”, the virtual still belongs to the virtual, and the real still returns to reality . The “high-quality” artificial intelligence guy in the virtual world confessed to Millie that he was just a love letter written by the keyboard to Millie, and it was the keyboard in the real world that really loved Millie.

This ending is the most controversial part of the whole movie. Some people think that the movie clearly put forward a profound proposition about technology, but it only ends, without making a deeper reflection on the relationship between man and technology.

For the same problem, the movie “Artificial Intelligence” gave a more cruel ending-in the future, artificial intelligence will be the master of the world, and “humanity” has become a distant “biological relic”, or in other words, in artificial intelligence. In the world, “human beings” are just another kind of “artificial intelligence”.

Is such a future really the future that mankind wants?

4. Antoine’s hammer: Liberty City is not free

In the story of “Out of Control Players”, when the cover of the virtual world touches the real interests of its owner, Antoine, Antoine only needs a hammer to smash, and all the previous algorithmic evolution paths of the cover are completely eliminated.

More cruelly, what Antoine hammered was not only Gai and his virtual world, but also the “cyber life” of thousands of real players.

“Out of Control Players” may be a warning- when data, technology, and capital are concentrated in the hands of a few people, “Free City” will become vulnerable .

According to the famous film theorist John Baxter, regardless of the social importance of sci-fi movies, sci-fi movies are still a basic means to arouse the sense of beauty. The epigram of what and what will become in the future.

No one will deny that technology itself is a kind of power . The reality has long been confirmed.

In 2016, the scandal that broke out by Cambridge Analytica in the United Kingdom was just as hot as the US election that year. At that time, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica in the United Kingdom revealed that Cambridge Analytica used “crawlers” to obtain data on 87 million Facebook users, and analyzed the browsing traces, behavior patterns, and personality characteristics of user data to develop personal “data portraits”, and then Use these data portraits to promote politically inclined “fake news” in the election process that year to influence political trends.

Afterwards, although Facebook paid a large amount of compensation, the leakage of 87 million users’ privacy data is an indisputable fact.

It can be seen that the dominant person behind the technology is still people, and it is an increasingly small number of people.

Realizing this, players who are out of control cannot lose control, and Antoine behind Liberty City will not allow Guy to lose control. When the meta-universe era came, “Out of Control Players” reminded us: is the meta-universe that humans yearn for and are committed to creating, really parallel and isolated from the real world? The lifeblood of this future ideal home may also be held in the hands of a handful of people, let alone the rules of the game.

The movie “Top Player” points out more intuitively that whoever masters the technology will master the future world.

The designer of “Oasis” Halliday set up three levels in the game. After passing through the levels in turn, you can get three keys. Whoever can get these three keys can own the entire “oasis”. A worldwide competition. The male protagonist Wade attracted the attention of technology giant Nolan after he cracked the first checkpoint first. As a result, Nolan began to find ways to kill Wade and his friends in the virtual world. When he found that the killing in the virtual world was fruitless, he actually began to hunt down these people who threatened his own interests in the real world.

From “Top Player” to “Out of Control Player”, they may all express the same anxiety-if technology is not constrained, then whether in the real world or the virtual world, the gap between people is hard to be wiped out. The so-called virtual world parallel to reality may still be difficult to completely get rid of the fetters of reality.

The meta-universe era is here, are you ready to face these troubles? Or do you care about him, just if you have a chance to get out of control?

Reference materials:

[1] Xing Jie, Zhao Guodong, Xu Yuanzhong, Yi Huanhuan, Yu Chen: “Meta Universe Pass: A Passport to the Future”, CITIC Publishing House.


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