Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
A part of the "My Hobby" series, this describes a distributed computing network using an automated system to simultaneously run trillions of Tamagotchis. As with most of the "My Hobby" series, the concept would work, and is closely connected to real world activities, but twisted enough to make it inherently absurd.
A Tamagotchi is a keychain-sized virtual pet simulation game from 1996. Ostensibly for children, they had appeal for people of all ages. The characters are colorful and simplistically designed creatures based on animals, objects, or people. Beginning with the 2004 Tamagotchi Plus/Connection, a second wave of Tamagotchi toys emerged, featuring a different graphic design by JINCO and gameplay which elaborated upon the first generations. However, the story behind the games remained the same: Tamagotchis are a small alien species that deposited an egg on Earth to see what life was like, and it is up to the player to raise the egg into an adult creature. The creature goes through several stages of growth, and will develop differently depending on the care the player provides, with better care resulting in an adult creature that is smarter, happier, and requires less attention. Gameplay can vary widely between models, and some models, such as TamagoChu, require little to no care from the player. Tamagotchi has a shrinking fan base.
Distributed computing is a field of computer science that studies distributed systems. A distributed system is a software system in which components located on networked computers communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages. The components interact with each other in order to achieve a common goal. Examples of distributed systems vary from service-oriented architecture based systems to multiplayer online games to peer-to-peer applications. Distributed computing is often used for tasks that require resources which would otherwise be impossible or prohibitively expensive to manage with single computers. This may include large Bitcoin network mining operations, the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid or, yes, running trillions of simultaneous Tamagotchis using an AI protocol. That said, using AI to keep trillions of Tamagotchis perfectly taken care of is a complete waste of time; the whole point of Tamagotchi is the challenge of caring for the digital pet yourself.
"The Singularity" in the title text refers to the technological singularity; a concept prevalent in science fiction and discussions of artificial intelligence (AI). The idea is that AI would become so sophisticated compared to a human brain that no human would be able to predict its behaviour, motivations etc. from that point onward, and potentially human history after that point would therefore become unpredictable, as AIs would play dominant roles in determining its direction. It uses the metaphor of a mathematical "singularity", which is a point where established rules can no longer apply (for example, in a black hole or during the Big Bang, physical conditions are such that the physical laws we use can no longer meaningfully predict what happens). An AI that is more sophisicated than a human brain could presumably then simulate human brains within itself, making it possible to upload human consciousness into a machine-simulated environment (see simulated reality and the simulation hypothesis). Thus, much science fiction that is based on the idea of The Singularity also focuses on the creation of a virtual world that much of the human race decides to plug itself into, much like the Tamagotchi Hive that Randall has created. Randall's mind, and the processing power in his computer, is far greater than any individual Tamagotchi mind, so simulating Tamagotchis becomes trivial for Randall, and no Tamagotchi could predict or control its own history with Randall around, in a humorous analogy with the Singularity concept.
- My Hobby
- [A tree graph of Tamagotchis.]
- Running a massive distributed computing project that simulates trillions and trillions of Tamagotchis and keeps them all constantly fed and happy
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mShould we have a "My Hobby" category? 126.96.36.199 14:14, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- You mean like the My Hobby category? Yes, that would be a good idea. 188.8.131.52 14:39, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
This explanation should probably include a reference to the Matrix. --184.108.40.206 14:29, 3 July 2015 (UTC)p
- Most definitely. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Which should also reference the Title Text's modern usage of the term "Singularity". The Matrix (for humans) would imply a relatively large step _beyond_ the Singularity, as surpassing the capabilities of one human mind does not necessarily impart the capacity to simulate full sensory information for thousands of them. I believe the joke there would be that a Tamagotchi Matrix would be trivially simple as compared to one for humans. Therefore the Singularity has arrived for Tamagotchis, while our own complexity remains rather far beyond the capacity of large-scale distributed computing platforms. 18.104.22.168 15:03, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
Only Randall Munroe fantasizes about creating a legion of digital, mutated woodland creatures.22.214.171.124 14:34, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- I could not disagree more. The popularity of PocketMonster digital games speaks to the broad appeal of such fantasies. 126.96.36.199 15:03, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
The singularity reference is worth explaining: The Singularity is a frequent trope in Science Fiction stories that postulates a time when AI technologies become all-pervasive, often alongside ubiquitous computing. This can include a situation where human minds can be uploaded into AIs, effectively running as simulations within these large distributed computers. 188.8.131.52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Can someone please elaborate on then significance of "singularity" in the comic? Sure, "the implication is that the author takes care of a population of virtual creatures rather than an AI ruling over the human population" but what has singularity got to do with this? Pacerier (talk) 18:44, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
- Actually "The Singularity" only means that an artificial system has grown in complexity beyond our ability to understand or predict it; In many ways this has already occurred. 184.108.40.206 15:07, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- I always thought 'The Singularity' was misnamed, anyway. In the way it is commonly used it is more like 'The Event Horizon'... Not that this has anything to do with the comic, but perhaps worth a side-note, anyway. 220.127.116.11 19:35, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- The way I get it "singularity" it more about AI improving itself in a positive-feedback loop and gaining (near)infinite processing power in a finite time. One of the related themes is that since whatever emerges from that will have infinite amounts of processing power, it may take to simulating human brains, in vast amounts, just for fun or for some purpose - the joke here, as I understand it, is that since tamagotchi brains are significantly less complicated, it's already possible for us to simulate vast amounts of them, for fun. So from the tamagochis' point of view it's pretty much like the singularity is already here and we're it (the slight difference is we're not evolved from AIs made by the tamagotchis, but other than that detail, yup pretty much like the singularity).--18.104.22.168 22:35, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- The so-called-Singularity' point for AI is apparently where the AI crosses the line of dominance and inexorability. So, yes, that's an 'event horizon', I'd say. 22.214.171.124 03:14, 4 July 2015 (UTC)
- I agree with this definition of singularity (the positive-feedback loop of self-improving AI reaching the point where it is gaining apparently infinite improvement in any human-measurable time), and disagree with the idea that it implies anything about AI taking over or simulating human brains. The joke (as I see it) is that the AI that is optimised to manage trillions of emulated Tamagotchis will start along the same self-improvement path as other, contemporary AIs but will at some point decide that it is pointless improving itself further. Or will purposefully cease improving itself out of the sheer horror of contemplating its rapidly expanding mind-space filled with gazillions of Tamagotchis... 126.96.36.199 08:35, 6 July 2015 (UTC)
- No no no no, re: the definition. "Singularity" is a mathematical point where you can no longer make meaningful predictions - this is the metaphor that is being used. The singularity of a black hole (or the big bang) is supposed to be unknowable because the physical laws we understand in normal situations can no longer be applied. This is a separate (and unrelated) concept to the "event horizon" - I think they're being conflated here. If you're beyond the event horizon, you can still model, predict and understand whats going on around you. If you're at the singularity, you can't. So the metaphor of the technological singularity is just that AI will grow so complex that we will no longer be able to predict its behaviour (ironically, the concept of "The Singularity" then proceeds directly to a prediction of its behaviour; i.e. that therefore it will reproduce itself en masse and become capable of manipulating events to effectively take over the world and control history from that point onward). 188.8.131.52 01:02, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Someone needs to get on this and create a BOINC project or something. In all seriousness though, I wonder how many Tamagotchis you could simulate at once on the average home computer. Saklad5 (talk) 14:55, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- First you'd need to actually make a 100% accurate Tamagotchi Simulator/Emulator. There's a Tamagotchi P1 (original 1996 model) simulator that exists out there but it's of unknown provenance, touchy and probably (I wouldn't know for sure since the code isn't available) inaccurate. Likely the best way to at least determine the behavior of a Tamagotchi on the low level would be to decompile Namco Bandai's discontinued free Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. android app, which has a Tamagotchi P1 Simulator mode. One would assume, being the original developers, they can create a 100% accurate simulation. Having that code to refer to, one could probably eventually code an accurate simulator. 184.108.40.206 19:37, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- See [] - Tamagotchi chip programming has already been reverse engineered. 220.127.116.11 20:03, 7 July 2015 (UTC)
I'm very tired, and have been looking at something complicated for a long time - so may be seeing patterns where there are none - but is Randall satirising Google here? Bish (talk) 22:34, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
- Saying that you may see patterns where there are none you link the output of a machine that sees patterns where there are none. Well done, have an Internet. Matega (talk) 11:52, 4 July 2015 (UTC)
Can someone explain the reasoning behind the last part "and keeps them all constantly fed and happy"? Is it to counter past digital suffering? The real world? Personal reasons? I don't get it at all. 18.104.22.168 14:35, 5 July 2015 (UTC) 22.214.171.124 14:38, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
- You're making it way too complicated. Keeping the digital pet healthy and happy is just the point of the game. Providing a challenge (albeit a minor one since it's a very simple game) to the computer is the point of the exercise. Just simulating them and letting them die would be easy as hell, a matter of running a number of processes at once and then ignoring them. You're being way too philosophical about this, your question is something along the lines of "Why program a chess playing computer to win?" 126.96.36.199 20:29, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
- Noting that The Matrix (with its obvious parallels here) was allegedly made imperfect because the humans living in the early iterations of the 'perfect world' started to rebel against the unbelievable perfection. How long until the Tamagotchi start doing this? So we need to reprogram our array to keep them not so constantly fed and happy, to avoid rejection. And then, at some point(s), TamaNeo... 188.8.131.52 09:15, 6 July 2015 (UTC)
Can someone make this? Along with specs for the virus aquarium? K, Tnx. --184.108.40.206 06:02, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
- If I didn't have a bunch of other projects I should be paying attention to, I would. As I said above (I really need to make an account >.>) creating a Tamagotchi Simulator would probably involve decompiling and analyzing the android source code to the Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. app, and then coding a simulator based on it. Which shouldn't be particularly difficult, given the relatively simple game logic. 220.127.116.11 20:29, 5 July 2015 (UTC)
- Someone's did it, http://tamahive.spritesserver.nl/ 18.104.22.168 03:27, 22 November 2015 (UTC)
- Nice writeup at http://hackaday.com/2015/11/24/building-the-infinite-matrix-of-tamagotchis/ Codehead (talk) 15:38, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
- Also . 22.214.171.124 07:19, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Every other explanation I've ever seen of The Singularity conflicts with this one. This one indicates computers becoming intelligent enough to take control, like with The Matrix or the Terminator movies, which makes it a rather negative thing we should want to avoid. Every OTHER explanation I've seen paints it as something to look forward to, describing The Singularity as being the point when computers become sophisticated enough as to allow humans to transfer their consciousness into a computer, thus extending our lifespans theoretically infinitely (an example of this version would be one particular episode of Big Bang Theory, in which Sheldon calculates that he will not live long enough to see The Singularity, and laments this). I believe past xkcd comics have likewise used this version. - NiceGuy1 126.96.36.199 06:16, 14 February 2016 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. NiceGuy1 (talk) 06:17, 9 June 2017 (UTC)
- There are a number of sci-fi concepts conflated together when people talk about "The Singularity". Technically, the Singularity is the point at which the behaviour of AI becomes so sophisticated (relative to a human brain) that we are no longer able to predict it's behaviour, motives, etc. Thus is could then dominate history from that point onward in such a way that we can't predict anything that happens afterward (quite frankly, I think it is a pretty silly idea that makes some grandiose assumptions about the nature of intelligence, and is usually written by people with little idea of how history has proceeded in the past, but it is an interesting source of sci-fi stories at least). This is often combined, in sci-fi, with the ideas of "post-humanism", where people link themselves into technology to a degree that fundamentally changes what "the human experience" is. One manifestation of that is the idea that everyone will link themselves into a virtual reality and history will effectively end via a different method (the logic is that if you have AIs capable of outsmarting human brains, then you have AIs capable of containing sim,ulated human brains within themselves, hence: virtual world). Whether or not the Singularity is good or bad is irrelevant - the point of the metaphor is just that it is *unpredictable*. "Blindsight" by Peter Watts shows a future where the Singularity is disturbing and probably bad overall. The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, in contrast, show a future where the Singularity is overwhelmingly good, and in fact the machines help us to achieve galactic communism. So the bad/good aspect of it just depends on what kind of novel you feel like writing. For a third perspective, check out Kim Stanley Robinson's "2312"... he is skeptical of the concept of The Singularity, and his super-sophisticated AIs impact humanity in quite a different way.188.8.131.52 01:09, 10 March 2016 (UTC)