The MIT Media Lab, that internationally-known hub of innovation and experimentation, has a history of exploring new frontiers of creepiness around Halloween. This year’s idea, which sounds (excuse us) horrifying: asking the Internet to control a person. They call it BeeMe.
MIT describes BeeMe as “the first reality augmented game. In times where algorithms make most of our decisions for us, one individual will entirely give up their free will for a day, to be guided by a large crowd of users through an epic quest to defeat an evil AI.”
On Halloween night at 11 o’clock, logging on to the BeeMe web site will give users access to an actor whose every move will be dictated by a Reddit-style voting system. These choices will be limited, and acts of abuse and violence will be prohibited. Users will watch how their choices play out live on the the game’s website. It sounds kind of like that movie Nerve that James Franco’s brother was in.
Outside of the truly stupid, the choices will be up to the users, with the overall aim of defeating an AI named Zookd that has accidentally been released online. Options suggested in a promotional video so far include benign choices like “make coffee,” “open the door,” or “run away.” But one assumes the choices will become more interested as the game goes on.
“Internet users will have to coordinate at scale and collectively help the actor (also a character in the story) to defeat Zookd,” Niccolò Pescetelli, a postdoctoral associate at the Media Lab who specializes in individual and collective decisions, told Business Insider. “If they fail, the consequences could be disastrous.”
The game’s Twitter account, @beeme_mit, is littered with inspirations for the game. It references sources as varied as French sociologist Emile Durkheim and the Black Mirror episode “White Christmas,” which features a dating coach doubling as an exhibitionist.
In years past, MIT has created the Nightmare Machine, which promised to spook-ify any picture submitted. Similarly, BeeMe promises to confront users with the consequences of their actions. The best result, probably, is that it stirs enough tension and questions about the interaction between humanity and technology to be interesting, but not so much that it elicits behavior that anyone will regret.