incentive engineering

I've read (I don't remember where, and I'm paraphrasing) that there's a belief that's arisen since progress was invented, some few hundred years ago, that humanity's natural habitat has not yet been invented. That is, that the ideal environment for human beings does not yet exist, but that we are designing and building it as we move forward through history, and especially with the advance of science and engineering.

Of course as an engineer I find this very compelling... I love the idea that my work is part of a larger human project to understand ourselves and our universe.

This concept leads us right into the field of incentive engineering, which I think of as the intersection of politics, religion, and game design: how do you write the rules of a system in order to encourage certain behaviors?

It's surprisingly difficult to balance a multiplayer game and keep it fun for everyone. There are always hackers or griefers or exploiters, and they are amazingly good at getting around your rules. The best games try to set up incentives against this kind of behavior, or at least try to shield the bulk of their user-base from the most abusive behavior.

Civil society uses an escalating ladder of social pressure, laws, police, and prison to keep things from getting too broken. There's a lot of negative-punishment in that list, and once you're on the punishment track it can be difficult to get off of it. Taking a cue from modern game design, perhaps there's a more positive-reinforcement way of looking at the problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment