“War Is Virtual Hell”: SIMNET

Noted Sci-Fi and Cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling wrote an article for WIRED magazine way back in 1993, relating his first-hand experiences of SIMNET, the predecessor to the now industry standard for real-time wargaming across personal computers: DIS (Distributed Interactive Simulation). Rarely does one get to see his or her fantasies turn into reality during their own lifetime. We truly live in a golden age.

But then again, I’m sure pretty much all of our ancestors felt the same way at some point of their lives (for example at the beginning  of the Industrial Revolution), and felt the exact opposite as they grew older, when the younger generation found innovative and unforseen ways to use the technology that they had invented, leading to unforseen side-effects at an unforseen scale (for example pollution). I’m certain this goes all the way back to cavemen (“Hey, I can use this spear tip to kill other men, not just animals”). And oh, yeah, someone once thought nukes were a good idea (oh wait, apparently that hasn’t changed yet).

Will we live to regret Artificial Intelligence and our dependence on machines? Or will the future be bright (though I doubt that it will be sunny) and flourishing? One can only hope for the latter. Yet, the textbooks say, history repeats itself.


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