1. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. An option to display times with the 24 hour standard is now available. To change it, go to Preferences > Locale > Language and choose the 'English - 24 Hour Clock' option. If you prefer the 12 hour clock, you don't need to do anything, it's the default.
    Dismiss Notice

Quests and the Intelligence of Hiveminds

Discussion in 'Q&R Index' started by Dragon God, Jul 15, 2019.

?

Do you agree that hiveminds are strategically hindered?

  1. Yes

    3 vote(s)
    75.0%
  2. No

    1 vote(s)
    25.0%
  1. Dragon God

    Dragon God Verified Rapist

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2018
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    123
    In quests, players often vote on the next course of action, and this shapes a story's outcome according to the desires of its active reader base. Before I got into quests proper, I expected that the quest hive mind would be substantially more competent than the average member, and perhaps more competent than its most capable members. After all, each player brings a different perspective to the table, different skill sets, broader knowledge base, more computing power, and if appropriate delegation is done, improves the knowledge acquisition capacity of the collective. However, after reading some quests (specifically quests whose mechanics tried to incentivise competence in the hive mind) I no longer hold this belief.

    The choice of action at each point is usually decided by plurality vote. This has the advantage of making the decision process more fair and more democratic (which I think is something that is unduly privileged in Western culture and may be a bit of an applause light, but that's neither here nor there).
    A major weakness of this is a phenomenon called bandwagoning, when a proposed course of action gains momentum, pulling ahead and due to inertia (and perhaps other social effects) it creates a positive feedback loop which eventually cements the position of that plan as the front runner. Furthermore, people aren't that likely to change their vote (for various reasons, after voting others may not return to the thread before voting ends, making an explicit decision makes the decision more salient and raises the bar of evidence required to change it, etc). Once a bandwagon starts it's often irreversible without QM intervention (which may invoke perceptions of bias, partiality, etc) and due to the nature of the quest, bandwagons are very easy to start (often they're one of the first few plans). Due to bandwagoning, the earlier a plan is posted, then ceteris paribus the more likely it is to be adopted.
    That said, I'm not sure bandwagons are an inherent weakness of hive minds. It seems to me that the phenomenon could be mechanically alleviated. In one of the quests I read by veteran questmaster Rihaku, there was a one hour moratorium on voting (I really think it should be substantially longer) after each update to allow players to discuss amongst themselves. This meant that once the moratorium was lifted and plans were posted, those first few plans were likely to have substantial thought behind them, as it was usually those who participated in the pre voting discussion that suggested plans (sometimes the course of action was decided before voting began). This meant that when the bandwagon effect did happen, it was on substantially better plans.

    However, even in the aforementioned quests, there were some vulnerabilities that I perceived that seem substantially harder to overcome. In short, the hive mind seems to be strategically hindered and weaker at committing to long term plans. I am reminded of how Garry Kasparov beat the rest of the world at chess (my original beliefs about hive minds would have predicted them crushing Kasparov), and I wonder if the above vulnerability didn't have a part to play. Progress in quests is sequential, and the players must make decisions at each step along the way. There is often a goal the players are striving towards. In that sense, quests can be viewed as sequential decision problems. There are often many plausible strategies, and the players may favour different strategies. An explicit strategy is often not feasible as important information is often revealed at each update, so players often don't have enough to go off on, that said, people may have ideas for broad paths they intend to pursue. However, only one decision can be made, and once that decision has been made, certain paths are permanently closed off, but there's no mechanism for the players to commit to a given path. Players make atomic decisions when they should be deciding upon paths, usually operating at the tactical level instead of the strategic level.
    It seems to me that a hive mind made of competent individuals (hive minds largely populated by less competent individuals would have many other problems to deal with, but they're not as interesting as the problems that persist even in the best case scenario) may be profitably approximated by a greedy algorithm. At each point the hive mind makes the best choice of action available to them at said point. The hive mind may be substantially more tactically competent than its average member (assuming the decision process is robust to phenomena like bandwagoning and encourages serious discussion of plans) but it's not necessarily strategically more competent. Unlike individual agents, the hive mind lacks the means to commit to a given plan of action (perhaps not inherently, one could conceive of systems designed to let players commit their votes to given plans, but regardless of any such systems to enable commitment, the hive mind would still have more difficulty in commitment than the median member). In this critical capacity (the ability to commit to long term plans of action), it seems that hive minds are inherently less competent than their median members. The ability to commit to long term plans is an important facet of strategic competence and enables such basic maneuvers as sacrificing short term benefit to reap long term rewards.
    As a result of the aforementioned weakness, I suspect that hive minds are usually less strategically competent than their most competent member(s) (assuming competence is normally distributed). I can't really make a call on whether they would be more competent than the median member. I suspect that would be very dependent on the nature of the task and the competence/skill distribution of individual members (if there's sufficiently non overlapping skill sets/knowledge/competence among the members of the hive mind, then I expect the aggregation of their individual abilities the hive mind enables would exceed its median member).

    Another weakness of hive minds was pointed out to me by u/nohat; the hive mind cannot trust itself to reliably follow any given long term plan. As the individual members of the hive would be aware of this vulnerability, it would set up incentives that biases them away from long term strategic plays (because they wouldn't expect the hive mind to be able to follow through on them). The hive mind being unable to commit to long term strategy thus becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and may reinforce the perceptions of the hive mind being unable to commit to long term strategy in a vicious cycle. When players are individually biased against long term strategy it would manifest as a collective bias, and this may explain the greedy algorithm approach of hive minds as pursuing the apparent best choice of action in the given scenario is easier to persuade the hive mind to adopt. This may manifest as hive minds with suitable communication mechanisms (I suspect this is a big ask, in particular it would require that the best ideas gain currency) being more tactically competent than the best members.
    I wonder if a reputation mechanism would improve coordination of the hive mind. u/ArgentStoneCutter suggested something similar. The mechanism doesn't even need to be explicitly used in decision making. Ideally, by providing members with convenient access to the histories of their votes, the players who were right more often may gain increased social cred and thus louder voices.

    The main objection to the above theory I have is the aforementioned match in which Kasparov faced off against the rest of the world. While Kasparov did win, he admitted that the hive mind gave him his toughest match yet. Perhaps that result was in part a feature of chess (apart from the idiosyncrasies of the game, there was a clear competence hierarchy and folks may have deferred to the judgement of those more competent than them), but I don't know enough to make a call on this?
    Edit: The world team had access to computer assistance. From Wikipedia:
    The World Team also benefited from an organization known as "The Computer Chess Team" founded and captained by Gordon Swobe. This team used distributed computing to analyze each possible line and make recommendations to the world.​

    I feel like I should withdraw my previous reservations in light of the above, but I would appreciate commentary from those more knowledgeable on chess (and those aware of what that level of computing assistance would have meant in 1999).





    Questions
    • What do you think of the hypothesis that hive minds which use plurality votes are intrinsically hindered strategically?
    • What measures do you think could be taken to raise the strategic competence of hive minds in quests?
    • What measures do you think could be taken to raise the strategic competence of hive minds in general?
    • Do you think plurality vote is the best method for making a decision on the path of the hivemind?
      • Why?
      • If No? What methods would you suggest?




    My tentative plans for improving strategic competence in quests is to adopt a three part voting system.
    • A discussion period in which no votes are cast nor plans proposed that lasts several hours.
    • A plan proposal period in which plans are proposed but not voted on (plans can also be discussed and refined further) that also lasts several hours. No plans can be voted on during this period.
    • A voting period in which players rank the plans. Only voting takes place in this period (one could raise the threshold of investment by requiring players to rank all plans, but if a sufficiently large number of plans are proposed this would become cumbersome).
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
    DrStrangeLove likes this.
  2. MissileTeatime

    MissileTeatime By the power of Vaporware!

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2017
    Messages:
    692
    Likes Received:
    1,292
    You should crosspost this to SufficientVelocity and SpaceBattles if you haven't already. I'm interested in the discussion, but I can't be arsed to put in even an eigth of the effort you've already demonstrated. There are more people on each of those sites who are likely to (1) notice, and (2) put in enough effort to be worth the time.

    For quest hiveminds in particular, I hypothesize that keeping explicit track of long-term goals (where long-term is "anything farther out than the result of the vote after this one"), specifically in a manner that all questers can easily refer to (vis threadmark), would make them better at addressing long-term goals. The quests I've read that were decent at this seem to me to have naturally-occuring player-generated churn acomplishing this, but I imagine it could be easier than that.
     
    DrStrangeLove likes this.
  3. Dragon God

    Dragon God Verified Rapist

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2018
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    123
    Sufficient Velocity thread.
    SpaceBattles thread.

    Any mechanics that come to mind? I guess the QM could do it by keeping it in a post for the players, but I'm not sure the QM should be determining the players' goals for them.
     
  4. MissileTeatime

    MissileTeatime By the power of Vaporware!

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2017
    Messages:
    692
    Likes Received:
    1,292
    I'm picturing a threadmarked post. In principle, it could be maintained by a dedicated player with a record-keeper kind of reputation, possibly even out-of-band (e.g. Google doc), but I am picturing it being maintained by the QM.

    The QM keeping it/setting goals for the players is not an intrinsic bad. In quests that have a "this is the end goal of the quest"/"win condition" expression at the start of the quest, the QM is already setting (at least some) goals already anyways.

    Presumably, in my proposed threadmark system, the QM is keeping track of what the players have discussed as long-term goals, rather than only setting them.

    Reference I'm not sure how to word to The Erogamer, which has video game/Skyrim style quests with mechanical rewards attached, some of which are auto-accepted and some of which the players decide on. This seems to me to help the players also keep other long-term goals in mind, or at least think of the long term.

    Likewise Conduit, which (starting after a certain point) has a "stuff that's been happening" tracker in each post by the voting options, which helps people keep track of their own long-term goals in terms of what it tracks.

    ...Basically I'm saying that if you give players any sort of mechanic that tracks something in my sense of "long term", they will play with optimizing it and yell at each other for perceived failure to optimize it. Hmm. That might be "lower level" than you're looking for.



    Another factor would be QM reputation viz quest length and reliability. Lots of trifecta-style forum quests die within the first 20 updates. Before that point, or if you're not updating reliably, there doesn't seem to be any point in true long-term planning -- there won't be any payoff. Once a QM has established a reputation for solid QMing (they're in it for the long haul, they will update and it'll be worth it), long-term planning makes sense to attempt.
    (IF the quest hasn't been screwed over by to much lulzvoting etc, of course.)



    The other thing with trifecta-style forum quests (that is, the kind seen on QQ, SB, and SV) is that the voting is just right smack-dab there in the thread. Most posts in the thread are going to consist of only a vote, which is not very many bits of unique information.

    I wish there were an effective method to move the voting out of the thread. Attempts to move the discussion out of the thread always create barriers to participating in discussion, that in turn generate salt. Having the story and the discussion together is good. Intermingling it with the voting... as I see it, the primary benefit is ease of voting. Specifically, you only have to deal with one thread, there's no external sites, you don't have to wonder if you need vote validation, etc. People who wanted to explain their vote would just do so anyways.
     
  5. MissileTeatime

    MissileTeatime By the power of Vaporware!

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2017
    Messages:
    692
    Likes Received:
    1,292
    Pfft basically I'm thinking of the same kind of thing as u/JusticeBeak so.