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MIT is launching a dystopian internet game on Halloween called ‘BeeMe’



beeme internet social experiment halloween hands mit media lab
scene from the trailer for “BeeMe,” an MIT Media Lab social

BeeMe/MIT Media

  • MIT Media Lab is hosting a
    mass online social experiment on Halloween at 11 p.m. EDT.
  • Called “BeeMe,” the goal of the “dystopian game” is to
    let participants control an actor and defeat an evil artificial intelligence
  • Internet users will program the actor by crowdsourcing commands and
    then voting on them.
  • BeeMe’s creators say they want the project to stoke
    conversations about privacy, ethics, entertainment, and
    social interactions.

This Halloween, the creepiest event to attend might be a mass
online social experiment hosted by researchers at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

MIT is famous for churning out some of the world’s top engineers,
programmers, and scientists. But the university’s Media
Laboratory is increasingly known for launching experimental
projects in October that are designed to make us squirm.

In 2016, researchers at the MIT Media Lab created the
artificial-intelligence program Nightmare Machine, which
converted normal photos into into macabre images. (The results
predictably creepy
.) Then in 2017, a researcher made AI
software called “Shelley” that learned how to write its own
horror stories. (These were also creepy.)

This year, members of MIT Media Lab are taking their desire to
freak us out to the next level with a project called “BeeMe.”

BeeMe is described in a press release as a “massive immersive
social game” that aims to “shed a new light on human potential in
the new digital era.” But it also sounds like a
choose-your-own-adventure episode
of the show “Black Mirror.”

“Halloween night at 11 p.m. ET, an actor will give up their free
will and let internet users control their every action,” Niccolò
Pescetelli, who studies collective intelligence at MIT Media Lab,
told Business Insider in an email about BeeMe.

Pescetelli added: “The event will follow the story of an evil AI
by the name of Zookd, who has accidentally been released online.
Internet users will have to coordinate at scale and collectively
help the actor (also a character in the story) to defeat Zookd.
If they fail, the consequences could be disastrous.”

How MIT will let you control a person

beeme internet social experiment halloween mit media lab
screenshot from the website for “BeeMe,” an MIT Media Lab social

BeeMe/MIT Media

The project’s slogan is: “See what I see. Hear what I hear.
Control my actions. Take my will. Be me.”

The full scope of gameplay is not yet public. However, BeeMe’s
social media accounts and promotional materials reveal a few key

The person being controlled will be a trained actor, not a random
person off the street. But where that actor will be located, how
long the internet will exercise control of their body, and to
what extent they will follow through on crowd-generated commands
is unknown.

beeme internet social experiment halloween vote command mit media lab
scene from the trailer for “BeeMe,” an MIT Media Lab social

Media Lab

Participants will control the actor through a web browser, in two

One is by writing in and submitting custom commands, like “make
coffee,” “open the door,” “run away,” and so on. The second way
is by voting up or down on those commands, similar to the system
used by Reddit. Once a command is voted to the top, the actor
will presumably do that very thing.

This appears to be the origin of the word “bee” in the project’s
name: Internet users will have to act collectively as a “hive” to
progress through the game.

BeeMe’s Twitter account shared an eerie teaser video of the
game on October 15.

“Many people have played an augmented reality game, but BeeMe is
reality augmented,” Pescetelli said in a press release. “In BeeMe
an agent gives up their free will to save humanity — or perhaps
to know whether humanity can be saved at all. This brave
individual will agree to let the Internet pilot their every

It seems likely the whole event will be broadcast live — possibly
on YouTube, based on BeeMe’s teaser footage.

Why the researchers created BeeMe

beeme internet social experiment halloween message mit media lab
screenshot from the website for “BeeMe,” an MIT Media Lab social

BeeMe/MIT Media

The BeeMe project quietly went public in May 2018, when it joined
Twitter as @beeme_mit. The tweets posted by the
account appear to capture some of its thinking and evolution.

One tweet quotes philosopher Marshall
, who famously wrote in 1964 that “the medium is the
message” — meaning that any new way to communicate influences
what we say, how we say it, and ultimately what we think.
McLuhan, who lived until 1980, is described by his estate as “the father of communications and
media studies and prophet of the information age.”

The account also references other visionaries, including
analytical psychologist Carl Jung, social scientist
Émile Durkheim, and biologist
Charles Darwin.

“[In] the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those
who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have
prevailed,” BeeMe tweeted in August, quoting a
famous saying of Darwin’s (and likely as a tip on how to win the

Another tweet highlights a shocking act of performance art called
Come Caress Me,” created in 2010 by
Amir Mobed. In the installation, Mobed stands before a huge
target with a metal bucket on his hed, and volunteers are led
into the room to shoot him with a pellet gun. (Many do, not
seeming to understand the ammunition is real.)

These and other BeeMe posts seem to reflect what the experiment
strives to be on Halloween: Something that is on its surface fun,
but reveals some hidden truths about ourselves and our digital

In a release sent to Business Insider, the project described
itself this way: “BeeMe is a dystopian game that promises to
alter the face of digital interactions, by breaking the
Internet’s fourth wall and bringing it back to reality. BeeMe
wants to reopen a serious — yet playful — conversation about
privacy, ethics, entertainment, and social interactions.”

Whatever the game ends up teaching those who play or watch it,
we’ll find out on Halloween if humanity can pull together to save
itself — or fail in dramatic disarray.

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