The publicity people at William Morrow, my US publisher, asked me to to give some answers to a Q&A they'd prepared in advance of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' at the end of December. One of the questions was:
Is it plausible that any government is working on a Demi-Monde of its own at this very moment?
A bloody interesting question! And to answer it I decided to trawl thru the web to see if there was anybody potty enough to be trying to do just that. I didn't have to trawl very far. I put in 'Virtual Worlds + Military Applications' into Google and up popped:
Now according to NextGov's FaceBook page it's a leading federal technology web site, a meeting place for government and industry managers to read the latest news and discussions and to share insights on deploying IT successfully to schieve agency missions.
What NextGov was discussing that so intrigued me was the news that the US Army wants to develop a massive virtual world populated by 10,000 avatars that are managed by artificial intelligence and operate over a 32-mile square simulated terrain. That stopped me: the Demi-Monde is 30 miles in circumference and, of course, is managed by its very own artificial intelligence, the quantum computer known as ABBA.
NextGov went on: officials at the ARDEC's (the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command) Simulation and Technology Training Center said that they want a systems intergrator to put together a virtual world that includes soldiers, vehicles and weapons that can move around a landscape built from Defense Department gigital terrain data. Of course my Demi-Monde was commissioned by the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) based in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and the contractor chosen was ParaDigm CyberResearch. ARDEC might want to give 'em a call!
ARDEC also said in its request for information that it wants to incorporate technologies used in massively multiplayer online games. The Demi-Monde is defined as a MMP simulation ... to recreate in a wholly ralistic cyber-milieu the threat-ambiance and no-warning aspect of ... an Asymmetric Warfare Environment. Snap!
Now the similarities to the tender document for the Demi-Monde simulation produced when ParaDigm pitched for the contract (you can check this out on www.thedemi-monde.com) might be coincidental but being a suspicious sod I went back to check on the visits made to the site. Now to identify if any of them were from the US military I used http://www.uaff.info/militarytracking.htm (a very scary site so you have been warned!) which told me that I'd had two visits from an IP address which seems to belong to US Defence Information Systems Agency. Pecular, right?
Now I'm not saying I've been ripped off (I mean when the NextGov quotes a guy called General William Loomey III as the govenment's spokesman they've gotta taking the piss; whatever next Wing Commander Burlesque Bandstand?) but I just hope the similarities between what the US military is cooking up and the Demi-Monde end here, otherwise we're all in deep shit. I think they should wait for the final volume before they go much further!
I wonder if I should ask for royalties?