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Welcome to EVE Online: the spaceship game where high-flyers live out their imperial fantasies | Games

Voice Of EU



As the roar of revellers reverberates around a rowdy Reykjavik, you would be forgiven for thinking this was an average Friday night. Yet among the bearded Icelanders quietly sipping their Einstök is a different kind of drinker: multiplayer spaceship game EVE Online’s intergalactic elite. On one May weekend each year, this island becomes the playground of the world’s most devoted gaming community.

For those who don’t know their Minmatar from their Caldari, EVE Online is a hugely complex player-led video game, a virtual spaceship sandbox where – in the right hands – spreadsheets are as powerful as space fleets. Its complex history has been written by its players, with numerous fascinating tales of wars, betrayals and heists. Because the developers of the game rarely interfere, EVE is an experience that often feels less like a video game and more like a libertarian social experiment. As such, it attracts an intellectual – and extremely driven – player base.

EVE’s warring player groups – or corporations – are usually confined to windows and Discord chats, yet as 350 players from 40 countries swarm this Atlantic isle, EVE’s fictional universe becomes very real. In the throng, drinks are spilled and jokes exchanged by flag-waving alliance members. By the time the last bar shuts on Fanfest’s infamous Reykjavik pub crawl, some longstanding rivalries are settled, while whispers of interstellar betrayals emerge from darkened corners.

For many of EVE Online’s 50 million players, this complex virtual world is simply another space to succeed in. Real-world experience of stock trading, marketing and graphic design make you a powerful asset to player-run corporations – and a large section of EVE’s player base are hugely successful outside the game.

“I was at Disney for a long time – 16 years,” says Dunk Dinkle, the interim CEO of Brave Collective, an in-game group with more than 8,500 members. “Now, I’m at NBC, where I oversee technology for their marketing group.” For Dinkle, EVE Online slowly morphed from a hobby into a second job, in which he presides over his ever-growing intergalactic fleet. “If you’re a leader, the game never stops,” he says. “You wake up and there’s a whole new list of problems. The Australians are mad at the Europeans, and you have to deal with it. It’s like work in that way.”

EVE Online’s most influential players often find that this complex, alluring virtual space slowly starts to claim more of their real-world time. “It’s about that balance between relaxation and responsibility. In the morning I spend 45 minutes to an hour just checking on my EVE Slacks and Discords to catch up,” Dinkle says. “I go to work, come home, and for two to three hours, I log in. When it’s a big battle, we’ll be up all night.”

For Dunk, it seems the appeal of EVE is that it isn’t just a brief distraction, a way to unwind for a while, as video games are for most players. Instead, it’s a place where his professional skills are keenly rewarded.

“A lot of those skills of being a corporate executive – going to events, conflict management, resource allocation, spreadsheets – you use in EVE,” he says. “In your professional life, it’s hard to feel those wins on a regular basis. If you’re a high achiever, you want that reward system. In television, it’s a never-ending treadmill. You always need another promo. In EVE I built this gigantic thing that not many people can. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I get that feeling in my career, sure, but not once a week.”

While EVE markets itself on jaw-dropping space battles, for the finance bros who flock to the game it’s the sophisticated simulated economy that’s the real draw. EVE is often self-deprecatingly called “spreadsheets in space”. During this year’s Fanfest, CCP announced an official partnership with Microsoft Excel, to rapturous applause.

“EVE feels like trading,” says investment guru OZ_Eve, AKA Jari Vilhjalmer. “I can pull the data, look for trends, build tools around it … I have a big Bloomberg terminal-type tool that I look at in the morning to see where the market’s at. There’s no other game where you can do that.”

EVE Online battleships
Fighting force … EVE Online battleships. Photograph: CCP

Thanks to his finance background, Vilhjalmer has become the most successful private investor in EVE, teaching other players how to accumulate via his popular Twitchstreams. “I was just playing the game to be the richest player – and I succeeded,” he says. “I can’t compete in space combat, but I can take everyone’s money.”

When it comes to wielding influence, we all know real power lies in governance – and where would a virtual society be without its own politicians? “Before I flew out here, I was trying to fight a proposal that the Senate’s pushing through. That’s how I spend the days. Then I goof off at night playing EVE Online,” says Brisc Rubal, a Virginian Maritime Union lawyer and lobbyist who served in the Bush administration.

“I’ve been in Washington for about 25 years now,” Rubal says. “I ran elections in the largest county in Virginia for two years, and that was my shtick when I first ran for EVE’s player council: I’m the real-life politician running for the EVE political body.”

Rubal’s tenure as part of EVE’s in-game council has been controversial. Elected EVE players are privy to confidential changes to the game, which means council members know crucial details that can be leveraged to influence the market and make real-world money. It’s a goldmine for insider trading – a crime of which Rubal was accused.

The scandal tarnished his real-world image, too. “My wife lost clients at work, Fox News called, the Washington Post was asking my office for comment. It was crazy. I had to explain to my 83-year-old boss why the press was calling me. ‘Well, boss, I play this video game, and got accused of some stuff, but I’m working it out.’”

Thankfully for Rubal, he did work it out. After finding the evidence to clear his name, his player account was eventually reinstated, and in 2020 he ran again – successfully.

EVE is home not just to businesspeople and politicians, it has its own spiritual leaders, too. “I have married people, I have done funerals, I have blessed babies,” says Charles White, better known as the Space Pope. At the Lessons Learned division of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, White’s day job is to comb through fatal errors from previous space missions, publishing reports that could help save lives on the next lunar outing. He also likes dressing up in papal robes.

“It’s a lot of fun,” White smiles, with his silent, cloaked disciple sitting beside him. Coming to EVE Online at the age of 54, he found himself quickly doling out life advice to younger players. Thanks to his perceived wisdom, devotion and friendliness, a player made a meme of him as the pope. White embraced it, rocking up to his first Fanfest in full papal garb. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Because I have a high-stress job, I play a high-stress game,” says White. “It’s not this giant leap between the two. If I screw up in EVE, it’s stressful. It has the same adrenaline that keeps me going, but without the devastating consequences. I can lose an entire Keepstar [citadel] and laugh at it, and that’s what attracts me to EVE.”

It’s EVE’s unique brand of space stress that appeals to another real-life rocket scientist, Scott, better known as Ithica Hawk. While he’s hesitant to reveal too many specifics about his role in fear of “getting doxed”, he works with some pretty important satellites. While he tinkers with essential tech by day, in EVE he’s a tournament-winning space pilot, and a popular face in the community. Having hosted several events at the EVE Fanfest, Scott says the game has givenhim a confidence he didn’t know he had.

EVE Online’s mining fleet
Space industry … EVE Online’s mining fleet. Photograph: CCP

“When I was younger, I was quite shy, and now I’m on stage in front of hundreds of people and doing tournaments that are streamed to thousands. I’ve discovered that I’m very good at it, and I wouldn’t have had any chance to experience that if it wasn’t for EVE.”

As someone who has run corporations, Scott sees being able to motivate hundreds of people as one of EVE’s most important transferable skills: “That’s a huge amount of people management. It’s basically a medium-sized company, but people are paying to be there. If you’re not delivering, the whole thing will fall apart. It’s probably harder to run EVE corporations than actual businesses.”

Much like the Space Pope uses EVE to take risks he’d never dare at Nasa, another appeal of this seductive sandbox for otherwise law-abiding people is the space it makes for virtual villainy.

“Most people decide you can’t be the bad guy in real life, but in EVE you can be the bad guy,” says Rubal. “Mittani is probably the most famous player of all time, and he’s a great guy.” Alex “the Mittani” Gianturco, a Washington DC attorney, is EVE’s resident troublemaker, responsible for starting wars, orchestrating year-long espionage missions, allegedly bribing the game’s developers and leading EVE’s most fearsome alliance: Goonswarm.

“[Mittani] gets to role-play as the big mean tyrant. Ever wanted to play Darth Vader in Star Wars? Well, here you get the ability to do that. I think that’s what attracts people to EVE, too: you can do what you want in a way that you would never get away with in real life.”

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How cognitive science can be used to bring AI forward

Voice Of EU



Dr Marie Postma spoke to about misconceptions around AI as well its relationship with human consciousness.

AI and robots are getting ‘smarter’ all the time. From Irish-made care robot Stevie to Spot the robot dog from Boston Dynamics, these tech helpers are popping up everywhere with a wide range of uses.

The tech beneath the hardware is getting smarter too. Earlier this year, Researchers at MIT developed a simpler way to teach robots new skills after only a few physical demonstrations. And just this week, Google revealed how its combining large language models with its parent company’s Everyday Robots to help them better understand humans.

However, the advances in these areas have led to recent discussions around the idea of sentient AI. While this idea has been largely rebuffed by the AI community, an understanding of the relationship between cognitive science and AI is an important one.

Dr Marie Postma is head of the department of cognitive science and artificial intelligence at Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences in the Netherlands.

The department is mainly financed by three education programmes and has around 100 staff and between 900 and 1,000 students.

‘Technology is not the problem; people are the problem’

The team focuses on different research themes that combine cognitive science and AI, such as computational linguistics with a big focus on deep learning solutions, autonomous agents and robotics, and human-AI interaction, which is mainly focused on VR and its use in education.

Postma was a speaker at the latest edition of the Schools for Female Leadership in the Digital Age in Prague, run by Huawei’s European Leadership Academy.

Postma spoke to the 29 students about cognitive science and machine learning, starting with the history of AI and bringing it up to the modern-day challenges, such as how we can model trust in robots and the role empathy could play in AI.

“We have research where we are designing first-person games where people can experience the world from the perspective of an animal – not a very cuddly animal, it’s actually a beaver. That’s intentional,” she told me later that day.

Sentient AI

Her talk brought about a lot of discussion around AI and consciousness, a timely discussion following the news that Blake Lemione, a Google engineer, published an interview with the AI chatbot and claimed that it had become sentient.

Postma said much of the media coverage around this story had muddied the waters. “The way it was described in the media was more focused on the Turing test – interacting with an AI system that comes across as being human-like,” she said.

“But then at some point they mention consciousness, and consciousness is really a different story.”

Postma said that most people who research consciousness would agree that it’s based on a number of factors. Firstly it’s about having a perceptual basis, both the ability to perceive the world around us but also what’s happening inside us and being self-aware.

Secondly, the purpose of consciousness is being able to interpret yourself as someone who has feelings, needs, actionability in the world and a need to stay alive. “AI systems are not worried about staying alive, at least the way we construct them now, they don’t reflect on their battery life and think ‘oh no, I should go plug myself in’.”

Possibilities and limitations

While AI and robots don’t have consciousness, their ability to be programmed to a point where they can understand humans can be highly beneficial.

For example, Postma’s department has been conducting research that concerns brain-computer interaction, with a focus on motor imagery. “[This is] trying to create systems where the user, by focusing on their brain signal, can move objects in virtual reality or on computer screens using [electroencephalography].”

This has a lot of potential applications in the medical world for people who suffer from paralysis or in the advancements of prosthetic limbs.

Last year, researchers at Stanford University successfully implanted a brain-computer interface (BCI) capable of interpreting thoughts of handwriting in a 65-year-old man paralysed below the neck due to a spinal cord injury.

However, Postma said there is still a long way to go with this technology and it’s not just about the AI itself. “The issue with that is there are users who are able to do that and others who are not, and we don’t really know what the reasons are,” she said.

“There is some research that suggests that being able to do special rotation might be one of the factors but what we’re trying to discover is how we can actually train users so that they can use BCI.”

And in the interest of quelling any lingering fears around sentient AI, she also said people should not worry about this kind of technology being able to read their thoughts because the BCI is very rudimentary. “For the motor imagery BCI, it’s typically about directions, you know, right, left, etc.”

Other misconceptions about AI

Aside from exactly how smart the robots around us really are, one of the biggest falsehoods that Postma wants to correct is that the technology itself is not necessarily what causes the problems that surround it.

“What I repeat everywhere I go, is that the technology is not the problem, people are the problem. They’re the ones who create the technology solutions and use them in a certain way and who regulate them or don’t regulate them in a certain way,” she said.

“The bias in some AI solutions is not there because some AI solutions are biased, they’re biased because the data that’s used to create the solutions is biased so there is human bias going in.”

However, while bias in AI has been a major discussion topic for several years, Postma has an optimistic view on this, saying that these biased systems are actually helping to uncover biased data that would have previously been hidden behind human walls.

“It becomes explicit because all the rules are there, all the predictive features are there, even for deep learning architecture, we have techniques to simplify them and to uncover where the decision is made.”

While Postma is a major advocate for all the good AI can do, she is also concerned about how certain AI and data is used, particularly in how it can influence human decisions in politics.

“What Cambridge Analytica did – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. And I don’t think they’re the only company that are doing that,” she said.

“I’m [also] concerned about algorithms that make things addictive, whether it’s social media or gaming, that really try to satisfy the user. I’m concerned about what it’s doing to kids.”

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‘I’m buying Manchester United’: Elon Musk ‘joke’ tweet charges debate over struggling club’s future | Elon Musk

Voice Of EU



Tesla billionaire Elon Musk briefly electrified the debate about the future of Manchester United by claiming on Twitter that he is buying the struggling Premier League club – before saying that the post was part of a “long-running joke”.

He did not make clear his views on new coach Eric ten Hag’s controversial insistence on passing out from the back, or whether unhappy star striker Cristiano Ronaldo should be allowed to leave, but he did say that if he were to buy a sports team “it would be Man U. They were my fav team as a kid”.

With the team rooted to the bottom of the league after a humiliating 4-0 away defeat to Brentford, the outspoken entrepreneur’s tweet offered hope – however –briefly – to fans who want to see the back of current owners, the Florida-based Glazer family.

Also, I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 17, 2022

Musk has a history of making irreverent tweets, and he later clarified the post by saying he was not buying sports teams.

No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 17, 2022

Buying United, one of the biggest football clubs in the world, would have cost Musk at least £2bn, according to its current stock market valuation.

Manchester United’s recent on-pitch woes have led to increased fan protests against the Glazers, who bought the club in a heavily leveraged deal in 2005 for £790m ($955.51m).

The anti-Glazer movement gained momentum last year after United were involved in a failed attempt to form a breakaway European Super League.

But a takeover by Musk would have been a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for the club, given the billionaire’s tendency for off-the-cuff remarks and falling foul of market regulators.

Many were quick to point out that Musk had also promised to buy Twitter for $44bn before the deal collapsed in July, and has also boasted about colonising Mars and boosting birthrates on Earth.

That’s what you said about Twitter.

— Sema (@_SemaHernandez_) August 17, 2022

Fans responded with a mixture of bafflement and optimism given the lowly status of a club used to occupying the top places in the league rather than the bottom.

Manchester United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Elon Musk ‘buying Manchester United’ football club • The Register

Voice Of EU



Rocketry, energy, automotive, AI, tequila, tunnelling and (maybe) social media engineering entrepreneur Elon Musk has proclaimed his intention to buy Manchester United — the organization often cited as the world’s most supported football club.

Must revealed his “intentions” in a tweet, of course.

Whether Musk is serious or not is impossible to divine – he has a long history of Twitter japes. And of course he also has recent form announcing, then backing away from, a planned purchase of Twitter itself.

Musk’s only previous known involvement in football was building an unasked-for submarine to help rescue a children’s team from a cave in Thailand in 2018. And when the offer was declined he defamed one of the actual rescuers.

But that lack of a round ball background won’t stop some fans from hoping Musk’s tweet expressed a genuine desire to acquire the team, which has performed modestly for years as its owners kept spending on new players low. Rival teams, meanwhile, used their owners’ oil riches to hire the planet’s top talent and win trophy after trophy as Man U’s trophy case gathered nought but dust.

The club’s fortunes hit a new low in recent weeks with a 0–4 loss to Brentford – a team that brings a teensy bit more relevance into this tale. Its home ground anchors one end of the UK’s “M4 Corridor” – which houses a great many technology companies.

Brentford is, however, a footballing minnow.

Losing to Brentford – plus other recent losses and reported disharmony in the playing squad – has enraged fans to the point where some would surely welcome Elon Musk as owner, even if his only contribution is providing a one-way trip into space for some coaching staff and players.

Or perhaps Musk fancies sending Man U to Mars, where the club would be undisputed champions of an entire planet.

Another scenario could see Man turn out a team of humanoid Tesla robots – which are presumably more easily rebooted than the club’s misfiring players, and could compete in the Robot World Cup.

If all else fails, fans could just drown their sorrows in Tesla tequila

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