In the IRL world—or “groundworld”1 —consensus narratives are fracturing. The Trad Web (the entrenched social networks of Web2) in particular is ineffective at delivering protocols for both ground-truthing on one hand, and healthy contestation on the other. Commentary on once verifiable events has become adversarial, with events themselves (transactions, exchanges, altercations) often difficult to verify. Here, the most fundamental record-keeping becomes centralized through “captured” top-down infrastructure that resembles a surveillance architecture. The capacity to verify and contest becomes attached to hierarchy, access, and control.
While Autonomous Worlds are in their nascency, and susceptible to becoming siloed gameworlds for niche communities, they possess a wider potential as generative infrastructure for a new kind of commons––a public resource with a tangible benefit.2 Here, we propose that decentralized narratives3 are the essential public resource produced by Autonomous Worlds and explore the potential for Autonomous Worlds to act as a commons geared to bring this resource and its public value into the groundworld.
Autonomous Worlds can offer the ingredients and world-weaving potential to become what we term an “autonomous knowledge commons,” afforded by its involuntary relationship of collective infrastructure ownership.4 Here we take the core features of an autonomous knowledge commons to be noncentralized yet formalized access to both the means of narrative creation, linked to a permanent record of events, alongside the right to redeploy, or reseed, the results elsewhere. Building on gubsheep’s proposal that crypto-native games operate as sandboxes or “microcosms of the integrated digital worlds of the future,” 5 we suggest that building an autonomous knowledge commons might offer a way to export procedures or knowledge back into the groundworld in the form of narrative. With this in mind, an autonomous knowledge commons could be a space to experiment with new ways of building both consensus reality that have been lost in the groundworld, and shared narratives drawn from the emergent, permanent canon afforded by onchain games.
So, what would be necessary to fortify the propensity of Autonomous Worlds to become autonomous knowledge commons? Here, we will propose a new “modding” superstructure: a “Large Lore Model” (LLoreM) plug-in that facilitates collective and decentralized narrative-building and explicitly links to the onchain record. The LLoreM offers an interface which maintains a link to interobjective realities6 whilst communicating with the intersubjective groundworld. In other words, the LLoreM enables a commonly built consensus reality that is nonetheless collectively generated and governed.7 The LLoreM could be prototypical scaffolding for stewarding a shift from worlding wilderness to mission-driven commons.
Having established the potential of Autonomous Worlds to become autonomous knowledge commons, given the right infrastructure, we look to define lore and “lore generation” in concrete terms by using a procedural spoken language game, I Went To the Shop, as an example. From there, we will consider how to hardcode this process of lore generation into a viable tool (LLoreM) that combines the value of player lore generation with the unique affordances of onchain games, considering the implications of such a tool in comparison to legacy Web2 lore-recording.
In the I Went To the Shop memory game, commonly played by kids to pass the time on road trips, we find a temporary world created through a shared narrative of a trip to the shop. The rules of the game require that players repeat the phrase: “Today I went to the shop and I bought…” appending it each time with a new item purchased. The first item added must begin with the first letter of the alphabet and each subsequent item must begin with the next letter. So after three rounds the phrase might be: “Today I went to the shop and I bought an apple, bubblegum, and a cold beer.” Gameplay emerges through the balance between adding items that one player can remember and items to throw off another players’ memory.
Players must keep a level of engagement and entertainment by listing uncommon, surreal, or offensive items. Even while the narrative produced is held in common, its texture is contingent on the particular circumstances of individual players: in-jokes, shared language (US english offers the sensible zucchini for Z, whilst in UK english you might buy a zebra), and––in the case of bored kids in a car––a desire to get a reaction from the adult driving might all play into these choices.
Here we take lore to be such a decentralized, accrued narrative. Lore generation is the general concept to describe procedures (within the world of a game or otherwise) which produce this decentralized narrative. A reified tool built for this purpose could be called a lore generator. Lore generation is important because it acts as a means of creating knowledge-claims in a suspended context, contestable later as necessary. It gamifies the production of narrative, holding it as something common and mutually constructed between players, like a jovial list of commodities bought at the shop.
But at the end of the I Went To the Shop game, the “ledger” of ingredients has no record and is lost. Similarly, the shared experience of the players is lost, along with the emergent narrative. Further, even if some player recorded the ledger (even a trustworthy elder figure) or an onchain version collected the list of ingredients introduced via its digital physics into its canon (creating a hard diegetic boundary through digital consensus), there is no mutually agreed protocol for recording and verifying the emergent narrative. In order to transform this narrative into lore then, we need a system—and interface—that is collectively agreed upon. We will now turn to a prototypical LLoreM that could be used to produce a dual ledger capable of recording and verifying a lore-claim alongside an immutable record.
Large Lore Models (LLoreM)
A LLoreM is a tool we conceive of as a collective writing plug-in that attaches to a “host” onchain game, allowing it to be used as what Moving Castles calls a “narrative engine.” 8 It is by definition a lore generator, but with additional design specifications conceptualized to respond to some of the epistemic problems discussed with regard to the groundworld. Accompanying the game's ledger in which players’ actions are recorded through transactions onchain, is a “para-ledger.” The para-ledger becomes a contestable mythology of the core onchain gameplay events.
Writing in the para-ledger must correspond to a block on the chain, but the resultant lore is written by players and is in itself nonprocedural. The function of this design is to maximize the affordances of the blockchain’s immutability while preserving the inherent mutability of human narrative (the narrative’s contestability). The human component combines the value of subjective testimony with the incontestable actions recorded on each block. As such, the para-ledger operates as an interface through which players and observers can access and make use of the blockchain ledger, offering players an opportunity to collate or reflect upon their actions while providing observers with context beyond a list of actions. The para-ledger, of course, remains contestable: this is a core part of the design and reflects a need for intersubjective consensus in all attempts to produce collective knowledge. But any contestation at this stage, even against elder testimony, is made against the backdrop of ground-truthed canon blocks.
There are further speculative possibilities for interoperability here too: if multiple onchain games operate on a shared blockchain ledger, and players use a singular identity to play these, the LLoreM could triangulate between the different games by locating players’ activities across the ledger, producing an “interdimensional” narrative of the player as they move between Autonomous Worlds. Inversely, a lore iteration could be replayed in another game, stacking para-ledger lore to correspond with the blockchain and producing iterative parafictions.9
Given the stakes of narrative control we outlined at the outset, it is worth reflecting on the potential for blockchain to provide a fixed “ordering” for a historical record. Narrative itself is an affordance which has been lost in the Trad Web epoch, as Lev Manovich suggests of “rewriting” in Web2: “It is as easy to add new elements to the end of a list as it is to insert them anywhere in it. All this further contributes to the antinarrative logic of the Web. If new elements are being added over time, the result is a collection, not a story.” 10 This offers a sense of why achieving consensus reality might be hard while such a system remains dominant. By enabling packets of narrative to be anchored to the fixed-order events of an Autonomous World’s concrete, decentralized ledger, a LLoreM makes the events sense-able and transparent and thus reenables narration as a slow-burning premodern craft resistant to singular ownership by designated heroes or monarchs.
Through the specific affordances of onchain world-weaving, the LLoreM offers an infrastructure for Autonomous Worlds to become autonomous knowledge commons. This collective lore generation system offers a procedural alternative to increasing reliance on GPT-pilled automated myth-generation. Whereas GPT models also draw upon a collective form of writing, the centralized and automated technical intervention used is much more heavily weighted, and as such fails to preserve community control over written outputs in most instances. Instead, the LLoreM seeks a way of engaging the blockchain that uses it efficiently while also aiming towards its most unique affordances; simultaneously, it is tuned to maximize the opportunities to tap into the creative potential of human collectivity: loremaxxing.
This text was originally published in Autonomous Worlds N1, 2023.
- “Groundworld” here refers to our IRL world that we take as ground and is collectively constituted. Alasdair Milne, Collaborative Systems in Machine Learning Artistic Research (PhD thesis), Serpentine Galleries R&D Platform and King’s College London, forthcoming 2024.
- Elinor Ostrom’s definition of commons is a scarce resource that provides users with tangible benefits, but aren’t owned by anyone. Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge University Press, 2015. See also: Martin Zeilinger, “Can the blockchain finally create a commons?” Spike Art Magazine, 2022.
- We take narrative as a subjective, chronological rendering of either events in the groundworld, a fictional World, or some combination of the two.
- Journalist and scholar Nathan Schneider has been researching cooperative models and DAOs in order to understand how crypto might offer something unique for coop tooling. Here he discusses self-governance for online communities. Nathan Schneider, “Modpol is a Self-Governance Toolkit for Communities in Online Worlds,” Hackernoon, 2022.
- Carrie Lambert-Beatty, “Make-Believe: Parafiction and Plausibility,” October, 2009, 51-84.
- Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, The MIT Press, 2001, 220.