Suppose that we upped the ante on the Dustin program. Instead of helping students learn scripted behaviors, suppose we put them in a social environment which is far more free-flowing, enabling them to act freely within it. Suppose we built a program that simulated all the players in a society by considering their plans, goals, individual relationships, and their concerns about available resources. This sounds like a formidable task, but one that has a big payoff. If we could do it, those who use this simulation would have the ability to learn something about how to function in such a society by trying out various behaviors and observing the results.
We have given this more aggressive approach a try. We started by building a system called ChimpWorld, which simulated a society of chimpanzees. In ChimpWorld one could try out being a chimpanzee. A young chimpanzee had better learn the rules of his organized society or he will not get much to eat and may well get beaten up. While ChimpWorld is great fun to explore, we are not trying to teach students to be chimpanzees. We are helping them infer the rules by which a society operates. The social simulation aspects of ChimpWorld translate directly into a world where people needed to learn social skills.
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