The Client/Server Model: David Friedman on WoW, Wikipedia, Private Property and Trade

David Friedman writes,

Part of what makes [World of Warcraft] interesting is that you are interacting with lots of other players--and humans do a much better job of imitating humans than machines do. To put it differently, Blizzard has decentralized to its players most of the job of populating for each player the world he plays in. So as the game grows, so does the number of minds devoted to the job of populating it.

Similarly with Wikipedia. The job of writing it is decentralized to the readers. Any time a new topic appears, it brings with it a new set of authors--the readers interested in and knowledgeable about, that topic. A very powerful application of the client/server model, with human beings as the servers.

One might argue, however, that it is an old application--older than computers. Private property and trade create a decentralized coordination system with the computing delegated to the people being coordinated--essentially the same idea. Double the population and you double the resources to be allocated--and the resources to do the allocation.

Neat! Friedman excels at pointing out what, after the fact, seems so simple and obvious, but wouldn't have been quite as clear and illuminating if not first made explicit. Down with Encarta and single-player AI!

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