Virginia Tech Is Building an Artificial America in a Supercomputer

Synthetic citizens will help social scientists. The first task is to model flu transmission patterns from 100 gigabytes of population data

4 min read

4 December 2008—At a rally in rural North Carolina during the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign, Alaska governor Sarah Palin infamously said that there was a ”real America” and presumably a fake one. Though she was the butt of jokes for the remainder of the campaign, in a way Palin was right. One state over, a team of computer scientists and a physicist from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), in Blacksburg, Va., was creating a fake America of its own.

The group has designed what it claims is the largest, most detailed, and realistic computer model of the lives of about 100 million Americans, using enormous amounts of publicly available demographic data. The model’s makers hope the simulation will shed light on the effects of human comings and goings, such as how a contagion spreads, a fad grows, or traffic flows. In the next six months, the researchers expect to be able to simulate the movement of all 300 million residents of the United States.

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The Spectacular Collapse of CryptoKitties, the First Big Blockchain Game

A cautionary tale of NFTs, Ethereum, and cryptocurrency security

8 min read
Mountains and cresting waves made of cartoon cats and large green coins.
Frank Stockton

On 4 September 2018, someone known only as Rabono bought an angry cartoon cat named Dragon for 600 Ethers—an amount of Ethereum cryptocurrency worth about US $170,000 at the time, or $745,000 at the cryptocurrency’s value in July 2022.

It was by far the highest transaction yet for a nonfungible token (NFT), the then-new concept of a unique digital asset. And it was a headline-grabbing opportunity for CryptoKitties, the world’s first blockchain gaming hit. But the sky-high transaction obscured a more difficult truth: CryptoKitties was dying, and it had been for some time.

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