HAMURABI.BAS and its dystopian lessons

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HAMURABI.BAS and its dystopian lessons

Hello,

 

I wrote an article about playing HAMURABI.BAS on an apple 1 replica and developed a (surprising) winning strategy, https://www.jeffquast.com/post/hamurabi_bas/

 

The winning strategy is to systematically starve 3% of the population each turn, to wish for plagues, and to leave as little food as possible available to be eaten by rats by buying land with any excess grain (and selling land to make up for any deficiencies).

 

With this strategy you can win 99% of games, 94% of them with the highest score.

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Hi jquast!

Great job! And while I'm not a huge fan of this game I have to thank you for sharing this. The Apple-1 scene is a very small community, every contribution is worth its weight in gold.

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"Hammurabi" also is one of my favorite Apple-1 games...

... and I always got low ratings before I had analyzed the code to see what are the optimum factors.

 

The work of 'jquast' on finding a more optimal strategy is amazing and his political conclusions (for ancient Babylonia) are spot on.

 

What I miss in the game is modelling of the dynamics of the rat population. If the storage is empty, most of the rats will starve. So in the next year, there won't be too many rats to eat the grain, and this means every other year more grain could be stored without too much being eaten by the rat population becaue it was decimated by the previous year where the storage was kept empty to starve them.

 

Another factor which is missing is: how much to invest into the military. These are useless eaters and their weapons are wasted wealth (here: grains used as currency) until an enemy invades. A larger military would ruin the finances of the kingdom but just before everything collapses, a neighboring nation could be conquered. Which hopefully did not waste all its wealth on building a military. This is how and why the Soviet Union collapsed.

 

So this simple BASIC game could be augmented with additional functions and so it would turn into a more sophisticated "Civilization simulation" game.

 

The lessons which can be learned about starving the population just a little bit are applied in every nation of the world: there always is an underclass which needs government handouts (known as "food stamps" aka "EBT" here in the USA). These people will not bite the hand which feeds them, and they will always vote for the Party which promises the best handouts and welfare policies.  So keeping that underclass around and keeping them dependent on the State keeps that Party at the levers of power. People needing government handouts will not make a revolution as long as the handouts flow. But once the government is bankrupt because the producers had enough and walked away ("going Galt") then all hell will break loose.

 

We are currently in the "going Galt" phase. Handouts still flowing. But government debt increasing by 1 Trillion US$ every 100 days. It can't be predicted when and how this charade ends. But I'm sure the "advisors" of the President have some old computer somewhere and play "HAMURABI" or a version thereof, to develop a strategy for the real world. At least their politics look like that.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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It's always great to hear

It's always great to hear from you Uncle Bernie. Your posts have helped me a great deal with my Apple 1 and 2 computers, thanks for always being active on these forums.

 

UncleBernie wrote,

But I'm sure the "advisors" of the President have some old computer somewhere and play "HAMURABI" or a version thereof, to develop a strategy for the real world. At least their politics look like that.

 

I didn't want to get too political, but I did mention the works of Jay Wright Forrester, and I really do not doubt that politicians have been using mathematical models like those found in World Dynamics, to enact cruelity on populations to target power and wealth. After these past weeks of experiments with HAMURABI.BAS, I believe it more likely that politicians would systematically starve 3% of the population.

 

Although Jay Forrester is very reserved and cautious throughout the book about making use of these models to enact policy, he does clarify that computerized models are much better at understanding policy changes than our human mental models.

 

World Dynamics contains some pretty dire stuff about population control and pollution in particular. After Chapter sections 5.2 Reduced Birth Rate and 5.3 Less Polution, Chapter 6 "Toward A Global Equilibrium" pg. 122 concludes,

 

This chapter suggestions that a global equilibrium is conceptually possible. Whether it can be achieved is another matter. The actions that appear to be required are not apt to be accepted easily. Probably more pressure on mankind from the environment will be required before the issues will be addressed with enough concern and seriousness. But by then time to act will be even shorter.

 

I didn't want to get too political in my article but I did want to more carefully cite the works of Jay Wright Forrester for anyone who comes across this thread and wishes to learn more.

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More about simulation of populations ...

In post #4, 'jquast' wrote:

 

"... I did mention the works of Jay Wright Forrester, and I really do not doubt that politicians have been using mathematical models like those found in World Dynamics,  ..."

 

Uncle Bernie comments:

 

It's always a tightrope walk to bring up political topics on a website dedicated to vintage computers, but when we talk about historic economic simulation games running on said computers, we inevitably start to touch political topics, and I think it's OK as long as it does not deviate too much into political rants (if you want that, go to a beer hall, and listen to the pied pipers there ... if they have a funny moustache,  r  u  n !)

 

Back to economic simulations.  There is a fascinating little simulation you can write about predators, prey, and the food of the prey (plants). The predators of course do not eat plants, they hunt down and eat their prey. Think rabbits and wolves or such.

 

The input parameters are:

 

- amount of plants growing each year

- initial number of rabbits

- how much plants consumed by rabbits

- fertility / death by starvation of rabbits depending on food plants available

- initial number of wolves

- how much rabbits caught and eaten by a wolve (depends on number of rabbits)

- fertility / death by starvation of wolves depending on rabbits eaten

 

Evaluation / update of population counts  is per year.

 

These all are linear equations with constant coefficients (sorry I don't find the BASIC source code of that simulation, this is from my memory, I wrote that program as a 12 year old on the WANG 2200 computer of my school).

 

You would expect that it's easy to dial in the coefficients such that an equilibrium / stable state is reached. But this is not easy. Certain coefficients which totally make sense and are not far off from the ones that bring stability lead to chaotic behaviour or a total die out of both the rabbit and the wolve population.

 

This observation contributed to the development of mathematical chaos theory. Harmless looking equations leading to chaos (or beautiful 'fractals').

 

I think it would be fun to have such a rabbit/wolve simulaton program on the Apple-1. It is appropriate for the time the machine came out  (mid 1970s), and back in the day a lot of the simple, quick programming done involved such simulations.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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