Building a 1:1 scale model of planet Earth in Minecraft used to be a pipe dream. But now, a YouTuber named Pippen is leading the effort to make it happen, with thousands of builders working across the globe on 80 teams.
Though the project is only in infancy, the cityscapes rendered so far, as well as the massive organization through Discord servers, show the historic collaboration is off to an impressive start. 100,000 buildings have been built, per Pippen, who rallied players to join the cause after discovering the Minecraft terrain modification that makes a 1:1 recreation of the planet possible. Pippen did what YouTubers do best, and immediately made a video to showcase the little-known mod to his subscribers. “And so that video went nuts,” he tells Make:. “We ended up getting over 200,000 members, and we’ve been working on the project ever since.”
Now, there are about 170,000 people in the network of Discord servers dedicated to each virtual country, and more are welcome to join an existing team or create their own. For Pippen, who works full-time as a leader, builder, and video producer for the project, this is a work of art “beyond imagination,” and may one day serve as a digital record of our civilization. “Aliens or future civilizations would be able to discern what human civilization was like through our map,” he explains.
But before extraterrestrials can ever marvel at this virtual Earth, the project needs a boost from artificial intelligence. Even though they have some tricks using Google Earth to help outline various structures and game mods to make building faster, it takes a human 15–60 minutes to create one building, leading Pippen to estimate completion at current pace in 80,000 years. The solution is automation, and he’s optimistic an AI tool will eventually produce one building per minute, making completion possible in “decades, if not years.”
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