The article 'Scientists build a world of 'software beings': Research project will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings' describes how a new research project underway between five European universities will create a software virtual environment in order to watch artificial life grow and develop, and socialise:
'Politicians could one day determine the results of elections before they take place, thanks to a European research project that will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings.
Five European universities are collaborating on the New Ties project, where they plan to create millions of "software beings" (human beings that live in computers) with the goal of studying how they interact and evolve.
The software beings don't have names, but they do have distinct characteristics, including gender, life expectancy, size and metabolism. Their traits will be passed on as they reproduce, but they'll also be able to learn and gain new characteristics.
Two thousand artificial beings have been created so far in a single computer, but the goal is to create a grid or cluster of computers to host potentially millions of them, said Gusz Eiben, a professor of computer science at Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands and the project's leader.'
Perhaps this will become the new environment for social anthropology fieldwork?