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It was very clear to me from the title.

And secondly, I don't believe the author should pander to people who won't even visit the site and instead judge from titles.

I think virtual can either mean: stored /accessed on a computer, or simulated on a computer, which is what confused me.

where do you hear virtual used to mean digital data and not simulated or emulated. a virtual machine is a synthetic digital representation of physical hardware. virtual reality is a fake representation of reality. virtual memory is a simulacron of ram. a virtual assistant is not a dedicated helper.

i just googled the word virtual

     not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.

     in effect or essence, if not in fact or reality; imitated, simulated. 

     simulated in a computer or online.
I suppose a counter example could be a virtual library, which is a digital representation of a library, not a simulation, but still the word virtual is not wrong in this context, if anything is confusing it is the word order. maybe A Database of Virtual ... instead of A Virtual Database

Thanks for providing a definition for the word "virtual."

I think part of the problem here is that I've invented something we don't have precise language for, yet. I call the agent population synthetic and I call the database virtual, and that's just the nomenclature I'm using.

I'm absolutely shocked at the number of people who feel deceived that this isn't an actual database of the entire human population.

This is a serious problem, though. My work exists at the intersection of social psychology and artificial intelligence, and these fields do not share enough vocabulary. There are major barriers to communication between "intellectual silos," and I think all of the confusion in this comment thread about the word "virtual" illustrates this point very nicely.

like I said, I think it is word order. your word order makes it sound like the database itself is virtual not the contents of the database.

How to make it clear what this data represents is a semantic conundrum. If I take a "virtual" tour of New York City, I expect to see an actual geographically-accurate approximation of New York City, not buildings randomly generated based on the probabilities of buildings having various dimensions of those found in New York City strewn across a google map.

What do we call such a thing? After reading the author's paper, I think "synthetic" is most appropriate because we would be synthesizing a city like NYC, but not a virtual representation of NYC. In fact, I find the word "virtual" in this context somewhat misleading.

if virtual means simulated, I dont find it misleading. simulated demographic population statistics implies an approximation.

It was not at all clear to me. I spent some time navigating the site and believed at first that it was just anonymized real data. Using the word "synthetic" and something like "these are not real people" on the front page would go a long way towards explaining the purpose and intent of this project.

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