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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Second Life As Dead-Eyed Libertopian Cybersprawl

[via European Tribune]:
[T]he most distinctive thing about Second Life is its banality. While the hype promises a virtual community celebrating every possible form of creativity and diversity, the reality is mostly virtual suburban sprawl. Flying across the mainlands reveals identikit malls alternating with acres of virtual McMansions, and open plots or shops for rent speckled with garish levitating FOR SALE signs….

The difference between Real Life and Second Life is that you can have your fantasy lifestyle for less cash up front. The fact that you can't touch anything seems to be trumped by the fact that you can own it -- which is evidently what matters most….

This is Libertarian California on Silicon, and…. residents seem to have internalized the real life suburban shopping experience. Shopping is open 24/7, and is mostly impersonal, so you don't have to talk to anyone while you do it, and no one has to talk to you. But go into any virtual mall, and the visual language will seem instantly familiar. Virtual companies have virtual logos with virtual graphic design of frighteningly lifelike pseudo-familiarity…

Second Life is not the web, because the features that made the web so interesting -- open access, reliability, transparency, low cost of entry, and ease of use -- are missing. And other features -- specifically a generation's worth of consumer capitalist Pavlovian conditioning -- have become more obvious.

There's much more, snark, analysis, and prognostication (the News, predictably enough, is not good for the eager free marketeers of Second Life), so go read the whole thing.

And Remember, Always: First Life First.

4 comments:

n8o said...

Great link, thanks. I have my own collection of rants on the subject.

I have to say though, I raised an eyebrow when the author called HTML a "protocol". That would be HTTP.

Another thing important to note is that Linden Labs claims to be on the way to releasing the SL server code under the GPL, which would solve a lot of the social problems of the business model. If people can run their own servers by their own rules, it will start looking a lot saner. If they go one step further and create interoperability (eg portals between independently-run servers), that would be even better.

Yeah, I know; promises, promises. But they already have released their client under the GNU GPL, so I give them some cred.

"The fact that you can't touch anything seems to be trumped by the fact that you can own it - which is evidently what matters most."

Except you can't. This isn't ownership; it's rental. I've been thinking that renting everything and owning nothing seems to be the convergent endpoint of "idealised Platonic capitalism", as the author puts it.

Ha! I was so non-plussed by having to buy anything in SL (just like I am in tangible life) that I have been making deposits of my weekly stipend into Ginko's "bank". I'm not surprised it's effectively gone now.

As I like to say: "I came here to get away from this shit!"

"the Linden approach is based on farming its customers instead of serving them."

Nice metaphor. Similar to advertising, where most people (and their attention) are the products sold to those with the actual buying power.

And speaking of electric sheep, the Electric Sheep Company ("We the Sheeple") are one of the highest-profile consulting houses for building stuff in SL. They've recently started a partnership with Novamente, LLC, Ben Goertzel's AI development group. Ben also recently became Director of Research for - wait for it - The Singularity Institute.

It's interesting to connect the dots.

jfehlinger said...

> And speaking of electric sheep, the Electric Sheep Company
> ("We the Sheeple") are one of the highest-profile consulting
> houses for building stuff in SL. They've recently started
> a partnership with Novamente, LLC, Ben Goertzel's AI
> development group. Ben also recently became Director
> of Research for - wait for it - The Singularity Institute.

Android dreams.
http://www.novamente.net/bruce/index.php/?p=27

Martin Striz said...

I was going to say something about the comparison to AOL and how it stagnated while the Internet (free, open, democratic) took off. Now would be a great time for someone to start an open, non-economy-based virtual world. You could run it like IRC: anyone can add a server to the network.

Google certainly has the capital for it.

But Nato beat me to the punch and revealed that LL is planning on releasing the source code.

Also, it shouldn't be surprising that Ben would partner with a VR consulting firm. He has long maintained that an AGI should be mentored within a virtual world (it's easier than building a robot). He's already building a VR environment for his AI engine.

jfehlinger said...

Do you know the way to Sexy Beach?

No?

Well, just teleport me there.

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/15-08/ff_sheep