Sunday, December 9, 2007

Why second life has no impact on my current life and on my immediate future

There is a huge, increasing, rather incomprehensible (at times) push for the creation of virtual universes. Second life is maybe the most successful and talked about manifestation of this phenomena. An entire industry has spawned around the idea of virtual universes, used, not just for fun and pleasure, but for everyday activities and businesses.

While I can see kids and adolescents increasingly participating in such environments to connect to friends and for playing MMOPGs, I have a hard time believing that such alternative universes will have significant impact to businesses in the next five years---other than the Gaming industry.

Why I am skeptical?

Well on the surface these new worlds are exciting and do serve a purpose, but extrapolating that experience to be a surrogate to real life is jumping to conclusions and a mistake in my opinion. My arguments against the rise of metaverses is simply that they:

1) Are too simplistic compared to the complexity of the world. The real word is complex and hard to understand but works really well as a coherent whole. One only needs to read any accessible exposé of modern Physics to see what I mean here. Why would I want to do business or meet friends in a virtual second rate world when the first world is economical and offers so much?

(Photo credit: Brenda P. and self at Lake Tahoe in November, 2005)

2) Suffer from what I call the digital curse - that is all information on these worlds, like almost all digital information, can easily be copied, lacks security, and can be tempered-with with minimal means of non-repudiation. These are symptoms of many business problems in cyberspace, e.g., music and video. Until there is a comprehensive solution that also allows open access, virtual worlds will only be interesting footnotes in the catalog of business assets.

3) Lack the many dimensions of social gathering and human contacts. Like the telephone and TV before it, the internet and now metaverses are simply new mediums for human contacts.  However, just like these other alternative mediums did not replace our need and the satisfaction we find with real human gatherings and contacts, virtual universes are only a temporary and convenient means of satisfying that primordial need.

4) Forget that humans are natural animals. Humans have evolved to love, blend, and sometimes destroy nature. This evolution occurred for millions of years and I believe that it is imprinted in our DNA. It's hard to believe that less than 20 years of cyber-existence will erase millions of years of evolution...

Virtual worlds are a means to an end. They help us imagine, fulfill idiosyncratic fantasies, and gather when otherwise it would be hard or impossible.  In some situations metaverses will flourish but I would venture in predicting a backlash against such environments and a curbing of the current craze, for nothing replaces real human contact and we are far far from an accurate depiction of nature in our digital inventions....

(Photo credit: self during Raleigh December 2002 ice storm)

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