Monday, December 04, 2006

More on SecondLife

Reality TV comes to SecondLife - Big Brother SecondLife is active now. Philanthropy can't be too far behind -- the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is already holding project launches and grantee meetings "in world."

See below for comments about the "only limitations we face are those of creativity."

See also this social edge conversation on/about SecondLife and the SocialSector

Also, Philip Rosedale's comments from his LongNow presentation have been summarized by Stewart Brand and a podcast will soon be available.

Brand's ENTIRE synthesis is below. Sign up at LongNow to get the podcast of Rosedale.

Today's Topics:

1. 2d Life takes off (Philip Rosedale talk) (Stewart Brand)


Date: Sun, 3 Dec 2006 13:26:58 -0800
From: Stewart Brand
Subject: [SALT] 2d Life takes off (Philip Rosedale talk)

What is real life coming to owe digital life?

After a couple years in the flat part of exponential growth, the
steep part is now arriving for the massive multi-player online world
construction kit called "Second Life." With 1.7 million accounts,
membership in "Second Life" is growing by 20,000 per day. The
current doubling rate of "residents" is 7 months, still shortening,
which means the growth is (for now) hyperexponential.

For this talk the founder and CEO of "Second Life," Philip Rosedale,
tried something new for him--- a simultaneous demo and talk. His
online avatar, "Philip Linden," was on the screen showing things
while the in-theater Philip Rosedale was conjecturing about what it
all means. "This is a game of 'Can I interest you more in what I'm
saying than what's going on on the screen?'"

He showed how new arrivals go through the "gateway" experience of
creating their own onscreen avatar, explaining that because intense
creativity is so cheap, easy, and experimental, the online personas
become strongly held. "You can have multiple avatars in 'Second
Life,' but the overall average is 1.25 avatars per person." The
median age of users is 31, and the oldest users spend the most time
in the world (over 80 hours per week for 10 percent of the
residents). Women are 43 percent of the customers.

The on-screen Philip Linden was carrying Rosedale's talk notes
(handwritten, scanned, and draped onto a board in the digital world).
Rosedale talked about the world while his avatar flew ("Everyone
flies--- why not?") to a music club in which a live song performance
was going on (the real singer crooning into her computer in real time
from somewhere.) The singer recognized Philip Linden in the
on-screen audience and greeted him from the on-screen stage.

"More is different," Rosedale explained. People think they want
total and solitary control of their world, but the result of that is
uninteresting. To get the emergent properties that make "Second
Life" so enthralling, it has to be one contiguous world with everyone
in it. At present it comprises about 100 square miles, mostly
mainland, with some 5,000 islands (all adding up to 35 terrabytes
running in 5,000 servers). Defying early predictions, the creativity
in "Second Life" has not plateaued but just keeps escalating.
Everybody is inspired to keep topping each other with ever cooler
things. There are tens of thousands of clothing designers. Unlike
the aesthetic uniformity of imagined digital worlds like in the movie
"The Matrix," "Second Life" is suffused with variety. It is "the sum
of our dreams."

The burgeoning token economy in "Second Life" is directly connected
to the real-world economy with an exchange rate of around 270 Linden
dollars to 1 US dollar. There are 7,000 businesses operating in
"Second Life," leading this month to its first real-world millionaire
(Metaverse real estate mogul Anshe Chung). At present "Second Life"
has annual economic activity of about $70 million US dollars, growing

As Jaron Lanier predicted in the early '90s, the only scarce resource
in virtual reality is creativity, and it becomes valued above
everything. Freed of the cost of goods and the plodding quality of
real-world time, Rosedale explained, people experiment fast and
strange, get feedback, and experiment again. They orgy on the things
they think they want, play them out, get bored, and move on. They
get "married," start businesses with strangers--- "There are
40-person businesses made of people who have never met in real life."
Real-world businesses hold meetings in "Second Life" because they're
more fun and encourage a higher degree of truth telling.

Pondering the future, Rosedale said that every aspect of the quality
of shared virtual life will keep improving as the technology
accelerates and the number of creators online keeps multiplying.
("Second Life" is now moving toward a deeper order of creativity by
releasing most of its world-building software into open source mode.)

Real-world artifacts like New York City could become regarded like
museums. "As the fastest moving, most creative stuff in our society
increasingly takes place in the virtual world, that will change how
we look at the real world," Rosedale concluded.

--Stewart Brand

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