#13. My Second Life: Messing with your mind

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Very early in my Second Life experience, an IBM colleague asked me “So, are you dreaming about SL yet?” Ha, harumpf, of course not, I replied. Now, of course, I sometimes do and so do many others to whom I’ve asked the same question. You are not alone.

This really shouldn’t be all that strange, because dreaming is really virtual and based on your experiences and your imagination. You do things in dreams that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do in real life. Sound familiar?

A serious side of all this is knowing how much of your SL experience to make as RL as possible and how much should you allow the programming magic of the virtual world infrastructure let you do otherwise impossible things. I touched on this briefly in my last note in this series as it concerns building business office space for your virtual team members.

If you do more adventurous things in SL, you can and probably have figured out where you personally draw the line between what resembles real life behavior, ethics, and actions, and where you let the magic and separation from your physical identity take hold.

On my way to the airport today I saw a truck that was labeled “Warm Water for Your Pool.” In the first second this seemed reasonable, warm pool water is good in the very cold northeastern United States. In SL you can buy or make things that have persistent properties, so why not permanently warm water! Presumably this service allows you to save on the heating bills of bringing initially cold water up to a swimmable temperature, but I’m still not sure I would bet a lot on that business model in RL. I mean, presumably people only get it once and then heat the water themselves. I hope so, in any case.

While SL does have money and it does have objects with various more or less dynamic properties, it has no sense of temperature. It does have the notion of health so that in the warfare areas you can be sent home to be rejuvenated when your health drops to zero. It does not have the facility for built in obsolescence for objects. Would you buy things for less money if they wore out in SL after a certain period? There are other similar examples.

These ideas are not specific to SL and do or do not exist in many kinds of games, both online and offline. I would bet in the future that the common virtual experience will be far more sophisticated than it is today with respect to all these sorts of external factors that can affect your health, your possessions, and your experience. It may or not be a future version of SL, because we’re only at the beginning of the adoption of these technologies. (I’m aware of the great popularity of online games like WoW, but I still assert that we’re only at the start of the virtual or 3D Internet.)

What do you think?

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  1. I am not sure if I dream about SL. However, ideas seem to come to me during those hours that I am sleeping.
    The guy next door from me in SL asked me why I don’t hire a builder. I asked him why in the world would I do that. He said that it would be better than tearing down and rebuilding my project every day. I let him know that improving on my building almost everyday was not that big a deal to me and in fact it was half the fun. What kills me about my dreams is that I am unable to follow though on them until after I am done at the RL job. By that time the original idea has usually morphed into something entirely different. Again that is what makes this whole SL deal so addictive.

  2. I agree that this is only the beginning and I expect people to eventually stop trying to mimic the real world in most if not all of its aspects.

    I keep asking myself why people feel compelled to do so. Why do we need chairs in a world where we don’t get tired? Why do we need wetsuits in a world where we get neither wet nor cold?

    Just like you don’t need stairs in SL because you can fly and teleport, none of these things are needed. I think the only reason they exist is because of our limited imagination. We’re somewhat compelled to reproduce everything in SL that exists in RL because they are familiar and provide us with some level of comfort. It makes the virtual world easier to apprehend.

    At the same time, because virtual worlds can only mimic the real world to a certain point they fail short of appealing to everybody. Those who can surf the real ocean on the weekend will only find surfing in SL completely dull. Those who like dancing will only find dancing in SL silly. Those who like beer will only find beers in SL tasteless. I’ll dare say that those who have a RL will only find their SL un-fulfilling.

    As people get more used to the new limitations – or lack of limitations – of the virtual world I expect to see more things that just can’t exist in the real world. things that go beyond what we can imagine today. Things only people who can free themselves from the constraints we have in the real world can imagine. I expect new social behaviors to develop too. Not just have the same as the ones we have in RL.

    Now, that would make it really interesting, don’t you think?

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