02 November 2006

'Second Life' – what happened to the First Life?

Second Life (SL) is a privately owned, partly subscription-based 3-D virtual world. SL is one of several virtual world, only existing in cyberspace. It is a user-defined world of general use in which people can interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate.

Second Life is also called a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG or MMO) is a computer game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously, playing on the Internet. In SL players are called 'residents', and recently the population of Second Life hit 1 million.

Second Life has its own economy and a currency referred to as Linden Dollars (L$). Residents receive an amount of L$ when they open an account if they supply credit/debit card details. Additional L$ are acquired by selling objects or services within the environment. L$ can also be used to purchase (virtual) real estate. Linden Dollars can be purchased against USD. The ratio of USD to L$ fluctuates daily as residents set the buy and sell price of L$ offered on the exchange, and it has fluctuated between L$240/USD and L$350/USD over the past 12 months (October 2005 to September 2006).

Since this artificial space creates an enormous economy (US$583,496 spent over 24 hours on 1 Nov), it has drawn the attention of a U.S. congressional committee, which is investigating how virtual assets and incomes should be taxed.

It is obvious that with increasing information technology we would sooner or later create artificial worlds, where we are supposedly freed from our earthly restraints. I wonder what is happening to our Frist Life – what most of us consider to be the 'real world'? Creating 'second lives' in virtual worlds looks like an escape from the real issues we are facing in our physical world. Why are we afraid of slaying the dragons we are facing here? Maybe because it would need a real commitment to change one's habits? In a virtual world, when things get too hard, we just log out, or create a new player and restart...

I wonder if our virtual worlds will turn out to be that different from the First Life world anyway? When things get as real as in Second Life, then economic stress and other social pressures like in the culture we've created here will not be that far away ...

Second Life: http://secondlife.com/
Reuters: US Congress launches probe into virtual economies
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_life

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