Monday, October 16, 2006

Time For A Second Life?

I heard an interesting story on Marketplace tonight about how Reuters has established a full time reporter to cover the business news in another world.

The world of Second Life.

I've written about Second Life before, noting the blurring of the lines already between Real Life and virtual reality environments. Evolving from multiplayer game environments such as another popular space World of Warcraft, 3D virtual environments are starting to interact more and more with the real world in terms of commerce, social science, education, and relationships.

There are now people who spend most of their working (and perhaps waking) hours in Second Life. And they make an actual Real Life living from it. From selling virtual real estate, to designing virtual clothes, houses, or anything else your imagination can conceive, these people are selling their services and "goods" (Second Life has a concept around the ownership and transfer of virtual goods that protects the intellectual property of the virtual creation).

Second Life has it's own economy, and just like any other nation state, it has a currency with a floating exchange rate with U.S. dollars. Money ("Linden Dollars") can be exchanged for Real Life money. Weird? Not really. What is money but a virtual construct, anyway? Those greenbacks are a marker that can be exchanged for goods and services at floating market rates. They can also be exchanged for other currencies at floating market rates. There is no intrinsic value to that piece of linen other than that we consensually assign to it. Linden dollars are exactly the same.

So much the same that serious, Real World business reporting has started full time coverage of this economy. So much the same that Congress is actually debating legislation taxing goods and services sold in these virtual environments.

People are now creating virtual goods that people want to buy, as well as selling services previously only available in Real Life (teaching classes, mass media reporting, wedding planners, DJs, sex workers...). This isn't Virtual Reality anymore. It is Real Reality that has moved into the online world. (Which is why it's not called Virtual Life, but Second Life - a life in addition to the one you have in the Real World).

There is no reason why this shouldn't continue to grow and evolve. Meetings that now take place in person, or particularly meetings that take place via video teleconferencing, can move into Second Life settings. Services such as architecture and design, entertainment performances, sports, business consulting, counseling...all of these are already starting to take root in Second Life.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could fight the Iraqi insurgents in Second Life instead of Real Life?

Keep your eyes on this space - City of the Future coming here soon.

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