My Second Life

First off a little bit about Second Life, Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003 and is accessible via the Internet. A free client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world, which residents refer to as the grid. Second Life caters for users aged over eighteen, while its sister site Teen Second Life is restricted to users aged between thirteen and eighteen.

Tonight, I was fortunate to hear Todd Gage, an executive at Linden Labs, speak at my school via the Spirit of the Senses program.

While I consider myself rather tech savvy, I did not understand what Second Life truly was or how much potential virtual worlds hold. I will admit it, I didn't get it.

Second Life, and virtual worlds that have been, and have yet to be created, will revolutionize many aspects of our society in the future.

Classes, meetings, work from home, teleconferencing, socialization, long distance education: all will change drastically with the advent of social/educational virtual networks similar to Second Life. They will be easier to attend, barriers to entry are removed/greatly reduced, and the goals of universal accessibility and education may be attained.

I also found the possible psychological survey possibilities fascinating. If individuals on Second Life are fundamentally freed from their inhibitions and a sort of pseudo-anonymity exists, one can only imagine how much more accurate surveys on racism, politics, gender equality, or any other topic where responses are inherently biased due to social inhibitions could become.

In addition, the possibilities for virtual world addiction also become real issues that we will have to face. For instance, take a look at this recent survey indicating that World of Warcraft, an online MMORPG, is as addictive as cocaine.

In the Swiss study,

Sven Rollenhagen of the Youth Care Foundation said, "There is not a single case of game addiction that we have worked with in which World of Warcraft has not played a part."

Virtual worlds are a fascinating topic that I will definitely be thinking about in the future.

There are infinite possibilites, and as banwidth and processing power become cheaper, they will only get more realistic.  I have a feeling we have not seen remotely close to what is possible regarding social/educational virtual realities.