Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bots challenge Second Life's 3 million residents

Second Life est arrivée. The big news is not about the immersive world's meteoric growth, now topping 3 million residents after having only 100,000 residents a year ago. Neither is Second Life's USD $1 million a day economy making a lot of news.

Interestingly, what is making news is the in-world tension between avatars and bots. With their quicker reflexes, land buying bots have been beating avatars to the punch in purchasing scarce real estate as it becomes available. The land bots are alt instances, additional avatars controlled by the same person in order to be able to access the First Land privilege extended to newbies. Philip Linden recently stated that people have on average 1.25 avatars, suggesting that there are about 500,000 in-world alts.

The real challenge is that the groundswell of new residents has overwhelmed Linden Lab's ability to provide new land resources, thereby triggering a huge digital scarcity. The bots appear to be an example of human ingenuity in attempting to obtain a scarce resource. The bots are not illegal however disgruntled residents have been lobbying Linden Lab to oppose bots and Linden Lab has agreed to look into the possibility of including anti-spam captcha technology in the land-buying process.

The Second Life land buying bot friction is a microcosm of how humans are likely to respond to AGI, particularly if resource scarcity is at all an issue. The strong need of the human to speak out on emotion-driven issues such as fairness, ethics, sentimentality and perceived mistreatment should not be underestimated.

Off to build my bots...


LaBlogga said...

Linden Lab subsequently sidestepped the bots issue by discontinuing the first land subsidy as of 2/20/07 or earlier.