Thursday, December 14, 2006

Second Life exponentiates to 2 million residents

Today the virtual world Second Life welcomed its 2 millionth resident, exponentiating in growth from the 1 million resident mark on October 18, 2006 in less than two months and after barely having 100,000 residents at the beginning of 2006.

It is not Second Life’s 2 million residents, 10,000-20,000 of whom are in-world at any given time, nor its $650,000 per day economy ($237 million per year; $119 per capita, exceeding that of the Congo, Ethiopia and Burundi) that signals that the immersive world medium has arrived, but rather the existence of its opposition. The Register often highlights critical and problematic aspects of Second Life which it refers to as Sadville, for example citing "saddenfreude" and an analysis that time spend in Second Life contributes to global warming, as an avatar and a Brazilian consume roughly the same amount of electricity. (TV and media center electrical consumption was not mentioned.)

The brewing anti-SL movement has even moved in-world in hopes of better capturing SLer attention. The World Development Movement's anti-poverty campaign reminds passersby that there are still problems in what they refer to as "the Real World" such as a preventable child death every 3 seconds.

The ongoing presuppositions of the anti-SL movement are strange. They seem to think that SLers are 1) responsible for and 2) capable of contributing to world-problem solving in some unique way that TV watchers for example are not; and that 3) SLers are in fact not working on physical world problem solving in the physical world or via Second Life although there is much evidence to the contrary (such as the awareness raising Darfur sim where SLers can experience the refugee camp experience more closely).

When was the last time TV watchers or online Bix contest participants were blasphemed for watching TV or surfing the web instead of working on the world’s problems in their relaxation time?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Industry Roadmapping with Prediction Markets

Prediction markets are already known as liquid trading sites for real money and reputation and are starting to be deployed in corporate settings such as at Google, Microsoft, HP and Pfizer for crowd sourced knowledge of product launch dates, sales forecasts and other corporate events. Information markets are now even web 2.0-ified so that you can easily create your own prediction question with Inkling Markets or build a full market with open source software from Zocalo.

Prediction markets could be useful in many other areas such as industry roadmapping where disbursed information could be aggregated in meaningful ways. Industry roadmapping, which is setting future milestones and actions in an industry as agreed upon by the industry participants, is perhaps best known in the semiconductor industry. Other industries such as nanotech (via the Foresight Institute) and virtual worlds (via the Metaverse Roadmap) have been in the early stages of implementing roadmapping.

Prediction market roadmappers could create events and enter their view of the importance and timing of these events which are then rolled into a composite easily viewed on a time graph.

Roadmapping would become continuous instead of discrete by allowing participants (anonymous or not) to remain in real-time linkage with the project and constantly update any new information to be reflected immediately in the overall outlook.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bubble 2.0?

Life 2.0 has been re-inventing all aspects of experience including work, play, communication, commerce, politics, healthcare, aging, sexuality and spirituality so it is inevitable that it is eventually time for Bubble 2.0.

Is it Genius or Bubble? You be the judge

Some of the new startups not just using the new math but in fact no math include Bix, an online contest site which received $6.8M from VCs before being bought by Yahoo for an undisclosed amount in November 2006, Unboxing, UGC videos of geeks unpacking gadgets (can the site outlast PSP3 and Wii-envy?) and all the name-your-hobby-hereSTER cluster sites. Sort of reminds one of the deep history (five years ago) of eFlake, a breakfast cereal portal, ePants, an online pants ordering service and all the

Another tip-off: Venture Capital financing has had a slight up-trend in the last three years, pouring at least $5 billion of investment dollars into early stage companies each quarter. (Source: PWC MoneyTree, October 2006)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mainstream is not wowed by Second Life

Second Life is bursting at the seams - the immersive world is due to reach 2 million residents next week and has a burgeoning economy transacting over $650,000 worth of virtual goods and services EACH day.

More and more people are starting to learn about Second Life and there is one repeatedly recurring reaction: that people are affronted, even insulted that others would spend time in an immersive world.

This reaction has been expressed at least twice on NPR, recently when there was a commentator from Harvard's Berkman Law Center for Internet and Society and earlier from a Columbus OH caller on the October 24, 2006 Talk of the Nation segment (minutes 15:30-16:19 of the 30:20 minute program)
"I’ve never called in before ... I’m pretty disgusted by the whole thing ... there are so many real problems in the world ... this creative energy could go towards solving a lot of the basic problems and things that are going on in Africa ... I’m sure there’s some good coming out of it ... like new car designs ... but I’m very surprised at the amount of energy that people spend on things like this when there are people that can’t even have clean water …"
Ignoring the conflicting presuppositions and logic breaches, the key point is that something is different about spending time in Second Life versus with those other uber-productive activities that people might be doing in stead. There are several levels on which to examine this conflict.

1) What is objectionable about being in Second Life as compared with other leisure exploits like watching TV, watching YouTube, reading a novel, or playing video games?

2) What is objectionable about spending time in Second Life as compared with other creative exploits such as painting, carving wood in the garage, programming software or designing a video game?

3) What is objectionable about making a living in Second Life (which requires developing and using advanced technical skills) as compared with other remunerative efforts such as being a corporate drone, pornographer or gambler?

The response is so quick, visceral and negative that it is as if people are feeling personal rejection. Second Life is somehow different than other activities, even different than video games such as World of Warcraft (despite World of Warcraft racking up far more hours per user), perhaps because of the story of what Second Life offers, an alternative reality, and that people who spend time there are in some part rejecting the physical world and by extension its participants, non-SLers.

However, like the book, one of the original immersive alternative worlds, and in fact like most technologies (e.g.; radio vs. records) most people will probably come to realize that online immersive worlds offer more not less and supplement rather than replace the reality they experience.

Real-time 3D weather data visualization from NOAA

MLK "I Have a Dream" exhibit at the Second Life Library

How does the brain work at Uvvy Island

Climate crisis education at the International Spaceflight Museum

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Where is SingularitySTER?

With a friendSTER for every hobby like dogs, cats, cars and sports fans, where is what might be termed as 2.0, Singularityster? This long tail needs to meet.

Instead of community members authoring "first-person" journals in the name of their dogs as 35,000 do at Dogster, AGIs (Artificial General Intelligences) could write their own journals, or write journals as people...maybe they already are.

The new Turing Test would be identifying whether that is a human blogging as an AGI or an AGI blogging as a human...