Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Question

Have you ever woken up and realized that you had woken up in a different world than you had gone to sleep in?
It’s a serious question, one I’d really like you to think about for a moment.
The reason I ask, is because all of us have, only we didn’t realize it. And the majority of you still don’t. The reason is that the difference is so subtle, so small, that it passed without notice except for a very few.
In the year that I was born, Man landed on the moon, and it seemed the future would be a glorious adventure of man’s conquest of space. We would soon have a lunar colony, and preparations for the colonization of mars couldn’t be farther than the turn of the century… It was an exciting time to be alive.
Then political reality set in. The government couldn’t care less about people going to the moon. It only cared about the space program because it was a salve to the ego blow of the Russians getting a satellite in orbit. Once it had been done, the government lost interest in a technology that could potentially bring wealth beyond anything the planet had ever known, because the capital investment wouldn’t see that return for decades, all of which meant no one in power then would benefit.
So good bye to all the dreams of a future in space for all us wide eyed kids, hello Viet-Nam.
But what I didn’t realize then, was that the future hadn’t died. The politicians might have cut the future down, but they forgot to rip out the roots. For the longest time, no-one paid any attention as the future spread and grew new shoots, small little runners, so tiny compared to the giant the politicians had destroyed , but in massive numbers. Microelectronics, advances in medicine, bioengineering, massive integration, all the various fields that had come together to make the Space program viable took what they had learned, and expanded, never realizing that they were all still part of the same future thought gone forever, and through ten thousand little steps, a miracle occurred…
The world changed, but no one noticed.
I know I certainly didn’t at first. For the first twenty-five years of my life, I looked at a world where the only certainty seemed that we would die in nuclear fire. The Apocalypse and Armageddon lurked around every corner, and all it seemed one could hope for was that Christianity had it right and maybe the rapture would spare some of us from the ultimate holocaust.
I was such a good little Christian in those days. Like too many people, I looked for salvation from some outside force, trying to find a hope in a world where it seemed hope had died. But by my early twenties I had seen through the hypocrisies and brainwashing and political maneuverings of a church that sought nothing more than secular power and had no faith in its own teachings. Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Baker had proven to be such fine paragons of virtue that the trite morality disguising their political agendas had become a joke. It was a world where the future was meaningless, faith was meaningless, and fear was the only certainty. All of my bright dreams of childhood lay scattered in the dust of dreary reality. Science Fiction had become my escape, my sole solace in a world without a future.
It was at this time that I enrolled in the local vo-tech, in electronics repair. I figured I might as well make one of the few things I found enjoyable a paying job. Unfortunately, the first speech given by my teacher was how the art of electronics repair was no longer needed. It was cheaper to replace than to repair, and the diagnostics skills needed to troubleshoot at the board level was nearly useless these days. Pretty good pep talk, huh? But I had paid for the course, and had my curiosity, so I tried to learn anyway. I never did finish the course, much to my regret, but it was during this class that I woke up one morning and realized the world had undergone a fundamental shift of reality.
It started with a trip to my library, because my electronics course had just touched on the quantum nature of semi conductors, and how this property was a key to miniaturization. I had picked up a couple of books on miniaturization, and one of them was a book called NANO. It was nothing more than a biography of a man named K. Eric Drexler, but it introduced me to a concept that took my world, and shattered it forever.
Imagine an entire planet made of glass, getting hit by a meteorite, followed by an endless noise of falling glass…
I had been sleeping in a world were there was no hope, only a bleak pointless existence Nietzsche would have envied, and this one concept destroyed that world forever, and replaced it with one where there was a point of hope at the end of a long and dangerous road. Nothing else about the world had changed except the fact that my eyes were open, and could see that far off promise, but that made all the difference in the world.
There was a future again… thanks to nanotechnology.
But it was not a future like those written about by Heinlein, or Asimov, or even the various Japanese Anime I fell in love with like Battle Angel Alita, or Gundam. As much as I still love all of these stories, I can never again see them with the wide eyed wonder I did as a child. I simply can't view that future as anything other than a product of a world which no longer exists. It's never going to happen.
The same with almost every other Sci-fi book I read any more. From Star Trek, to Snow Crash, to Ghost in the Shell, they are all flawed visions of the future seen through the lens of that bleak past I once existed in. The world we are headed towards is as far beyond these visions as a Shakespearian Sonnet is from doggerel verse.
From the early days of learning about Nanotech to researching all the other advances leading to the Singularity, the more I learn, the more that these much loved stories pale against reality. Science Fiction has lost it's magic. I still enjoy picking up new books, and have grown addicted to Anime and Manga, but they are no longer my first love, though I will never deny their influences in helping me shape my view of the future.
Reality has simply grown beyond them.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I've just had a very enlightening discussion with Mr. David Brin, read many of his posts on his blog:, and a few that he directed me to.

The outcome of which is a little piece of introspection. Mr. Brin correctly points out that the chief ideological divide of our time is not truly Left/Right Liberal/Conservative or really any sort of "political" split at all.

It is rather more precisely a forward/backwards split. It is the divide between walking forward into the future, or running screaming into a never existent "golden era" of a romanticized past. It's the divide between advancing into a uncomfortable future, or demanding we retreat to a mythological "safe womb".  It's the divide between GO and STOP. Between pressing the gas and slamming on the breaks.

I believe in ecological sustainability, but I refuse to support the AGW movement.  Why? Because to me, far too much of the AGW dogma is "STOP!!!!!!".  It's not about FIXING the problem, it's about running away from the problem at top speed by banning carbon emissions, and thus FORCING the world to go back to a "better, more primitive" time that exists only in the collective imaginations of those pining for them. A better solution must be found, and I don't see any signs that one is being seriously looked for. The other side is screaming "STOP!!!!!" just as loudly, but they are pining for the "good old days" before we KNEW THERE WAS A PROBLEM, and little more.Neither side is looking for "progress", only retreat, and any real suggestions for alternate solutions, such as geoengineering, are demonized.

Our world is advancing. It is doing so at an ever faster rate, and those advances are creeping out into society more and more openly. Everything we thought we knew is proving to be just a tiny splash in the potential total of all things knowable, and all the old "certainties" are growing ever shakier. That "steady job" that lasted a lifetime is now one that changes every few years. That "rock solid" certainty we once had, that comforting "wisdom" of knowing "how the world works" is growing more and more tenuous, fading away like a wisp of cloud.

Even in MMOs, we wax Nostalgic, recreating fantasy pasts that never were for our entertainment, looking for that magic we know was never there, and the safety of knowing all that "change" is far away.

But we don't have a choice but to move forward. In our hearts we know that there was never a "golden age" behind us. We've been there, and done that. It's time to stop looking back at a romantic dream, and time to look forward to making that dream better, and to make a future "golden age" with our own hands.

So, this November, don't vote "dem" or "rep" "pro" or "con". Vote for those looking forwards instead of for those who are only looking back.

Monday, July 5, 2010

On Government

Alright, this blog post might end up being rather long, but it has become entirely too necessary. I’ve had to repeat myself far too many times.

I’ve been arguing with people all over the net about “Government”

First, let me define what I mean by Government. Government is a system of organization within a collective which directs the actions of the collective, controls the shared resources of the collective and which distributes those shared resources in the way which benefits the collective most efficiently. A government will always arise as the natural result of human pack instinct because it enables efficient division of labor and allocation of resources. It doesn’t matter what form this organization takes, be it a tribal council, a council of elders, a Men’s or Women’s council, a Fiefdom, a Vassalage, Dukedom, Republic, Monarchy or Democracy, the very organization itself will always be created by any group of people . This organization “Governs” the collective, and is thus a “Government”

So in essence, a Government is an inherent fact of human existence. It’s bred into our genes.  Every group of humans that comes together for any purpose will inevitably create a “government” within the group.

Animals do this too, though most animals cannot form “societies” larger than a few dozen to a few hundred individuals, but in every animal species which forms a social group, they instinctively self organize into a hierarchy with “leaders” and “followers”

Why? Because of two simple reasons. Survival , and Reproduction.

Survival is a basic drive for any animal. It directs us to daily seek out the resources needed to continue one’s existence. To survive, we need food, shelter from the elements, medical care, education, and security.

Let’s use a wolf pack as an example. It hunts for food, creates a den for shelter from the elements, follows certain hygienic practices to maintain its health, teaches it’s young, and surrounds itself with a group to increase the security of every individual.

It makes it very easy to see how a lack of any of these basic needs could jeopardize the wolf’s survival, no? If he can’t find food, he’ll starve to death. If he can’t find a den, he can’t shelter from the elements, meaning every storm could kill him, every blizzard freeze him to death. If he doesn’t take those basic hygene steps (i.e. grooming, etc) his health will suffer, he could get sick, and die. If his parents hadn’t educated him, he wouldn’t have survived his first day in the wild and died. And if he’s all alone, he has no help to defend himself against fellow predators.

Examining the needs of animals provides us with a very clear understanding that any animal thus has five basic requirements that together constitutes “Survival”: Food to eat, Shelter to live in, Healthcare to prevent illness, education to cope with the environment, and security to be free from threats.  By forming packs, wolves thus self organize into a collective where every member can contribute and share responsibility for provision of these five NEEDS. This is known as division of labor. Each wolf divides the total labor of any one wolf in proportion with the number of wolves in the pack. If one brings down a large animal, they all share, reducing the burden of each wolf towards hunting. Some can stay and watch pups while others go hunt. Some can stand guard while others sleep. The healthy can share with the sick. Etc.

By forming an organization, wolves thus create a system which A: Controls the Collective actions, B: Controls the Shared resources of the Collective, and C: Allocates shared resources to benefit the Collective as efficiently as possible.


We can see the same self organization in a primitive tribe as well. The tribe works together to ensure the tribes survival, using division of labor to multiply the efficiency of each individual, and thus provide the five NEEDS to each individual at much reduced cost in individual effort. In a prosperous tribe, it might be possible to acquire all needs for a week with just a few hours of combined effort by all individuals.

This is what makes such organization a strong survival trait. Any animal which forms such an organization will have a much higher survival chance than those which do not form such organizations. Because such animals will have a greater likelihood of having all five of their basic NEEDS met, promoting species growth.

In humans, we can increase this beyond just providing for basic NEEDS though, because we have created systems which can not only allocate resources efficiently but which can do so across time as well. A resource collected today can be stored for use at a later time, thus enabling human labor to produce far more than just the basic NEEDS. This excess becomes stored for later use, and as the “storehouse” grows, it enables the group to provide for more people, who contribute just that much more to the “storehouse” in an endless loop of improvement.

Thus we can state that a Government is an organization used to collectively provide the five basic NEEDS to all members by controlling collective shared resources and allocating them efficiently throughout the collective, enabling a self recursive loop of increasing returns that enables growth.

It doesn’t matter what it is called, a business, a state, a nation, or a group, every collective will have a “government” and will be working to provide the five basic NEEDS. We’ve managed to complicate the levels of division of labor in modern society so far that it might not be obvious, but it is nonetheless true. The job you work will have a chain of command which will maximize the productivity of the individuals that make up the collective, and that chain of command is a “Government”

Humans today can be part of hundreds of “Collectives” of varying sizes, each of which will contribute in varying degrees to providing the five NEEDS or survival, but despite this complex explosion of collectives, nothing has changed in the basic, DNA driven, reasons behind this spontaneous self organization.

Looked at by itself, it should be obvious that were man driven by survival alone, we should have long ago created a paradise on earth where no one had to work more than a few minutes a month to provide for the five basic NEEDS. After all, collaboration enables a collective to be a positive sum game of ever increasing bounty right?

So why do we still have things like poverty and suffering?

Because mankind has a secondary drive, remember? Reproduction. Our reproductive drive takes that survival instinct that makes us create governments and throws a giant monkey wrench into it. Survival drives us to a collective strategy, but mating is an individual effort on the part of our DNA.

I could spend pages going over all the ways we’ve come up with to promote mating success, but the key factor to look at is the fact that within a collective, this behavior leads to “Status Seeking”. A high “Status” individual within a collective has access to the best of everything, while a low “Status” one will have significantly less access. Thus the ability of the “Government” to allocate shared resources becomes skewed by granting higher “priority” to high status individuals, and lower priority to low status ones. Where survival alone would enable the collective to provide equally to all, “status” gives preferential access to high status individuals to the collective’s resources and removes access to low status individuals.

So why does status seeking evolve from reproductive instincts? Because a “high status” indicates “better breeding stock”.  Back in the tribal days, a “superior hunter” would have high status, be given the best food, live in the best hut, get the best medical care, have been taught the best “knowledge” and be the best protected member. It would also make him the focus of the “mating competition” allowing him access to, and his choice of, bedmates.  But status is not just about “hunting”. Humans have evolved numerous status “markers” which indicate varying “desirability” traits. In and of themselves, none of this is really “bad” for humans, except that we humans like to pretend we aren’t “driven by instincts”

It’s this refusal to admit we have instincts that allow these instinct driven behaviors to run unchecked, and that’s what gets us into so much trouble.

Why? Because one of the markers we have created to mark “Status” is the accumulation of material wealth.  

Human labor produces material wealth. It produces far more material wealth than any individual human has NEEDS. If all production by a group were divided equally, everyone would have a large surplus, which would be usable to provide for new individuals.

But these shared resources are NOT SHARED equally, but are instead shared according to status. Thus a high status person is “entitled” to a greater share than a low status person. Long ago, we created a simplified means of keeping track of how a big a share each person got. It’s called MONEY. Money is an IOU for a percentage of the collective’s shared resources.

So to strip things down to their essentials, Humans are driven by survival instincts to create “governments” to administer collective shared resources and allocate division of labor. This is a Collective Process, which is a positive sum game. The larger the group, the more resources it can generate. Technological innovation increases the efficiency of human labor and adds even more positive growth.

This positive sum game exists to ensure that the five basic NEEDS of survival are met by the Collective.

Reproductive instinct is an Individual instinct, which places every human in competition with every other. This results in STATUS seeking behavior, which is a zero sum game. Status can only be gained or lost relative to others in the Collective, so any “wins” are at a “loss” to someone else.

Every human is driven by these two drives, and if you understand this, it thus becomes easy to see why we still have poverty and suffering in a world which SHOULD be able to provide every human NEED easily.
Human instinct causes us to work to ensure our survival with the least individual effort, enabling us to create an enormous surplus of resources...


We create governments to manage collectives, which are then subverted by individuals seeking to elevate their personal status by diverting more and more shared resources into private “hoards”

And because we refuse to recognize this instinct, we allow status seeking behavior to even play with the five basic NEEDS. We’ve turned survival into just another marker in the status game. In fact, we’ve even come up with a fancy name for the Status game, The MARKET.

Everything on the Market is a status marker. The food you buy, the clothes you wear, the entertainment you can afford, these are all “status symbols”. They are all created by the Collective through division of labor to meet the five basic NEEDS, but we’ve lost that understanding due to the massive complexity of the status seeking game. We’ve allowed NEEDS to be become just another marker.

Because of this, we’ve allowed all excess production beyond mere subsistence (i.e. the absolute BARE MINIMUM meeting of NEEDS, barely sufficient to maintain life) to become the diverted into status seeking.

We can see this in the wolf pack as well. The pack pecking order will have an “Alpha” and a “below Beta” who is barely permitted to survive, with every other wolf falling somewhere between them in status, and amount of shared resources they are permitted to claim.

If you then look to our world, what do you see?

A government which seeks to efficiently share collective resources for the good of the entire collective, at war with a market that seeks to divert all resources into individual status “markers”

This is because the Government and the Market exist to fulfill opposing drives. The Government exists to ensure survival, the Market exists to ensure reproduction.

I can’t make it any simpler than that, and a lot of you will try to claim I am simplifying too much, but once you strip away all the justifications and rationalizations we have created to hide the instinctual drives we have which create both the Government and the Market, this is what it comes down to.

And thus, you will hear a Randian “Libertarian” claiming that “Government is evil” because rather than accept the fact that any system which governs the behavior of the collective is a “Government” they personify government as a “criminal” and then seek to blame government as a whole for the actions of the individuals in the government who are diverting government’s functions to improve their own status. They are thus blaming the collective for the crimes of the individuals who actually committed them, absolving these “high status” individuals from the consequences of their actions. 

They then usually attempt to describe a “governmentless” system in which the Market becomes the “government” only they refuse to admit that this is what they are trying to do. Since the market exists solely as a system for determining “status” it becomes clear that the intent is to allow high status individuals unlimited right to do as they please, with the unspoken assumption on the part of the typical “libertarian” that if the market was allowed to be “Free”, they would “naturally” rise to the alpha class.

You will of course hear an enormous number of rationalizations as to why this is not true, but it almost always comes down to “I hate the government because I think the government is preventing me from being an alpha elite” once you’ve broken down the semantics and gotten to the motives behind the words.

It also becomes clearer as you continue to converse with a Randian “Libertarian” that they do actually seek to create a “government” because they want all the advantages a government provides, i.e. the five basic NEEDS of Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security, but they don’t want to call it “Government” even though it is one. They want a government in which “Status” controls everything, though they continually try to claim that such a system can somehow be unbiased. They refuse to accept the fact that status based, market driven “Government” cannot be unbiased, as it will ALWAYS FAVOR HIGHER STATUS.

We’ve tried this idea in the past. It’s the basic “government mode” for the human species. It’s the “default” genetic behavior.

But Randian “Libertarians” seem to think that somehow, we can run in this mode and have a different result than we have had 99 million times before. That somehow, it won’t produce the exact same “aristocracy” and “serfs” that it has done for all of human history.

In some books, that is the definition of insanity.

The same basically can be said of “Conservatives” who follow Randian ideals, they want small government and no regulation to allow the “Market” to become the primary “government”, but it their case it’s not so much about “becoming an elite” as it is “staying an elite”

And sadly, you also have “Progressives” who want to make the “Government” so powerful that it overwhelms individuality, and forces all members to become the “same status” forgetting that our instincts will rebel against this, as Russia proved so well.

So obviously, we need to create a balance in which both instincts can be harnessed to serve humanity rather than allowing these drives to force humanity to serve them. Humans are the sole animal capable of “rerouting” these instincts to become tools for our personal use.

The first step to “taming” the instincts is to acknowledge that they exist. We will create collectives, which will have governments. These will provide the Five Basic Needs of Food, Shelter, Healthcare, Education, and Security.  Governments are a genetic tool for the survival of the collective, intended to provide for the well being of the collective. It is a naturally emergent phenomena of the collective and is a positive survival trait because it inevitably creates a pool of “surplus” shared resources which enable growth and expansion. It exists to serve the NEEDS of the individuals within the collective as a COLLECTIVE WHOLE.

We will also form “Status Levels” within the collective, driven by reproductive instincts which seek to maximize genetic potential. This is an Individual behavior, driving individual actions to maximize “status” within the collective, and thus it is also a naturally emergent phenomena. Like Survival, it will compel humans to form groups and to seek “status” within that group. It seeks to ensure individual mating success at all costs to “rivals” up to and including “eliminating” them from competition through death..

We thus have two competing drives which force humans to form “packs”, but which are in direct conflict each other, and have caused nearly all human misery since time began. Poverty exists because all group resources become subject to “Status Tributes” diverting all resources into one individual’s “pocket” or another’s, leaving the absolute barest minimum left for the collective whole. Nearly all “low status” production is demanded as “tribute” to high status individuals, subverting the ability of the collective to provide for NEEDS.

If you understand that THE COLLECTIVE includes all subcollectives within a society, i.e. every form of “government” be it “Government” or “Corporate Organization” or “Religious Organization” or whatever, it then becomes clear that regardless of how “specialized” or “subdivided” our “division of labor” has become, the total action of the “Collective” is still to provide for “NEEDS”, then you can look at our current world situation, and see that the overwhelming fact that the vast majority of TOTAL HUMAN PRODUCTION is being diverted into the “pockets” of a small number of “Alpha Elite’s” to improve and maintain their “Status”. 

Corporatism is a subset of this effort, intended to keep the “status” of certain “Subcollectives” high so that the individuals profiting personally from their status within those subcollectives will not lose their status, or so they can attain higher status.

The entire debate on Universal Medical Care centered on status as well, as those who’s status depended on profiting from providing this NEED fought to ensure their continued profits and status. Financial reform is the same thing. Those on Wallstreet seek to keep profiting at all costs to keep their status, and improve it, no matter who on the lower status tiers suffers.

We are surrounded by evidence that “Status” is a very poor way to ensure “HUMANITIES” survival, because it is entirely focused on the reproductive instinct. Nor will it create a world in which equality or freedom exists, because it is inherently stratifying into High status and Low status, with deference extended to high, and deference expected from low.

Only by acknowledging this can we begin creating a means to harness these drives for our benefit. We have to acknowledge that Government is a Collective strategy, and that the Market is a Competitive strategy, and that our best course of action is to KEEP THEM SEPARATE BUT BALANCED.

Government EXISTS to enable sharing of resources to provide the FIVE BASIC NEEDS. Thus its role has ALWAYS been to ensure that every human has Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security. This is its sole function. Every form of government of every sort, from nations to business hierarchies, is involved in this single task. We as individuals join these collectives precisely because they provide these five basic NEEDS to one degree or another. In most cases, this is through providing “Money”, which is an IOU marker for the percentage of total shared resources created by the combined total of all subcollectives within the overall Collective.

The Market EXISTS to enable the determining of STATUS within the collective to determine mating success (though since technology has been increasingly enabling us to separate SEX from REPRODUCTION this fact has become ever more obscured). Its role is to stratify the collective to ensure the “best genetic material” has greater opportunity to reproduce. All items in the market are markers in the complex game that has resulted in the drive to seek status. This has not only been responsible for much of human innovation and creativity, but has also been responsible for most human misery through denial of access to shared resources produced by the collective.

Let me see if I can reduce this down to bullet points

  • The government is a naturally occurring emergent behavior of pack/herd mentality. It enables collective resource sharing, division of labor, efficient allocation of shared resources to the individuals, and in general provides for the Five Basic NEEDS of Food, Shelter, Medical care, Education, and Security.

  • The market is a product of reproductive behavior that drives pack/herds to create Status pecking orders. These pecking orders self stratify, creating High status and low status members. Pack instinct demands "privilege" for high status, and enforces "obedience" on low status. 

  • Both of these drives make us form societies, but their effects are radically different

  •  Co-operation is a Positive Sum Game. It promotes creation of excess resources that then promote species growth

  • Competition is a Zero Sum Game. It promotes the mating success of "superior genetic material" which then promotes species improvement.

  • Government is thus a Survival instinct. It creates all Growth through providing the 5 needs of all organisms.

  • The Market is thus a Reproductive instinct. It creates NO growth, but encourages the development of IMPROVEMENTS. 

  • Government provides STABILITY

  • Market provides INNOVATION

  • But the Status game also creates SERIOUS DRAWBACKS. Most of the problems of humanity are actually DUE to these drawbacks caused by the reproductive instincts. Status seeking behavior leads to diversion of collective resources into personal "status hoards" We call this diversion, "CORRUPTION" "ABUSE" "OPPRESSION" etc.

  • Every problem that most people try to stick on "The Government" is actually caused by INDIVIDUALS within Government that are DIVERTING SHARED RESOURCES INTO PERSONAL STATUS SEEKING EFFORTS.

  • We NEED both instincts, the co-operative and the competitive. The real problem is the subversion of co-operative "power" to promote personal competitive goals. This occurs because in many cases those who divert or misuse co-operative power to further personal agendas escape all accountability for their actions. Too many people confuse the collective for individuals who are directing those collectives, and end up absolving these individuals for their behavior by shifting the blame to a imaginary entity.

Of all the systems of “Government” we have experimented with over the centuries, Democracy is the sole system in which the majority is not subjugated to the minority of high status individuals. It does have flaws in that under current technological conditions, the majority of humans are insufficiently educated to be able to participate in a democracy as an “Informed Rational” agent. This leads to the common dismissal of democracy as an “Idiocracy”.  People vote based on irrational “feelings” or allow themselves to be swayed by illogical “arguments” that depend on their lack of education to promote ideologies which are directly opposed to their personal well-being. A” true” Democracy can only exist in a society in which all individuals have unrestricted access to not only information, but to an education sufficient to enable every individual to be able to understand that information, and be aware of logical fallacies and the self serving nature of ideological viewpoints. It also requires absolute transparency of government, because any secrecy allows individuals to subvert the collectives’ resources into personal status seeking behavior.

Thus we have not yet reached a point technologically or socially in which these requirements can be met. A totally open government in a world in which multiple “governments” exist would be a disaster due to the competitive nature of status seeking. Only in a world in which no “rival” governments exist can a transparent government be enabled. Without rivals, there is no justification of “secrecy” other than attempts to hide diversion of shared resources into private status. Nor have we the means to ensure that every human has been educated to their fullest potential, as each individual learns differently and no two share the exact same interests and learning styles...

...YET. That seems likely to change.

As I see trends developing, the current trends in government corruption have run headlong into the participatory panopticon, the ability of the public to record and retain evidence of public officials actions and behavior. As Jon Stewart shows frequently, we now have the ability to record politicians and compare their words over the course of time, which enables us to not only reveal the self serving "status building" they do by catering to special interests, but to use that evidence freely as a "external memory"

As we develop VR and AR in the next few years, cameras are going to become universal. What now can be done to politicians will become a feature of daily life. We will record our lives in enormous detail to enable us to merge virtual and real in a digital wonderland, and those recordings will become evidence when needed.

This kind of "perfect memory" will also enable us to vastly improve the education level of everyone. With efficient "memory agents" we will have every detail of every bit of knowledge we have ever encountered available to each of us instantly, with the ability to research new knowledge nearly as fast via the internet.

And like the Truth Machine in James Halprin's book this "personal black box" will enable us to vastly simplify our transactions by removing the ability to deceive from being a factor in human interactions. No one can lie when their personal record, or that of anyone else who is present, can record the exact factual record of any event.

Thus the PRIMARY requirement for any democracy is ACCOUNTABILITY. Every member of a democracy MUST be ACCOUNTABLE to every other member of that democracy. Every member of the democracy needs to be accountable to the government, and most importantly that government HAS TO BE COMPLETELY ACCOUNTABLE TO THE INDIVIDUAL.

Without that accountability, Status seeking behavior will be the dominant activity of nearly every political figure. Ubiquitous recording will gradually FORCE that accountability onto them, reducing their ability to divert resources into personal "status". 
 This will lead us gradually towards that "transparent government" model and eventually to a single world wide Athenian Democracy.

Another thing it will do is eliminate the necessity for so many laws. For example two people decide to trade goods or services. Right now, such a trade would require a formally written contract, defining precisely what is being traded, precisely what it is being traded for, and reams of other precisely defining terms that go up enormously in complexity depending on precisely what is being traded. This is all to ensure that both parties are accountable for their actions.

But if both parties have personal recorders, and they are in a public place which is also recording (like a store) the transaction can be a simple handshake. If any dispute arises, the judge can consult both their records and the locations, and see PRECISELY what occurred, as opposed to having to listen to each side attempt to favor their side, and figure out who's lying.

Laws will always be needed, but guaranteed accountability will enable us to simplify human interactions and help us identify those who constantly seek loopholes to avoid accountability, and over time, eliminate those loopholes.

Consider it debugging the human social program. 

However, that is in the future. Under current conditions, even with these flaws, Democracy is STILL the sole means in which the low status majority is LEAST subject to the minority of high status individuals. What is needed to improve the ability of the democracy to provide for the collective is to recognize the role of “government” in the provision of NEEDS. In the past, this was accomplished by each individual “surrendering” a portion of their “labor” to the collective, and in exchange they received a “share” of those resources “surrendered to the collective” by other individuals that met their NEEDS for Food, Shelter, Health Care, Education, and Security.

Our civilization has become ENORMOUSLY complex, but this basic process is still the same. The individual contributes to the collective in exchange for provision of NEEDS by the collective in an exchange which - through division of labor - maximizes the collective’s production while minimizing individual effort.

The next time you hear a Randian “Libertarian” saying “taxation is theft” think about the sheer number of benefits the average person receives from the various collectives they are a member of. It doesn’t matter if it is “tax” or “hours of work” or “physical labor” the individual is contributing “their labor” in exchange for the receiving of NEEDS. Taxation is no more “theft” then a “job” Is theft. In both cases you are exchanging a percentage of your “labor” to a Collective in exchange for one or more of your NEEDS being met. For it to be "theft" it would require a one sided exchange, with no benefits returned. If I worked 80 hours for a paycheck and didn't get one that would be theft, if I paid taxes and then was stopped at the end of my driveway and told I couldn't drive on the road my taxes pay for, that would be theft. But since I benefit from that exchange, it is not theft, no matter how they try to twist it.

No matter how many loops and sub collectives may exist within the whole, the entire Mandelbrot mess is still reducible to this fact.

Which is why I advocate for the true “RIGHTS” of humanity, those which are undeniable, the five NEEDS. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are ALL dependent on these five basic NEEDS, and impossible to have without them. For Government to provide its GENETICALLY DRIVEN function, it must provide for those five NEEDS. We have, however, allowed so many various “subcollectives” to come into being that this basic drive has become obscured by the thousands of interconnected “governments” we function under as members of thousands of differing and conflicting “collectives”

By “simplifying” things, and realizing that the essential role of “government” has remained identical through all human history, and throughout all species of animal who form “societies” it should be clearly seen that removing NEEDS from the market and returning them to their rightful place as the priorities of government, can thus minimize the ability of individuals to use NEEDS as markers in the social status game.

This will however be resisted enormously by those who receive “status” benefits from the control of NEEDS.
The result for the collective is extremely beneficial , though, because by separating NEEDS from STATUS, it frees the market from having to provide needs, and thus enables a less destructive transition from an Economy of Scarcity, to an Economy of Abundance, by accelerating the shift from material to non-material  “wealth” creation. Without this separation, the inevitable collapse of the market for “Material Goods” due to increasing automation and computerization will create a massive disruption in the provision of NEEDS for a significant majority of the world, which could lead to widespread violence prior to the rebuilding of the market through “Non Material Goods”

In the long run, advancing technology will force this separation to occur regardless, and create a balanced society of individuals who “govern” the collective via an “Athenian Democracy” in which every member has an equal vote regardless of social status, and who participate in a “Market” in which individual merit has become the primary “token” by which “Status” is judged, as technology will eliminate all value from every other “token” by enabling morphological freedom, and human enhancement, as well as completely divorcing sex from the reproductive act (in essence, decoupling the instincts from the consequences) but failure to begin moving towards this end result in the present is likely to multiply enormously the number of human lives lost as we transition towards this future.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On becoming a Second Life Succubus

The following is the opening chapter of a book which I am thinking about writing about Second Life and it’s value as a testing ground for the future developments of cyberspace, as well as it’s value as an indicator of the social and moral issues humanity will face over the next few decades as our technology continues to advance at an ever increasing rate.  Any views, questions, advice, or suggestions are welcome.  I am not yet certain of exactly where I wish to go with this, in terms of what topics to cover, questions to ask and answer, or even how I wish to format it. 


Chapter One: Welcome to Your Second Life

“Why am I here?” I asked myself for the twentieth time in the last hour.

I felt like a fool.  Why had I allowed Shasta to talk me into this?  An idle fantasy?  A chance to escape the humdrum daily grind and allow myself the freedom of just being myself?  This was crazy.  It was going to be just like all the other times.  Disappointing.

“Come to Second Life,” Shasta had said in the IM.  “You can work for me at the bar I’m partners in.  You’ll love it here.”

I trusted her, I really did.  Despite the fact that we had never once met IRL, Shasta has always been a friend and mentor and confidant.  She has always been one of the real believers in my artistic talents, even though I have never really been a successful artist.  I had known her for ten years, and tonight I was going to meet her “face to face” for the first time.  Despite the fact we had been out of touch for two years, when she had found a link to my new internet account, and contacted me, it had been like we had talked only yesterday. 

She had begged me to come, to see her new club, and to just hang out.  I had been dubious, but let her talk me into it.  I had downloaded the program, set up an account, and signed into the virtual world of Second Life.

I had been in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games before, and while I liked a few, like Ragnarok and Lineage 2, I wasn’t expecting much from Second Life.  It seemed kind of tame actually, a world with no story line, no monsters, no combat outside of a few arenas.  I expected it to be rather boring.  Indeed, just figuring out the basic interface had been confusing, and seemed rather poorly laid out compared to several other MMORPGs I had played recently.  Just figuring out how to make the Avatar of myself had taken most of the hour, it had so many customization options. It took a while, and some aspects of the Avatar really were not well done, particularly hair, but finally, here I stood on the entry platform, a tall white haired bombshell in a tight red top and black mini.

No, I didn’t look anywhere near my IRL appearance, but that was the point, no?  I was here not as the person I was stuck being in RL, but as Valkyrie Ice, Succubus.  For nearly 20 years, from the days of BBS’s and her first appearance in one of the innumerable Red Dragon Inns, Valkyrie Ice has been my online persona, and more me than the person I have to pretend to be from day to day.  In “real” life, I have to spend too much of my time being what other people want me to be, from the good little drone work wants, to behaving the way people expect me too just to keep the guys in white coats from coming to take me away.  Additionally, as a Trans-sexual, only online am I free to just be myself, free of the expectations of my RL physical appearance, social status, and gender.

But I didn’t feel right.  Sure I was roughly looking like I should, at least insofar as my human form went, but that has always been the problem with MMORPGs.  I could never get an avatar that was really “ME.”  Call it delusion, past life experience, wishful thinking, whatever, I have always had dreams of being a succubus, a real cloven hoofed, bat winged, spade tailed, and rams horned demoness with a mischievous and flirtatious streak a mile wide, but not a real gram of evil intent in my body.  SL’s Avatar could be made to match the overall form of face and body, but I was still all too human, and once more feeling like I was wearing yet another mask over my real self. I was half expecting this to be yet another teaser that ended up just being more frustration than fun in the end despite Shasta’s assurances.

And to top it off, I was a human about to walk into a virtual furry strip club.

Yeah, you heard right.  In my daily life, I am L. S. McGill, furry pinup artist without a following, once published in the American Journal of Anthropomorphics. For those of you who have no clue what Anthropomorphism is, it means giving human characteristics to non-human things, such as animating a toaster.  Generally though, it is commonly used as a classification for the millions of people like me who feel that they are not “human” at heart, and are instead part animal.  Be it anime cat girls, werewolves, humans with animal ears and tails, right down to full animal forms with human intelligence and speech capabilities, Anthros, or “Furries” make up a significant portion of the online community, and can be found almost everywhere.  Go to almost any fan convention, and you will undoubtedly find some furry costumes, furry merchandise, and of course, Furry fans.  I’ve been drawing furry art most of my life, and despite various attempts to break into the market, I’m still a failure with talent, and a life plagued with bad luck, poverty, and one setback after another.  I am a very good artist, but have difficulty getting my work out where it can be seen and sold.  Basically, I am creative, bright, intelligent, and cursed with an inability to ever get anyone to actually notice any of those things since all anyone ever seems to see is the fact that I am built like a linebacker for the NFL. 

Obviously, in the “real” world, if you’re a giant, the only thing you could ever possibly be good at is sports or physical labor.  God forbid you ever want to actually use your brain to make a living.  Being an artist is even worse, since no-one who’s 6’5” could possibly do anything other than smash things into the ground.  My talents and my A+ certification seem to mean less to employers than my size, so I’ve been forced to make my living most of my life as a bouncer.  My hesitation at the moment wasn’t about walking into a strip club, since I’d worked those for years, it was the fact that for the first time, I wasn’t going into a club as security.

For the first time in my life, even though it was virtual, I was going to leave the shadows at the edges of the bar and step on the stage as one of the dancers.

“This is stupid.  I’m going to make a fool of myself,” I muttered to myself as my fingers hovered over the keyboard and mouse. 

Part of my hesitation was the fact that it had been obvious that the furry avatars in Second Life had been little more than an afterthought.  The stock AV was a fox-like head that looked horrible.  It was too big for the body, and looked like a cheap mascot head from Disney world, little more than a sphere with eyes included as part of its texture, and ears and a muzzle tacked on.  The human Avatars were far more complex, with moving eyes and mouths, and extremely customizable, but I had been a furry artist for too many years to think that most furries would settle for a human face, or really want to see a dancer who looked “too human”.  If I had my wings and tail and horns, I might have been a little more confidant, but I had known too many furries to who even my drawings of myself in full succubus form had been “too human.”  Now, as succubae are shape shifters, I could get around that by simply altering my appearance, and had for several years described myself as a white unicorn anthro with sapphire blue hair and mirror polished hooves, horn, and nails, named China Blue.  But I had gotten as tired of those masks as all the others and I was going to be making a real attempt to simply be myself… my real self… instead of yet another mask.  Don’t get me wrong, I like being a shapeshifter, but I was hoping for once to be able to be the me I usually hid away from everybody.

I sighed, then finally stepped off the platform and made my way down the path to the novice island.

* * * * *

If you’ve ever played any MMORPG than you should be familiar with the concept of a Novice area.  It’s were newbies to the game can familiarize themselves with the basics without annoying the experienced players.  Second Life was no different.  I ran through the tutorials about movement, camera controls, and how to move and use objects, taking my time and trying to memorize enough to avoid making a complete fool of myself.  By the time I was done, I had mixed impressions about the interface.  For one thing, it was complex.  I had controls for camera movements, self movement, and object use, which was pretty standard, but I also had a dozen options I could see no real use for yet.  I gave up after learning the basics, figuring I’d be unlikely to use the object creation menus, or any of the editing features anytime soon.  Once I was confident I could navigate around, I decided to look up Shasta and find out how to get to where she was.

“Hi Val,” came the return IM a few minutes later.  “I’m a little busy at the moment, but I can send you a TP.”

Yeah, I was dumb.  “Um, what’s a TP?”

“A teleport request.  It’s the most common way to get around.”

A second later, a blue sign popped up on my screen saying Shasta had asked me to join her in Hydrangea, the name of the area where she currently was in the virtual world of SL.  I clicked on the yes button and suddenly found myself falling through a grey void.

Okay, okay, so it wasn’t quite that instantaneous.  I had to wait a few seconds while a load screen appeared and so on, but my arrival in mid air was a bit of a shock.  Before I could hit the page up button to fly though, I landed, and the grey void started filling in around me.

And I suddenly started seeing what made Second Life so attractive.

Shasta filled in at first, and in a few seconds, she had gone from grey to the familiar form I had seen described, and even sketched a few times, but this wasn’t the typical furry cartoon art, this was a 3D person standing before me, with a raccoons head that looked far more realistic than the default furry AV had, a full body fur pattern with a creamy colored belly fur, dark brown main coat, and black “socks” on her hands and feet, and, of course, the obligatory banded tail.

I blinked.  “Oh My God…”

“Welcome to Second Life, Val,” she said, a small text balloon forming over her head as my chat box duplicated her text.  Then a small blue box popped up asking me if it was okay if Shas hugged me.  Still kinda in a daze I clicked yes, and found myself suddenly animated, stepping forward to embrace Shas in a virtual hug so much more real than the typical *hug* of IMs.  “We’re setting up a stage at the moment, but if you’ll hang out for a few, we’ll take you out shopping to get your AV all spruced up.”

Without thinking, I nodded, then smiled at myself as I typed, “Sure.”  I looked around and found a stool nearby, with a funny little pink ball hovering over it.  I had learned how to use objects on the newbie island, so I tried right-clicking, and sure enough, a menu with the option to sit popped up, and my AV jumped over to the chair and sat down facing the “stage” in front of me.

That right there made me stop and think.  It’s a virtual world, my AV doesn’t get tired of standing, but I had automatically taken a seat through an unconscious reflex.  I had reacted exactly like I would have had I been there in the flesh.

Now, go to most MMORPG’s and sitting is a function often used to speed up your recovery of hit points and so on, but what I had just done hadn’t been anything like that, I had simply taken a seat out of the natural human response to seek comfort.

Immersion is a word often bandied about in video game circles, but if you really look at most games, this immersion is almost always limited.  It basically is how much the player feels like they are actually in the game, and it is the little details that truly accomplish this.  In most first person shooters, especially the Id series such as Doom and Quake, they sacrifice realism in level design for various traps, puzzles, and cubbyholes that give cover for player verses player combat.  This means that often times my feeling of immersion is disrupted by a sudden nonsensical obstacle, or by illogical architecture created simply to make it hard to go from A to B.  My favorite games have always been those where the environment around me made SENSE from a real world standpoint. 

I had been in numerous bars and clubs, and their virtual counterpoints, and in most of the virtual ones, chairs might have been part of the d├ęcor, but to have a completely customized animation solely for sitting in one?  For the next few minutes I bounced around from the stool to a couple of nearby couches, smiling.  It seemed a lot of thought had gone into designing the animations used to make them as realistic and natural as possible.

Then I actually paid attention to what Shas and another employee were doing, and had to giggle.  They were fine tuning a dance ball, basically an object that contains an animation routine that can be used by anyone, much like the pink ball that hovered over the stool I was sitting on.  She and the other person were hovering in mid air, being moved back and forth as Shas adjusted their relative positions, making sure they actually looked like they were touching, but not overlapping too much, and making sure they weren’t in the floor but on it.  During this process they were frozen like mannequins, but when Shas closed the edit menu, suddenly they were doing a swing dance.

I watched, amazed as their AVs swirled and embraced, circled and swung, and began to get a glimmer of what was in store for me as a dancer at the club.  I started looking around and clicking on various items around the room I was in, noticing for the first time that many had Dance! as an option, and suddenly a lot of my nervousness eased up.  I really would be able to dance here, the way I had always dreamed of.

Except… well… I still looked a bit too much like a Barbie doll.  This being a strip club, I knew getting naked was part of the fun.  “So does this game blur out the naked AV like The Sims does?”  I asked.

I heard a laugh over the speakers as Shasta replied.  “Nope.”  Then her clothes vanished, and I discovered another thing that the default AVs lacked that could be supplied by the customizations… Anatomical correctness.  I was grinning like an idiot now. 

“Oh my.  I really do hope we can find the things I need to make myself look right.”

I’ll be honest.  As a succubus, I am vain.  I knew how I wanted to look, how I had looked in my dreams for so many years, and I didn’t want to settle for good enough.  I wanted to be the star attraction, the “ZOMG she’s fucking gorgeous” babe that made tongues roll out like cartoon animations, and for once, I was starting to think that here in SL it might be possible.  It wasn’t going to be enough to just have horns and hooves and wings – I wanted to have some that looked damn good.

Shas kept reassuring me that we could probably find everything I needed someplace or another.  I heard about Skins, which are the graphics covering the 3d Avatar model, Prims, which is short for primitives - basically an item made out of simple shapes that is built up like legos into whatever the creator wants, such as Shasta’s raccoon head and tail - and clothing, which went over the basic shape and skin.

Following her adjustments to the dance ball, she showed me how to run a search and we headed to a mall, which in Second Life is pretty much the same as in Real Life, a building containing lots of smaller stores.

After 2 hours teleporting from one mall to another, I had begun to despair.  Oh there were horns, and tails, and wings and hooves galore, but nothing that really matched my desires.  I had settled for the moment for a set of wings and a tail bought from a store called appropriately enough “Devil Girls”, as well as new hair, new clothes, new shoes, and some other oddments, like a walk animation override that changed the default quick step walk into a more sexy hip swaying stride, but it was becoming obvious that I might have to find other options to match my self image exactly.

So we teleported back to the club, along with a couple of new friends I had made when Shasta had invited them to join us shopping, Jo and Greytail.  Shas had to go, but GT and Jo stayed behind to help me get everything I had just bought fitted and adjusted.  You see, having the ability to adjust almost every aspect of your avatar also means that not everything bought off the rack fits just right, so you do have to tweak the spatial relationships relative to yourself when you wear objects.  It didn’t really take me long to figure out the controls for xyz coordinates and xyz rotations, nor did stretching objects, but had Jo and GT not shown me how to be able to adjust not only objects, but sub-objects within a larger object, I might have been screaming in frustration soon. Then GT showed me how to make objects, and in just a few minutes I had ditched the rather cheesy horns that I had bought as part of the devil girls set for a pair that actually looked like I thought they should that GT made for me on the spot.

And that’s how I learned about the uses for the object creation menu, and started realizing something vitally important about SL that made it completely unique from every other game I had ever played, and made me begin to look at it in an entirely new light.

Second Life isn’t a game in the usual sense.  It’s a simulation, an emulation of the real world, but unlike any other, it’s a simulation that is not 90% developer based.

Unlike The Sims, or all the virtual IM chat programs, or any other program I had seen in years, Second Life is almost entirely the creation of its players.

That’s right, it’s Players.  Its end users.  Not Linden Labs, the developers of Second Life, not the programmers who know how to hack and hexadecimal edit game files, not the few, the select, the elite.  Those people were all in SL to be sure, but they weren’t the people who had made SL what it was.  Linden Labs had created a framework, but even they weren’t responsible for what SL was.

No, SL was something completely new in my experience, and quite possibly everyone else’s as well.  It was a world created by the people who lived in it.  It was a reflection of their hopes, dreams and desires.  It wasn’t a product of a singular vision, or a unified set of ideas, this world was a hodgepodge collection of everything.

In the mall I had been shopping in, not only were there wings and hooves and tails, but they also had X-wing fighters, Stargates, and teleporters.  Amazon fantasy armor sold right next to the full body powered armor Hardsuits from Bubblegum Crisis.  Besides the various furry AVs for sale, there were Demons and Goths and Dark Elves.  Cyborgs-ranging from such simplicities as wrist claws and armored exoskeletons to things as intricate as the full Terminator T101 series endoskeleton-could be found for sale next to Japanese schoolgirl outfits and fairy tale princess dresses.  Be it Anime, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or just everyday, it all had equal space.  I could have dressed in jeans by Bugleboy, or a Gorean slave girl outfit, or Stormtrooper armor, and walked through that mall and no-one would have batted an eye.  I had the absolute freedom to be exactly who I wanted to be, and the only real restrictions were social, so I would want to wear an outfit that hid the appropriate spots if I traveled to a PG rated zone, or if I was just wandering around, but I would have done that anyway.  The point wasn’t the clothes, it was my freedom to be myself that mattered.  And all around me were things that told me that that exact freedom was what mattered to everyone else as well.

Second Life was the world its residents wanted.  Not a world that they had to cope with, or survive in, it was the world they desired.  From sex animations to Space Stations to Angel wings, everything around me was something someone had made simply because they wanted too, and had decided to share with everyone else for a minimal recompense.  Regardless of status, race, social position, or interests, everyone was free to create, to dream, and to make into a kind of reality.  Everybody had an equal footing.

And that is also why I chose to write this book telling you about Second Life and my experiences there - because Second Life is a model, a prototype if you will, for our world in twenty to thirty years.  It’s the future that we would make if there were no limits to the possible, if our every fantasy and wish could be made real, and as such, despite furries and demons and aliens everywhere, it offers an insight into the very things that make us human, stripped away of the extraneous deadweight of prejudice and preconception.  Like a non-stop fan convention, all of us in SL were role-playing characters, but unlike a fan con, the majority weren’t playing someone else’s creation, we were playing the person we really felt we were.

It took awhile, and I had to learn how to make objects on my own before I was satisfied, but I am myself in SL now.  I have the body that has been part of my dreams for all of my life, and I have the freedom to go anywhere I choose without having to hide who I am.  Unlike the “real” world, I was not forced to be someone I did not feel comfortable as simply because my genetics had dictated I look a certain way, or because society demanded I act a certain way due to that genetic accident.   

And that made me think.  Based on some of the proposed technological advancements of the near future, there is an extremely high likelihood of medical technology being able to make such changes outside of a virtual world.  As a trans-sexual, I know that we can currently make a male such as myself into a passable female, but there are limitations that I find unacceptable personally.  Yet those limitations grow fewer every year, and the cost of performing such surgery has dropped as they become more commonplace.

When I look at Second Life, and how the people who populate it express their “inner selves”, I am struck by the fact that a desire to change how we look is one of the most commonplace urges shared by the majority of the human race.  Be it as simple as dieting to lose weight to the extremes of sex reassignment surgery, we all have a desire to make our outer self match our mental self image, and before much longer, we will have the technology to do so at a cost that many will be able to afford.

There are numerous possible methods through which such radical reconstruction might be achieved, such as nanotech, biotech, or cybernetics, but the simple fact that such desires exist is almost a guarantee that some sort of method for achieving such radical alterations in human form will come into being.  Like the evolution of the modern cell phone from the appeal of the concept of communicators in the original Star Trek series, Second Life is a showcase of concepts, expressing the desires of it’s inhabitants and allowing a virtual test drive of them, so that we can see what concepts work, and which don’t.  From such things as virtual land baronies to virtual banks to the legality and acceptability an adult playing a child like avatar while engaging in adult activities, SL is likely to set the course and policies that will eventually govern the development of “Cyberspace”, the term coined by William Gibson for the virtual reality world which co-exists and interacts with the real word in his “cyberpunk” novels.  Like the communicator/cell phone example above, I believe the simple existence of Second Life will create a demand in real life for the kind of things available in virtuality

It’s simple supply and demand philosophy.  Demands were made that lead to the development of the supplies needed to meet the demand.  Every item made in SL by a player was created to supply a demand, be it as simple as better looking hair to such complex items as large scale virtual space craft.  Using myself as an example, my demand to look exactly as I had envisioned in my dreams lead to my creating a completely custom avatar, in which every item that I wear is my own creation.  I own the intellectual property rights for all of it, and having now met my own demand, I have a supply available to meet the demands of others who wish to look like me, or just like a particular aspect.  In a similar fashion, by the demands being met in SL, I see a demand being created in the real world for what’s available in the virtual, and that means that someone is going to be finding a way to meet that demand.

And this of course raises some very interesting questions regarding our future.  Never before in our history has humanity had to face and answer some of the questions we will be required to cope with in the next couple of decades, and there are many long held “certainties” that are likely to be brought under the microscope for re-examination, and even possibly discarded as no longer relevant or even true in the first place.  Such basic concepts such as race, nationality, and even species may become meaningless.  Our very concept of “Human” may have to be radically redefined.  Our very survival as life forms may require us to discard some very old and cherished belief systems.  Adaptation is humanity’s specialty, but will we be able to adapt to ourselves?

Perhaps, just perhaps, Second Life holds those answers…