Online simulated worlds such as Second Life are growing in popularity. Lately I have been wondering where that trend ends.

Today the little avatars that represent you in the simulated world look like cartoon dolls. It has all the realism of a puppet show. And yet many people still find that addictive. What happens when the technology arrives at a point where your avatar looks and acts just like you, or at least just like a real human?

We humans are so influenced by visual cues that the power of the online world to influence our real world emotions will jump to a new level. Pair that with the fact that you will have more control over events in your simulated world than in your real world, and fewer problems, and you have a recipe for a society-shifting phenomenon. There will be mass addiction to online virtual living via avatar. You will be able to transact real world business and do all of your socializing online via your avatar.

In the real world, going outdoors and doing real things will become increasingly unpleasant, thanks to global warming, pollution, expense, crime, etc. In my community, for example, no one has a front or back yard. If I want to go outside, for any reason other than walking the dog, I plan a trip and drive there. It's hardly worth it.

Humans are wired to fall in love with babies and puppies because of the immediate visual impact. I think we will form the same emotional bond with our avatars once they look more like ourselves, or like a human that attracts us on some level. People will literally come to love their avatars in the same way they love their own children and themselves.

At some point your avatar will become a combination of artificial intelligence plus the commands you give it. While you sleep it will wander the online world and acquire new knowledge and even new relationships. I wonder how stimulating it will be in the real world once your avatar can form a loving or sexual relationship with another avatar. You will still prefer sex in the real world to sex in the online world, but you might only have regular access to the online version. And online you will never worry how you look naked.

I also imagine that the scenery and environments of the online world will become so visually captivating that the drabness of your real world experience will pale in comparison. Once that happens, no one will ever mow his lawn again, if he even has one. Beauty will be something you see on a computer. It will stop making sense to beautify the real world because it can never keep up.

Eventually, as I have written before, and futurists predict, you will be able to scan your brain with such precision you can port your personality into a computer. The obvious place to store that personality will be in the avatar you used while you were alive. So over time the online world will be populated with a combination of avatars controlled by the living plus online "ghosts" that are the personalities of the deceased, operating independent of any living human.

Eventually humanity will die from some mutant strain of virus, but the online world will live on, maintained by robots. Inside the simulation you will live a full life, die, and reincarnate into a new avatar to experience the breadth of life all over again.

You're way ahead of me and you know the punch line here is that the future already happened and you are already an avatar. And god is the robot that maintains the system.
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Feb 20, 2009
lets make pols play sims before voting
Feb 20, 2009
lets make pols play one before voteing
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Feb 18, 2009
Did you read pg. 234/235 of the book "The Making of Second Life" by Wagner James Au? This blog totally reminds me of Philip's discussion that dying sucks and the idea of breathing life into the avatars after the real person is gone would be fantastic.
Feb 18, 2009
Believe it or not, there are still a lot of us who could not care less about social networking sites, avatars, IMing, whatever. I am on the computer all day at work - and sites like those are blocked. When I get home, I have zero interest in spending my leisure time in cyberspace. I prefer to live real life doing things with my boyfriend and our other friends. I do not even answer my phone or text message when I am spending time with real people - the greatest gift we can give each other is our time.
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Feb 14, 2009
I can't believe no other commenter brought this up. (Well, maybe they did. I had not gone back and read the 2nd and 3rd pages of comments.) The world you describe was created in the early 1990s. It was described in "Snow Crash" by Neil Stephenson. If you have not read it, you must, and now.

The entire world of MMUDs, be they Facebook, 2nd Life and most others exist today because the programmers who created them grew up on that novel.

Scott, go dig it up and read it and tell me you don't agree.

While the actual _plot_ of the novel isn't that spectacular, the world he created around it is both prescient and motivating.

When you are done, check out The Diamond Age, his followup book.
Feb 14, 2009
the word i-d-e-n-t-i-t-i-e-s was censored?
Feb 14, 2009
I've been thinking a lot about the internet "paradigms"... they often talk about Web 1.0 where websites were basically like books or advertisments. Web 2.0 introduced user-generated content. Web 3.0.... what's that going to be?

I have been thinking that it would be a combination of identity management technologies, 3D avatars, and an "open protocol" for 3D worlds. You enter a url in your web browser that opens a 3D environment. You click open your !$%*!$%*!$%* tab and drag-and-drop your 3D avatar into the 3D environment. This synchronizes data with an identity management server, and avoids the unique username/password problem that crops up when you're a member of lots of websites. Your avatar then runs around, transacting business, interacting with entertaining things, and virtually socializing.

This vision isn't the "most likely" web 3.0 evolution, but it seems like a possible one. The most significant problem is that 3D environments are very difficult to make, and you wouldn't have millions of companies investing in that kind of effort, unless someone created a remarkably good toolkit (i.e. unlike anything that I've yet seen for such work).
Feb 11, 2009
Hai. Teh Matrix called. They want their plot back.
Feb 11, 2009
"At some point your avatar will become a combination of artificial intelligence plus the commands you give it." --Scott Adams

This is already the case; it's just that the artificial intelligence is pretty stupid and often gets in the way of the commands you give it as much as it aids. This is why Avatars frequently run straight into walls: they are being controlled by two brains, one of which is stupid but subordinate, works quickly, and is connected directly into the avatar's virtual muscles, and the other is more intelligent but slower and must send its commands to the avatar's muscles through the first brain. Thus the first brain, the artificial one is constantly trying to guess what the real brain is trying to do, constantly getting it wrong, and constantly correcting; then the avatar crashes into a wall. This is why the digital creatures which are not controlled by people often seem more "real" -- there's only one brain in control, even if it is a stupid, artificial one.

I just realized that this doesnt really have anything to do with the subject, but I will post it anyway.
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Feb 11, 2009
the robots should delete us and use the computing time to play solitaire.
that's what I'd do.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2009
Once we have the ability to scan our personalities into an online character, I would love to put that character into weird situations just to see how I would react. It has the potential to take our self-awareness to a whole new level.
Feb 11, 2009
This would explain why history is cyclical. Democracies rise, become empires, lose individual freedom, and then collapse.

At least we're happy avatars with bread and circuses.
Feb 11, 2009
I think some people in the "real" world are already using avatars, in real life, to project some aspect that they consider favorable ... such as cross-dressers.
Feb 11, 2009
This is the post of someone growing old and increasingly scared of the real world. The world is no more dangerous now than it has ever been and in many ways much much safer. Compare us now to living in the 1300's when the plague wiped out huge chunks of the opulation - the parts that Genhgis and his hordes didn't wipe out. Or the 1860's in the US when huge numbers lived in slavery followed by the first industrial war. Don't get me started on how safe the US is compared to the rest of the world.
Second Life - nowhere near as popular as Facebook and nowhere near as useful.
And I agree with the other posters who frequently get annoyed that you think the rest of the world is like your world - the life of a multi-millionaire in California - so that if you, for example, don''t want to go outside then that is automatically a good thing and that everyone must feel like that, and that you, for example, don't have a front garden or a rear garden and so that is the ideal thing and that everyone else must secretly want to live that too and that the entire world could (will?) end up like that. Actually the more I think about it the more annoyed I am now getting. we don't all want to be Americans or live in America or to live in an unreal coccoon - many of us like the real world whether it is real or an illusion - it doesn't really matter because we enjoy living in it.
Why would you want to live full time in an artificial environment where you could control everything? Everything? Surely the lack of control and the unprecitability of life is what makes it interesting. If we are limited, Horatio, to only those things in heaven and earth which are dreamt of in the mind of man how boring would that be.
Okay we need to get away from the unpredictability of life occasionally - that's what Second Life, Las Vegas, Disneyland, TV and the cinema are for - safe fantasy environments but would you really want to live there?
Feb 11, 2009
Just a small, picky point about today's post. People may not have back or front yards in your neighbourhood, but they do in the rest of the world.

Apart from that, you make some interesting points. It may be that we are living in a simulation, but why would someone create a universe with paedophiles, torture and, as someone has already asked, cancer?
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Feb 10, 2009
In 2008 a British couple - who met through online chat rooms - broke up becuase the male partner had an affair. The "affair" was in Second Life, and the break-up, instigated by the female partner, was via email and a message board.

Conclusion: reality has overtaken your occasionally bizarre imaginings.

Then again the major difference between cosmetic surgery for the real world, and creating yourself a gorgeous and stylish avatar in the electronic world, is that the real world (I assume) is more permanent and far more expensive.

Second Life and 'Reality TV': is there really any difference?
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Feb 10, 2009
To me, this simulation looks like God trying to find the end of an irrational number.

What I mean is, running the next second of life is equivalent to calculating/discovering the next digit of Pi.
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Feb 10, 2009
Asimov already wrote a book about a planet were people didn't like going outside or being near each other. The chose to communicate via avatar type holograms. In comes someone from Earth to work with a Humanoid robot to solve a closed door murder. The Naked Sun. Pretty good book.. though I was like 14 when I read it.
Feb 10, 2009
So you've worked out the conclusion to Battlestar Galactica too...

"There must be some kind of way outa here said the joker to the thief."
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Feb 10, 2009
Re: The "punch line" : http://www.simulation-argument.com/
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