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 10, 2009
The grass still needs to be mowed in our current avatar incarnation.

But then again, I'm living the same as you - sans grass.

I guess my car is my best example of my 'object of upkeep'. And I rarely wash my car, and yet it is still dirty. But it rained today...ohhh, I see.
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Feb 10, 2009
chuck - thanks for getting my name right this time...

Anyone remember Animal House and the scene where Donald Sutherland playing a professor discusses the possibility of an entire universe under one's fingernail? Oh, and some weed was involved...
Feb 10, 2009
Your post assumes that we'll show affection for something that looks nigh-human. The idea is in direct conflict with Masahiro Mori's "uncanny valley" hypothesis. Put simply, the theory states there's a point where anything nonhuman looking human goes from "cute" to "creepy". If the avatars look too much like us, we'd be repulsed and abandon the practice altogether.

So if Mori's Uncanny Valley is correct, either we're distinctly different from our programmers, or there's programming specifically to prevent us from recreating this program-in-a-program.
Feb 10, 2009
And here in the comments section, we see the avatars at play.

There's the ones with the permanently anit-opinion (although oddly brief today)
There's the ones with the brown noses, agreeing blindly with Scott.
There's the ones who comment on the comments, without a comment of their own.
There's the one who cling to their preconceptions (today's clingings "There is a God" and "I'm going to Heaven when I die").

Yes, these avatars COULD have been programmed. They respond the same way almost daily.

Scott, is there any way to reboot the "Rita Mae" avatar? The word "penis" hasn't appeared here in a while?

Feb 10, 2009
Yeah I thought the matrix was pretty cool when I first saw it too. You really gotta get off this concept dude, we've all accepted it as a possibility. It's not that crazy anymore. And, who exactly is addicted to second life? I have not actually met a real individual with a second life avatar. In fact I've never discussed second life with an actual human being. Probably because it's not a very appealing alternative to reality for a vast majority of the population. It's such a small faction that it's negligible.

And finally, ok, we're all avatars in a game or projections or whatever !$%*!$%* skepticism you want to apply to our reality. What difference does it make? If it's indistinguishable from reality then it is reality. Don't worry about it dude!

You think about things with the skepticism of a child discovering the difficulties of the human experience for the first time.
Feb 10, 2009

So you're saying that our whole universe could be just a single cell in a larger being, and that each one of my cells could be an entire universe.

I think someone had a weird dream on the weekend and is only just now sharing with us. Stay away from the spicy pizza, Scott.
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Feb 10, 2009
There IS a God...Phantom II kept him comment to a single word! For that, you received my coveted "thumbs-up" Mr. Phantom.

Mr. charlesfunnish - Really? Couldn't you think of anything more original than mention of a couple of movies? Really?
Feb 10, 2009
Gives whole new meaning to "Blue screen of death" doesn't it?

Feb 10, 2009
I can tell this isn't a simulated world. How, you ask? Because there are no teleporters.
In every simulated world there is a way to teleport to get to other locations without all that boring walking around.
Since we can't teleport to interesting locations like real avatars can, we know that we are boring old flesh and
Feb 10, 2009
According to this Japanese dude, avatars will never look and act just like a real human, on the grounds that it would be too creepy.


And who wants to be downloaded into a computer? What if you take a wrong turn on the internet, and end up running from zombies in a game of Left 4 Dead or Doom or something? I'll pass.
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Feb 10, 2009
Go outside. Be as quiet as you can be. Try not to overthink. Just listen. What is the world telling you? Does it really exist? Are you really here? Is there a real purpose for you being here? Where you meant to be here? Are you more than just an avatar playing a silly game controlled by a computer that we are compelled to explain as a god?

... or maybe, just maybe... Maybe, Is there really a GOD? ...go with whatever you gut tells you.
Feb 10, 2009
I'm now at the point where my anxiety over reality being an illusion is outweighed by the suspense of knowing which one it is. Goddamnit Scott, stop taunting us with thought experiment after thought experiment and just settle on one already!
Feb 10, 2009
"Eon" and "Eternity" by Greg Bear come to mind. Complete with the "ghost" avatars. Nothing original here. (Sorry, Scott.)
Feb 10, 2009
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Feb 10, 2009
The Thirteenth Floor and Dark Drive are two movies that come to mind. I enjoyed them both :-)
Feb 10, 2009
What's the point of having the avatars die? Just go buy more storage space, or get a Gmail account (or the "deific" equivalent thereof) and watch the results of other people going and buying more storage space in real time.

If this were a virtual world, I wouldn't have moles or psoriasis, and I'd have the ability to instantly imprint my crazy ideas on an observable medium without effort.
Feb 10, 2009
Then who the hell programmed my avatar to get stomach cancer? I'd like a word with him.
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Feb 10, 2009
I am thinking we will be able to pass on the mutant strain of virus to our avators and in so doing the online world would cease to exist as well! Earth will then be inhabited by organisms that will evolve from all the electronic scrap. As for god, the organisms will be too advanced to be controlled by any system available.
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Feb 10, 2009
I am thinking we will be able to pass on the mutant strain of virus to our avators and in so doing the online world would cease to exist as well! Earth will then be inhabited by organisms that will evolve from all the electronic scrap. As for god, the organisms will be to advanced to be controlled by any system available.
Feb 10, 2009
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