Parallel worlds and the deeper significance of virtual worlds; Second Life Community Convention

I’m a fan of David Deutsch, the Oxford physicist a key proponent of the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (parallel universes) suggests that a good enough simulation would be identical to the real world. His ideas are explored in his book, The Fabric of Reality and these articles on parallel universes.
I was delighted to discover this really great analysis of the nature of reality by Extropia DaSilva in Second Life which concludes that a virtual world (even SL) can be considered real in many respects. DaLilva appears to be a believer in the Technological Singularity, a world view extolled by Ray Kurzweil and others that technological advances in many parallel realms will rapidly lead us to a point of departure where human and machine intelligence become interchangable and nanotechnology will be used to transform and prolong our biological mechanisms (I don’t share all of these views but I am with Ray up to a point – at Nestar Systems we used the term ‘Silicon Black Hole’ when referring to the tangible effects of Moore’s Law; However this is a big subject and I’ll no doubt return to it in the future). For an update and some other perspectives on many worlds see this issue of Nature.

Gwyneth Llewellyn

DaSilva states that “your existence in SL is part of an ever-growing network of relationships” and reasons that these persist in your mind and those of others even when you are not in SL. DaSilva argues that SL has equal status as the real world in that “both SL and RL (in the form in which we perceive them, at least) exist where imagination does — in the mind”. John Lester (Pathfinder Linden) has characterised SL as a “shared waking dream” and others have commented on its surreal nature. I am incredibly impressed by the creativity of the folk I encounter on a daily basis in SL and keep having flashbacks to the building of the web in 1994/1995 when I encountered a similar kind of creativity (and even earlier when the Macintosh and Desktop Publishing were new and creative individuals were empowered for the first time). Who was browsing the web in 1994 and 1995? Largely they were the people who were also busily building it and innovating creatively, like my excellent team at Letraset (thank you Vince, Ted and Chris!). You could read about them in the press and occasionally meet them, but today in SL a whole new world is being built by the same class of creative individuals and when you browse their creations you can actually meet them face to face and talk (really talk). No wonder we are all inspired! No wonder our relationship networks are buzzing with thoughts of SL whether we are online of offline!

Last weekend’s SL Community Convention gave hundreds of us the opportunity to meet the people behind the avatars we had never met in person, and to discover that they weren’t so different from how we imagined them to be (at least that was my experience). The whole event was very congenial and reminded me of Apple developer meetings in the 80’s when we were also united by a shared dream (which of course is exactly the case with Second Life). But SL is a far more collaborative environment than has existed before – so there were many shared and overlapping experiences that united the attendees adding to make the atmosphere like that of a small college town.

For the purpose of avoiding identity confusion. I am not the same Dave Taylor as the guy who writes this other blog, who apparently does not think that Second Life has a future. I have a large personal investment in Second Life (time and experience, not shares) just as I did with Apple in the 80’s and with the World Wide Web in the early 90’s. And like them we’re here for the longhaul baby!!!


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