Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Monday, 2 April 2007

New Auction / blah blah blah

Auction #4 is up. #3 is still bidless, alas. The last two were bought by somebody who is a stranger, which is a milestone. Future milestones include: purchaser who doesn't know me AND isn't a composer, continued interest past initial publicity.

Since I'm blogging anyway, I thought I could shine my wisdom on one of the most pressing issues of the internet age:

Why Second Life Sucks

I read Snow Crash in 1998. I was already involved in some Virtual Reality stuff by means of a MOO, but after reading that, I redoubled my efforts. The discussion in the book, for example, on how to make an invisible avatar lead to me figuring out how to make invisible objects in the Moo. (I was evil at the time, alas.) The virtual world described in the book was fascinating and wonderful. I remember thinking at the time that a few things seemed off, but overall, I was ready to sign on.

So when Second Life seemed to be nearing critical mass, I signed on. Here is a virtual platform for art, I thought. Here is a place where people from all of the world can experience a sound installation which is not actually physical in form! Very cool things could be happening. So I signed on.

They weren't. Cool things were definitely not happening. Virtual casinos were happening, but coolness is if it's on SL, is in a non-obvious hiding place. Because the people who are trying to make Snow Crash's Metaverse real have missed one of the crucial points of the book:

Snow Crash is about a failed society

Let me repeat that: Snow Crash is about a failed society. Life in the SC future really sucks. The protagonist lives in a storage shed. Pizza is delivered by mobsters. People live in chains of walled subdivisions which are copies of each other. They have to pay exorbitant fees to use a clean toilet. Thousands of refugees are trapped on a giant raft, adrift at sea. The SC future sucks!

The thing that struck me as most off in the book was people paying for avatars. The book, which I don't have on this continent, alas, describes how noobs first sign on with a generic avatar called Brad Clint or Brandy. They pay for it and then pay to upgrade. I could accept the massively over-centralized computers and even the Max Headroom plotline hacking humans with code. But the economy of the Metaverse just seemed wrong.

So the people at Linden Labs came along and were perhaps even more fascinated by SC than I was (or at least definitely took a more graphical approach) and set about faithfully recreating the idea. Including the failed state part.

Look, if I want to scrounge for money to buy clothes and stuff, I like to do it in a game called Real Life, not in my play time. In SC capitalism has run amok and destroyed the social fabric. That's not the part of the book to emulate. The point of the book is that the economic model used in it is all wrong.

I've heard rumors that Google is looking into it's own metaverse. I have higher hopes for their version. Google's economic model is the same one used for newspapers and print media. Charge advertisers for eyeballs. Deliver content to the eyeballs at a loss. Despite the disaster that is Orkut, there's a good chance that Google will realize that we're not in a (yet entirely) failed state and will give us something more in tune with our reality if not somewhat more optimistic. If they don't do it, well, the SL code is at least open source now, which is one step better than Neal Stephenson's dystopia.


thank you Jenny, for remembering the names fo the avatars.

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