Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Virtual Worlds

I have spent an incredible amount of time over the past two years in a virtual world called Second Life. I am convinced that the next stage of our technological evolution lies in virtual worlds although I am not at all convinced that Second Life will be the product that makes it happen. The means by which this will occur is not at all clear to me at the moment. I can only see where we are likely to end up, not the path through which we will get there. Web technologies made the question “Where is the information located?” irrelevant. Information can be located anywhere in the world and we can access it via web technologies. Virtual world technologies will make the question “Where is the person located?” irrelevant. We will enter virtual worlds through our desktop computers, represented by an avatar and interact with the avatar representations of other people. Thing of all the things you do today where your location matters. You ‘go’ to work. You ‘go’ to class. You ‘go’ to a conference. You ‘go’ to a movie. You ‘go’ out on a date. Anything in which location matters will change with virtual worlds. Before the web came along, if you wanted to buy something, you were restricted to the products that were available in the stores within a reasonable driving distance. With web technologies, the entire world marketplace was opened up to anyone with a computer and internet access. That opened up a lot of possibilities. Today, the job you have, the classes you take and the people you interact with are limited largely by your location. Granted you can always move. But moving can be a big effort and once you move, you are once again restricted by the new location. With virtual world technologies, the entire world of possibilities is open up to anyone with a desktop computer and an internet connection. You could work with a group of people in California, attend classes in a European university, and hang out Australians. The problem of not finding the book you were looking for at your local bookstore went away with web technologies. The problem of not finding the right opportunities in your home town will go away with virtual world technologies.

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