March 25, 2006

Consolidating the Metaverse

The matrix emerges to facilitate your avatar's freedom of movement?
The OpenSource Metaverse Project

Posted by sd at March 25, 2006 08:34 PM | TrackBack




"The Entertainment of the Future is already here

Project Entropia is a massive virtual universe with a real cash economy.

Together with people from all over the globe you too can experience the adventure, form societies, and take part in the creation of a brand new world.

While on the planet Calypso you use the PED currency to invest in your personal development. The assets you acquire can be exchanged back into real world funds.

Project Entropia is available around the clock for decades to come. The virtual universe has been developed since 1995 with new exciting content being added every month.

Join the 394733 people before you and get a life in Project Entropia.

PE GNP 2005 : 1.6 billion PED (160M$)"

Posted by: sd at March 26, 2006 11:25 AM



"Second Life has its own economy and a currency referred to as Linden dollars (L$). Residents receive an amount of L$ when they open an account, and a weekly stipend thereafter, the amount depending on the type of account. Additional L$s are aquired by selling objects or services within the environment. Residents may purchase L$ directly or convert between Linden currency and US currency through Linden Lab's currency brokerage, the LindeX Currency Exchange. The ratio of US$ to L$ fluctuates daily as residents set the buy and sell price of L$ offered on the exchange. Linden Lab has stated that the Second Life economy generates an average of $500,000(US) in economic activity each week."

Posted by: sd at March 26, 2006 11:26 AM



"Mr Castronova's thesis is that these synthetic worlds are increasingly inter-twined with the real world. In particular, real-world trade of in-game items—swords, gold, potions, or even whole characters—is flourishing in online marketplaces such as eBay. This means in-game items and currency have real value. In 2002, Mr Castronova famously calculated the GNP per capita of the fictional game-world of “EverQuest” as $2,000, comparable to that of Bulgaria, and far higher than that of India or China. Furthermore, by “working” in the game to generate virtual wealth and then selling the results for real money, it is possible to generate about $3.50 per hour. Companies in China pay thousands of people, known as “farmers”, to play MMORPGs all day, and then profit from selling the in-game goods they generate to other players for real money.

Land and other in-game property has been sold for huge sums: one “Project Entropia” player paid $26,500 for an island in the game's virtual world last year, and has already made his money back by selling hunting and mining rights to other players. Trade in virtual items is now worth more than $100m each year. In some Asian countries, where MMORPGs are particularly popular, in-game thefts and cheats have led to real-world arrests and legal action. In one case in South Korea, the police intervened when a hoard of in-game money was stolen and sold, netting the thieves $1.3m. In-game money is, in short, no less real than the dollars and pounds stored in conventional bank accounts.

Virtual economies are an integral part of synthetic worlds. The buying and selling of goods, as the game's inhabitants go about their daily business, lends realism and vibrancy to the virtual realm. But in-game economies tend to be unusual in several ways. They are run to maximise fun, not growth or overall wellbeing. And inflation is often rampant, due to the convention that killing monsters produces a cash reward and the supply of monsters is unlimited in many games. As a result, the value of in-game currency is constantly falling and prices are constantly rising.

...he suggests that as synthetic worlds continue to grow in popularity, substantial numbers of people will choose to spend large parts of their lives immersed in them. Some players could then fall victim to what Mr Castronova calls “toxic immersion”, in which their virtual lives take precedence, to the detriment of their real-world lives.

But perhaps this is not so implausible. It is already possible to make a living by working in a virtual world, as the “farmers” demonstrate. In one survey, 20% of MMORPG players said they regarded the game world as their “real” place of residence; Earth is just where they eat and sleep. In July, a South Korean man died after a 50-hour MMORPG session. And the Chinese government has recently tried to limit the number of hours that can be spent playing MMORPGs each day.

As technology improves, players could make enough money to pay for the upkeep of their real-world bodies while they remain fully immersed in the virtual world. Mr Castronova is right when he concludes that “we should take a serious look at the game we have begun to play.”

Posted by: sd at March 26, 2006 11:39 AM



Edward Castronova's homepage:

some of Castranova's pdfs:


Posted by: sd at March 26, 2006 11:42 AM



sd - I'll be all over this tomorrow ;)

(When exhausted, I relapse into relentless WWIV hawk-mode, my default psychic setting. This thread topic, on the other hand, absolutely captures the positive technosocial forces that hyperstition depends on - the only problem being that it might make us wonder whether we went down the right career paths)

Posted by: Nick at March 26, 2006 12:00 PM



virtual money makes the vorld go 'round?

Posted by: northanger at March 26, 2006 12:35 PM



>WWIV hawk-mode
really? how many modes do you have?

nice to know: "the positive technosocial forces that hyperstition depends on", equivalent to self-propagating nanoneuronal goop mating with fungal infection.

goop should buy a cup of coffee in Baghdad. otoh, this metaverse bizness one load shy of deranged futhnorking gnosis.

Posted by: northanger at March 26, 2006 10:29 PM



northanger - thanks for the the stimulating, thought-provoking, insightful, perceptive, productive, witty, brilliant, sparkling, dazzling, illuminating, breathtaking, inspiring contributions to this thread.

Posted by: sd at March 27, 2006 06:56 AM



Ever since Gibson coined the term 'Cyberspace' hyperstition has gone into overdrive converting SF scenarios into social realities - 'Metaverse' is Neal Stephenson's term from Snow Crash, isn't it? From the Metaverse link it's clear that we're on the brink of a prototype quasi-immersive Cyberspace emerging, a definite step forward from the informational integration already incarnated in the Internet infrastructure, and one quite precisely programmed by SF-hyperstition (from dataspace to sensorium to fully immersive neural-interlock artificial space).
The avatar notion still needs nudging IMHO from a "virtual doppelgaenger" or 'second self' to a module of proliferating hyperstitional exploration (a virtual 'probehead' or hyperstitional carrier). Once avatar usage becomes denerdified this potentiality should arise quite 'naturally'. It would be especially interesting to see the avatar-concept adopted for mathematical, technoscientific and financial functions - freed from its rigid attachment to the world of entertainment and coding as frivolous (rather than socially productive) recreation. The already advanced emergence of convertible ludic currencies is one diagonal phenomenon that seems especially promising in this regard.
The Metaverse should offer a particularly hospitable environment for every imaginable species of social experimentation, with the prospect that large chunks of political life could migrate there, perhaps even enabling virtual separatisms to supplant certain zero-sum antagonisms over social arrangements. Could criteria emerge that would be generally accepted for deciding whether virtual social experiments had succeeded or failed, thus facilitating their transference into the non-virtual realm? I suspect this would be extremely difficult. Some more automatic selection process, based on virtual 'voting with one's feet' is easier to foresee - perhaps such voting could even take on real political weight outside the Metaverse (voting by migration would work for me).

Posted by: Nick at March 27, 2006 07:16 AM



northanger - at least several loads

Posted by: Nick at March 27, 2006 07:17 AM



sd - the Castranova stuff is superb.

Posted by: Nick at March 27, 2006 07:20 AM



sd. thanks, ditto.

Posted by: northanger at March 27, 2006 08:00 AM




Disembodiment, Hypermobility, and Labor
Ge Jin, a PhD student from UCSD, is making a video documentary of the gold farming phenomenon (preview here). The documentary preview shows some of his interviews with Chinese workers in various gold farming workshops. In our conversations over email, he has brought up some interesting points based on his observations. He's also looking for feedback and suggestions for important research questions and different points of view.

One interesting observation he makes is on the general atmosphere in these workshops:

When I entered a gold farm for the first time (tietou's gaming workshop in the preview), I was shocked by the positive spirit there, the farmers are passionate about what they do, and there is indeed a comraderie between them ... I do see suffering and exploitation too, but in that place suffering is mixed with play and exploitation is embodied in a gang-like brotherhood and hierarchy. When I talked with the farmers, they rarely complained about their working condition, they only complained about their life in the game world. Although they have to work/play for 12 hours a day, they take pride in what they achieve and they seem eager to escape into a virtual reality richer, brighter, and more exciting than their impoverished real world lives.

Posted by: northanger at March 27, 2006 09:19 AM



>>From the Metaverse link it's clear that we're on the brink of a prototype quasi-immersive Cyberspace emerging
this has been going on for awhile (RPG: role-playing game) with MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) being a truly global revolution. reality-linkages (game farmers, purchasing power) gives this high sustainability — can i say: human qua machine? or fantasy qua reality?

Posted by: northanger at March 27, 2006 09:33 AM



>The avatar notion still needs nudging IMHO from a "virtual doppelgaenger" or 'second self' to a module of proliferating hyperstitional exploration (a virtual 'probehead' or hyperstitional carrier). Once avatar usage becomes denerdified this potentiality should arise quite 'naturally'.

thought of avatar qua carrier (i know i know, getting carried away here). specifically, you have to denerdifying the command line.

Second Life's Port & Flack Attack
paratars? [An avatar is the online representation of self. Paratar refers to the offline ‘parent’ of an avatar].

Flack Attack on autonomy:

Posted by: northanger at March 27, 2006 09:56 AM



>It would be especially interesting to see the avatar-concept adopted for mathematical, technoscientific and financial functions

Posted by: northanger at March 27, 2006 10:02 AM



northanger - thanks for the terra nova link.

Nick - avatar probeheads - well that's the basis for a series of novels...

Things which are particularly significant about the emerging metaverse, imho:

1. It's ferociously addictive.

A good friend of mine - a successful, respected lawyer on route to becoming a judge - is often hopelessly (yet wittingly) addicted to World of Warcraft. When prodded as to why WoW is so compelling, he simply mutters stuff like 'It's just huge and it keeps getting bigger... There are so many things you can do'. He's especially attracted to the trading aspect - you can function in the game without killing dragons etc., e.g. by becoming a blacksmith and selling weapons to other players. If he didn't have a partner (a WoW widow) to occasionally pull the plug on him he probably would give up sleeping and writing articles for law journals. He has warned me to stay well clear of the game...

To be that addictive, these games must plug into some deep psycho-programs that overide other programs, even survival bio-programs ("You find yourself in front of the computer at five am realizing that you've needed to piss for the past 2 hours")

If these games have such predatory capabilities now, when they are limited to 2D screens, what hope will the human brain have when they go really 3D?

2. To Play or to be Played? That is the question.

Even if you deny any 'true' metaphysical status to an emergent metaverse and follow the simplified 'it's-just-electronic-escapism' line, the fact that millions of people play these games online on a daily basis cannot be ignored. The current online population of WoW exceeds that of Estonia or Lithuania. South Korea is utterly obsessed. Virtual economies are already feeding back on terrestrial economies. It's a significant social phenomenon, however it's interpreted.

The prediction that people would start living in virtual reality, and that they would begin to consider virtual reality more 'real' than their bio-life, has already come true. The meat is becoming a servant of online avatars. Once people really can keep the meat alive from profits made in the metaverse we will be in (or at least 'we' will be observing) a totally cyberpunk reality.

As Castranova predicts, we are not far off from the point when 'your' avatar will do 'your' 'real' shopping for 'you' in 3D virtual shops embedded within game territories and in virtual shopping malls found at game exits... The more free rein avatars are given in independent data processing and decision making, the more the questions 'who is whose tool?' and 'who is playing who?' will start haunting collective awareness.

I have heard people saying things like "I want to know what my fleet did while I was sleeping."

Voodoo puppetry without batting an eyelid.

3. Nerdiness aids imperceptibility

The metaverse is being built behind the camouflage of risible geekdom. The US military seems to be taking these games more seriously than the mainstream media - America's Army, the first propagame, being proof no.1.

Posted by: sd at March 27, 2006 11:04 AM



you ever read any graphic enough accounts of the first gulf war by Ramsey Clark and the like?

I should start that sentence with "obviously you never .. . . either that or stuff like that don't get through to the gamey generation. Iow, your parents were 'ferociously' negligent enough to allow a large gulf/split/drift to occur/grow between you and the world by way of gameboy and other grave killer videoidickery.

Posted by: p at April 1, 2006 08:08 AM



p - that split has always existed, it's essential to social survival in a Hobbesian world (the only one we have). It used to perpetuate itself through media opacity. Now, in a world of transparent post-territorial media (tranzi MSM Davos culture) it's being resuscitated through the mechanism you point to. The stage of history where Westerners are too hypersensitized to condone killing people and breaking stuff - perhaps already passed in Old Europe - is the stage where the torch passes over to people with less delicacy.
File under 'sad but true'

Posted by: Nick at April 2, 2006 01:48 AM



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