Monday, February 13, 2012

"Roads? Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads!"

One of my lasting memories of childhood, is me at six years old, riding Spaceship Earth at Epcot. I remember being enamored by its depiction of the future and the technological advances that it showed. The rest of the day I couldn't stop thinking about what I had saw, and bugged my parents for more information the whole way back to our hotel. Of course, being six, the extent of my questioning came down to, "When is the future?" My parents, having a complete understanding of how time works, told me, "Tomorrow is the future." I awoke the next morning, expecting a futuristic paradise to have sprung up around me overnight. This was not the case, and my little six year old heart was crushed. 

I am not sure if this event in my life sparked my interest experiencing the exotic and strange worlds you only see in movies and video games. But for as long as I can remember, there has been a place in my imagination reserved for wondering, what if, what if I could, even just for a few minutes experience a completely different world.

Any world you can imagine you can create. You have no limits. This is the driving ethos behind Second Life, an online virtual world developed by Linden Labs. Second Life is a completely user created experience; every article of clothing, every mountain, every building is created by its users. It is a constantly evolving shared experience. 

It is very easy to write Second Life off as another online game, where people with no lives can whittle away their remaining minutes. But Second Life is so much more than that. It is a place where people from around the world can come and interact in real time, exploring the world that fellow users have created, and at the same time creating a world of your own. As a resident of Second Life you have complete control over what your avatar, you, looks like. You can create a carbon copy of your real life self, or you can let your imagination run wild, becoming any manner of creature you can think of. 

One of the best things about Second Life though, is that everything created is the property of the resident that created it. Linden Labs claims no ownership over anything created by the users of Second Life. Residents who explore the creative aspects of the Grid can go on to sell their created wares on the Second Life Marketplace for Lindens, Second Life's currency. Those earned Lindens can then be spent again on the Marketplace or be converted to real world currency. 

Second Life is so large, and each part of the Grid was created with different intentions in mind:

Some people have re-created real life cities like, London and Paris. 

  Others have created places plucked from their imaginations, for exploring or for role-playing.

Universities and Colleges have begun establishing virtual branches, and educational exhibits.

Businesses have even started to pop up on the Grid, and not just resident based businesses, actual billion dollar companies.

What intrigues me the most about Second Life though, is its place in the evolution of technology and the internet. While seeming fairly minute at the moment, Second Life is one of the first steps into the future of the internet, the metaverse, a hyperrealistic digital environment in which the world's communication networks come to life. Second Life is the beginning, demonstrating the potential of a 3D internet. There is so much to see and do in Second Life, and I'm excited to not only to experience it for myself, but to also share those experiences with you.

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