3.19.2010

"Second Life" & Transcendentalism

About two years ago, some people were convinced that by now we would all be living in "Second Life," navigating our avatars around in a virtual world. It seems not to have caught on very widely, and I'm glad, because the whole thing didn't appeal to me very much. But there was one thing about that prospect that made me hopeful:

I envisioned a sort of Second-Life mystic, a cross between Socrates and Plotinus, who would walk/float around ruining the illusion for others in the Second Life universe. "This isn't real," he would say. "What you see around you is all an illusion," and, "Your real self is so much more beautiful," and so on.

I used to think that "Second-Life Socrates" would be such an interesting study. Within Second Life, such an avatar would almost necessarily be unpopular. Nobody would want to hang around with the jerk-avatar who felt the need to remind everybody else that the world that fascinated them wasn't "real." Moreover, I thought it would be fascinating to see what kind of ethical systems were produced in Second Life, and what kinds of politics. But the one thing that stayed clear and obvious in my hypothetical scenarios was that the Second-Life Socrates would always be right. So long as he understood that he was only an avatar, he would be speaking the Truth.

And would Second-Life Socrates be accused of corrupting the youth of Second-Life? And would he eventually be convicted and sentenced, given a choice to log-off or execute a self-kill-program known as "Hemlock.exe?" Man, I'd love to be there for that.

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