Friday, June 29, 2007

Why Second Life Could Help Improve the World

Here's a recap and page of resources from the "MacArthur Foundation Enters Second Life" meeting last week - transcripts, video, photos, etc.

I went through the transcript and pulled out some key concepts that made the most meaning for me. Please check the previous post for more context.

- ROSEDALE: is Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Linden Lab, the company that created Second Life.
- FANTON: is MacArthur Foundation President, Jonathan Fanton.

The idea that SL makes it possible to quickly build trust -

FANTON: When you first started Second Life, did the notion of the public good effect any of your design? Do virtual worlds like Second Life help groups get together, discuss issues, and advance collective vision of the public good? Talk to us a little bit about those issues and activities.

ROSEDALE: Well, you know, I think that when we started, I know I, and a lot of us working on the technology, were very focused on the technology of creating a sort of a virtual world. But as we got it working in around 2003, people really started coming into it, we started to see the effect that being in this kind of very, very empowered, enabled, communicative environment had an effect on people. It made them close very rapidly, and it made them work together in certain ways.

That the transparency of SL makes the most of “People are Basically Good” -

YOWELL: Here’s a question for both of you from the Teen Grid. How can Linden Lab and residents, especially teen grid residents, work together to make sure this power is used morally, apart from cooperation with MacArthur? And that’s for either Jonathan or Philip.

ROSEDALE: I bet Jonathan has perspective on this that’s probably quite unique from mine. I think what I would say is that we have a deep belief that with the high degree of transparency that exists in the virtual world, I believe that the virtual world is different in an important way, in that it is typically more transparent, more accessible, more communicative, it’s easier to see what’s going on, easier to travel within it than the real world. It is therefore more transparent than the world that we all live physically in today, and I believe, you know Pierre Omidyar, when he started eBay, he made the famous statement that he believed that eBay would work because people were basically good, that the majority of stuff that happened on eBay would be good and legitimate attempts by people to sell things to other people.

ROSEDALE: I think the same thing can be said here, that with the additional transparency we have, we won’t need to do anything, from a central perspective, to make people good and just in their actions here. I think they will be, the only think I hope I’ll be able to look back and say we did, was that we simply enabled, using the technology, a very, very, very transparent environment, and that that transparency was beneficial.

MacArthur’s hopes to have civil rights groups operate in SL -

FANTON: MacArthur supports about 1,000 local civil society groups all over the world: Action Health in Nigeria, working on sexuality education, Resources Himalaya in Nepal, working on protecting some of the most beautiful landscape in the world, the Nizhny Novgorod Committee Against Torture in Russia working against police abuse, or Fundar in Mexico, helping to strengthen the system of human rights ombudsmen. I’m hoping the MacArthur can encourage many of the civil rights organizations that it supports to operate in Second Life and other virtual worlds as well, so that there will be a civil society in virtual worlds that mirrors the civil society in the physical world.

SL as an empowering environment -

ROSEDALE: So the most common type of content, if you will, in Second Life, is an individual building something that they are giving or showing or selling to the people in Second Life. It’s not a company. We’re just at the very beginning of that phase where larger organizations are starting to see Second Life as being of value, and I think, when they come, they’ll add a lot to Second Life, as they come. But I think profoundly, at its core, Second Life is an empowering platform, an open environment, for individuals. Historically and statistically, it’s much more individuals and that corporate ownership of Second Life is probably in the low, single digit percentages, in terms of looking at the land.

SL as a reputation system or network of trust -

ROSEDALE: …I think Second Life is already demonstrating an ability to let people build systems for reputation and trust that are effective, fast, and lightweight, and can go beyond what can be done in the real world. It’s a rich topic, I see somebody in the audience saying say more about that. It’s a really rich topic, and one where I think technology will, in the virtual environment, empower us. If you look at things like Grameen and how microlending is enabled in the real world by a network of trust, I think that the virtual world allows that sort of network to be potentially expanded in ways broader and faster than it is in the real world.

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