Loki Eliot has a thoughtful article up about the NATURE of Second Life™. Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO, has said on a couple of occasions that Project Sansar will produce a world in the SPIRIT of Second Life. To have any idea what he means we have to understand how Ebbe sees Second Life. I can’t provide a clear picture of Ebbe’s thinking. What we are discussing is far too complex and I’ll get into that complexity.
Loki goes with how he sees Second Life. See: What is the Spirit of Second Life?.
We have several opinions and quotes from Philip Rosedale, the attributed creator of SL, about what they planned for Second Life to be. There are more on what Philip says it became. There are also all the marketing campaigns that have spun what Second Life is in attempts to interest people in SL. Then we have all the opinions on what Second Life is from those that have used or participated in Second Life.
The diversity of ideas and opinions should make any liberal happy, if they were about diversity. It is truly astounding. I once had a days-long forum debate about whether Second Life is a game. Having seen someone creatively explain that Second Life is an inventory management game (Is Second Life a Game?), I’ve decided I can debate either side of that question. What I learned from my days-long debate is: it is very hard to define what is and isn’t a game. Without first agreeing on a definition of what is a game, there is no point in debating. So, the debate of whether SL is a game or not continues.
We each have our opinion on whether SL is a game or not and our ideas about why it is or isn’t. We don’t have a consensus among users.
Loki looks at Second Life in terms of how users have used SL to build things, the creative side of Second Life. For him the creative aspect is the part most significant when considering the nature of the spirit of Second Life.
As humans we seem to want to distill things down to a single essence and simplify our definitions. The world doesn’t seem to fit with what we often want to think. Everything is far more complex than what we usually want to deal with.
Philosophically we have some dandy conundrums to resolve. Some defy our ability with words. When conveying our thoughts we are limited to what we can express with words and images. A good example of words failing is in the Christian concept of a Trinity, A God of one con-substantial substance/body and three distinct personalities. Depending on who you talk to this is an unfathomable mystery or as simple as the single body of the US Congress being made up of hundreds of people. The intriguing part is the words used by either side of the argument are identical and the disagreement is in the nuances of what the words mean.
There is no way for a person today to put hands on God/Spirit and know the actual nature in terms they can experience. Only words available from old Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin manuscripts are available from those that had any direct experience. With Second Life we think we have the actual thing available to us. We can go poke it. But, can we?
Second Life is a complex computer program that we use in various ways. Those ways shape our thinking about and experiences with Second Life and our thinking shapes Second Life. In this case ‘our thinking’ being that of all the carbon based life using or coding the computer program. It appears to be a never ending circular loop of cause and effect.
The Lindens have an idea of what the program is supposed to do and how it is to do it. Users and operational statistics provide feedback to reshape what the Lindens think and reveal what the computer program is actually doing. Think of all the work-around tricks used to surpass known limits and missing abilities. Then there are the bugs and out right hacks that allow some pretty neat tricks and aggravating annoyances (griefers). We find dozens if not a couple of hundred per month of these… and here language starts to fail as I was going to write: bugs. But some ‘bugs’ are others saving work-around feature for a problem. The Lindens have to decide if the ‘bug’ is better left as a feature or fixed or some new feature added to handle the ‘bug’. I am sure you see the fluidity of meaning in the word ‘bug’ in this scenario. The complexity seems to have no end and there certainly is no universally accepted definition of what is or is not a bug in the Second Life system, much less on what the nature or spirit of Second Life is.
It is on this foundation of disagreement, complexity, and varied concepts that we can’t even agree is a foundation that we consider what a new program that we know even less about will be.
What I think we do know is that Second Life seriously suffers from what I’l call a serious multiple personality disorder. As best I can tell that is the ancestral trait Project Sansar is most likely going to inherit from Second Life.
That won’t be a bad thing… My hope is Sansar can support the old personalities to keep it as interesting as SL and some new personalities that will make it an interesting creation to more people.