Online Gambling and the Black Swan
by Trey Rentz, Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 07:46:33 AM EDT
Second Life is a metaverse, dissimiliar to Massive, Multiplayer online role playing games in that it is a resident-created, and extremely creative environment that seems designed more for enhancing human communication to profound levels than providing a gaming experience per se. And in which such spaces, Gartner group has predicted that within the next 5 years, 80 percent of internet users will acquire an account therein.
In SL, people assume lifelike avatar selves and explore several aspects of their personality and existence, sometimes those that cannot be explored in their local or state governance. The enforcement of laws, and the exploration of issues must of first principles be aligned , if democratic principles are held - to those individual rights of the residents. As both David Brooks, and Douglas Hofstadter would recognize, these explorations have political implications. If at present seemingly banal.
Distinct from Role Playing Games, Online metaverses have had a strong history of success. Fujitsu's Habitat - was the first profitable online space, precedent to myspace, livejournal and many other places that represent a space where people can meet and talk in representational, archetypes of themselves. As Hofstadter writes - the political effects of such profoundly realized alternative conceptions of self are important. Progressive principles, emphasizing the expression of a new and more responsive government, should be tested against these environments in which, Anarchy now reigns. And in which democracy is now tested.
Anarchy does have a function. It is often a better place to start than staid tradition or custom or relgious law. Countries like Iran, where democracy can grow will require some nominal amout of Anarchy as a necessary precursor to an organized and orderly transition to stable, representative democracy. "It ain't what we don't know, its what we know for certain that just ain't so". I have seen such spaces evolve to democracy and it will in its own time happen. But to abandon democratic principle in any space, whether the blogosphere, second life, or otherwise, should be troubling to the reader.
Good decisions have been made here already. In fact, one of the unique aspects of SL is that it has a defensible and strong copyright model. That is a model that has captured the interest of many. The defense of such copyright depends on the orderly operation of outside governance to validate it. Real world court systems arbitrate serious matters such as copyright, inventors rights, and trademark. Linden Lab's unique approach is , both protection in the outside world - and to set permissions in-world on an object you create. They are set forever. No copy, means no copy. No transfer, no transfer. No modification, no modification. This is a uniquely efficient way of solving many problems the RIAA has today. And in which music and art can grow. And does.
However, just as we explore many sides of our own personality - residents naturally at one point or another moved to explore gambling. Places were created in which Casino Royale could be the date for the evening. One can bet a thousand "linden" in a high stakes game, and be on the hook for all of 4$ USD. This allowed for the expression of several forms of play - there were those who had always wanted to work for a casino as a security guard, those who wanted to dance there, and those who are addicted to gambling in real life find venue to beat their habits. As always, the important element was that of radical inclusion and the philosophy of action - , those odd one or two that were there to try out number and statistical theories had a place alongside the mafioso. No ticket to Las Vegas required. Shaken, not stirred. Please.
And almost as if to illustrate the problems of Governance online, and the Unitary Executive, Governor Linden (the ruler of such space) today almost arbitrarily cast a decision that immediately destroyed several of these places. This decision affects, now, to my diplomatic count, about 1 Million people scattered throughout 34 countries including the Netherlands, America, Germany, Brazil, and The European Union.
In this space where highly visible political campaigns have been introduced, and where press attention has at times focussed - for example, John Edwards campaign headquarters in SL and its concomittiant "griefing" - there have been objections. Perhaps the most concise voice in this matter has been that of Wonkette who said "if you don't have a first life, you sure won't have a second one" (parahpr.) - this is true. But Wonkette missed the intensely creative and radically inclusive aspect of the space; the ability of people to pursue ways of resolving political conflict without expensive litigation or lobbyist. This of course put some people in the Washington DC area where Wonkette plies her trade quite out of a job. K Street will not be rebuilt in Second Life. but...
.. the Twin Towers, that were struck down in an attack by Al Qaeda , on September 11, 2001, have already been rebuilt and stand there today. Visit them sometime. (thank you Adrianne D. it was a good date after all I guess.. :-)
And so that brings us to a question - perhaps one on the periphery of the slate of modern issues but that, IMHO holds the potential for being a "Black Swan" - (cf. Taleb) statistically, a turning point or "outlier event" that could have unexpected results. And now, perhaps one in which a dangerous precedent of might makes right, is now being set. One in which certainly the voices of residents ne' - constituents are being ignored at the behest of the backroom deal (a mainstay of K street politics - which has a now perfect track record of not being able to deal with Black Swans..). Ask yourself - what would K street do to the blogosphere?
Should online gaming, be allowed, in such spaces where micropayment and the existence of tradeable currency is in many ways symbolic? Where gambling is a form of expression?
I believe such questions and actions, are similiar to the net neutrality issue at least insofar as it is related to the rights of individuals to get what they paid for (IE, when I buy an internet connection I am not on the hook for a "special highway" that I have to buy somewhere else). Forms of expression such as blogging have been prohibited by some countries. A new wikipedia-like system will soon be introduced that will allow people to leak documents about there government. Expression seems to the key here, and the similiarity to these issues relates largely to the simple representational aspect of it. Would you want a site where you can sneak a peek on leaked government documents? How about a place where you could play-gamble? A blog where you could rant about your job without fear of reprisal from the CEO? They are related by concepts of self. And of your own rights, as an individual. And they relate the underpinnings of government itself. Soo.... thats why I think the question is relevant. One can never be sure one has truly found an outlier event, until later. Only the best of the best can spot them before them happen. That might not be me.
The question is to you. What do you think?