Looking into the future

Mirror, mirror on the wall... With more than a million virtual residents already inhabiting the metaverse in Second Life alone, one might imagine what the future may hold. What was once science fiction has become reality and there are many who now worry that the ominous words of Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey, are not so far from the future truth -- when he tells Dave, “I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that,” making it clear the machine was now in charge of the man. Similarly, some people envision the metaverse as nothing more than “The Matrix”, a world where humans live only in their mind.

However, I remain the eternal optimist, much like Nicholas Negroponte in his work Being Digital. The metaverse is providing opportunities for people to learn, explore, interact, and create in ways that the limitations of the real world cannot possibly provide. Second Life, just as one example, is a place where researchers are teaching medical students how to work with patients before they actually have real contact with a live human; is helping children with autism learn how to be more functional in the real world through trials and tribulations in the virtual world; is taking children who live in rural poverty on adventures through Africa, Asia, Europe... opening up a world when their real life limitations would never have provided such an opportunity. Is the metaverse a completely different plane, or is it simply a mirror of our real world, created by real humans... simply reflecting their dreams and visions?

Want more?

The links below are two videos to provide you food for thought. The first is a presentation by the John Wright, Dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. His real life presentation was the live webcast on the screens in Second Life offering a view of the real world to the virtual world, while the real world participants watched the virtual world on the screens behind the dean in the real world conference room. A surreal mirror indeed. The second link gives you a glimpse of the improvements in 3-D digital animation in virtual worlds. Hang on!