« The flogging will continue | Main | Oh tragedy »

Feb 14, 2007



I don't think you will be able to see the history, value or occupancy of the building. All you will see is dozens of ads for the companies therein. Maybe you'll be able to see that info, but only if you go through a "free" registration that handily provides your "sunglass-mail" address to some spam list.

In today's physical world, we are bombarded by advertising. If you consider the WWW or a future derivation thereof as the virtual world with which the physical world gets paired with in this kind of scenario, then in that sphere, just as in the physical world, the advertising "noise" is enough to almost complete drown out the content itself. So it will be in any other new medium or medium overlay such as this.




I get the skepticism, and I think inevitably advertising will be part of the mix. But just because there is noise in the signal doesn't mean it will be all noise. A few possibilities:

1) The advertising is worth seeing. Some advertising is spam but other advertising is entertaining or informative. Some folks even watch the Superbowl to see the advertisements.

2) The advertising is balanced by worthwhile content. See television, radio, or the Web. We've got a long tradition of producing valuable information content that is subsidized by some degree of advertising.

3) Wiki-topia. We see User-Generated Content along the lines of Wikipedia, Flickr, Google Earth User Community with some type of collaborative filtering model to help the good stuff rise to the top.

Realistically, a Web 2.0 platform business model will help #3 along by pursuing #2. Arguably, this is what Google has done with Wikipedia. Indeed, with their maps, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are already pursuing these types of UCG/Web2.0 approaches.

So yes, in the short run it just might be skewed to ads, but in the long run, I think the better mousetrap wins.


In-car nav systems (plus GPS) could play tour guide right now. In some ways, I believe they already do.

The progression towards reality-augmented activities falls naturally to games (you mention the geocached pacman). It seems inevitable, at least to me. With the younger generation who have grown up using cellphones, that could be the most logical venue (at least to start).

My thoughts on the subject seem to strangely echo your own here, although I tend to rail on a bit about how people are getting it wrong by associating mobile gaming with "better grafix n soundz" :



The near future is going to be about hyper-local information delivered to you on your portable communications device. Then as 3D imaging / HUD technologies get cheaper and smaller and more socially acceptable, we'll see altered physical reality applications appear.

I have thought of these technologies as adding historical depth to real world spaces. I.e. being able to re-visualize a city block using 3D imagery superimposed on a HUD display, perhaps going back 50 or 100 or 1,000 years. The one clear application is for tourism. I discuss some of the mostly crude technology that have been developed in this space here:


I see kirkyans (and variations of them). At that point, distinctions between what's "real" and what's "virtual" won't make very much difference imo.


Thanks for the links in the post, Greg. I'll take the opportunity to open up and say I've actually personally been in what I'll call a metaversal crisis lately, or for a while actually. It's why the Metaverse Roadmap release has been so slow, but that's OK, it's a different kind of project and a big idea and we want to do it right. Just FYI we brought in the excellent futurist Jamais Cascio from Open The Future to be an author, so he's tearing it up now. I think you will like it when it's completed shortly, and we will do another summit later in the year that I hope you'll all come out for.

So what's the personal crisis? I suppose it's the best kind that you could ever wish for. You know I'm resident futurist for The Electric Sheep Company who do 360 project development on platform virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com (and can't wait to get into Multiverse and Areae BTW). It's the coolest job because the 50 people on the team are out-of-control talented, the rubber has met the road, and I'm given great liberty to pursue my interests, stay outwardly open, and clue everyone into new ideas and interesting possibilities.

But the crisis part comes in that what I'm personally interested in goes way beyond virtual worlds on the screen (obviously so's ESC, but hey, futurists run ahead :-), and the kind of voice I want to have and contributions I want to make go way beyond researcher and pundit type. So my mind has been racing on how to pull everything together in a way that makes sense for everything I'm working on and adds value for other people while staying true to myself.

OK, so all that as background, steering straight on at your post, the way I've broken down the metaverse roadmap is into four mutually reinforcing categories that happen on and off the screen, and in and out of physical and virtual space:

*Virtual Worlds
*Mirror Worlds
*Augmented Reality

They all tie into virtualizing the physical, and it's the mirror worlds and lifelogging bits in particular that have been holding me hostage for a while. I think mirror worlds and augmented reality will turn the real world into a virtual world, and lifelogging (making your life transparent, trackable, and so quantifiable) will turn people into avatars and life into a game. To riff links, my four favorite lifelogging-style projects are currently:

[painful apologies, but TN thinks you're spam when you list links in a row, so you'll have to cut, paste, and Google]

*Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming (PMOGing), by Justin Hall (turning the web into a virtual world where you level up as you go about your online day)
*Me.dium (realtime visualization of and the ability to chat with people who are on the same websites you're on)
*Seriosity (who are applying MMO mechanics to performing and tracking real life work, haven't really played with anything yet)
*And Four Eyed Monsters (a video project by two friends in Brooklyn who are essentially recording and recreating their relationship)

And so as part of my metaversal crisis I've been more and more tuning out other parts of my life and planning some things in these areas, and trying to make adjustments accordingly.

I've been living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a couple of years now. Maybe best known as the latest hipster capital of the world (young, arty, smarty, culture hounds, to keep it brief), it, and some other areas of Brooklyn, have become kind of a mecca for artists and designers and there are a lot of interesting things happening here. I only half-jokingly call it Williamsburg 2.0, and Brooklyn the Metaverse Capital, and hope to see it rise up as a force, like a Silicon Valley, but creatively different.

It's not a done deal yet, but Electric Sheep is close to opening up an office in Williamsburg that we're calling the Metaverse Factory. I blogged about it with a pic of one teeny part (it's a huge 3.5 story space on a main drag a block from the East River). One of the things I'd like to see happen at the Metaverse Factory is the virtualization of the surrounding neighborhood in a way that lets people lifelog and share their activities, explore the neighborhood, local events, and meet, network, and promote their creative projects and businesses as avatars. That's its whole own thing, so more on that later, but it would be a mix of 2D maps, 3D recreations of main drags and landmarks, with things you can do from your PC and cell phone.

I'll whip him out again because it's the book that really punched me in the face when I read it back in the day, but take a browse of Mirror Worlds by David Gelernter. I maintain that we're similarly informationally blind about our surroundings, our lives, the lives of others, and the various systems of the world as we were 500 years ago when we weren't sure the world was round and if there were actually sea monsters and crazy stuff like that (always good to remember that some of the world still lives that way). Gelernter calls what we need and what mirror worlds provide "topsight", or a high level look at the complex local and global systems of the world that we currently stumble through blindly. We need to make these things visually apparent.

So if you want my current projection for what the most truly transformative global development will be over the next 20 years will be, it will be a the convergence of metaverse technologies with a kind of mirror world at its center. It will be a sphere, like Google Earth, running lightning fast with intensely high-resolution imagery of the entire planet, with at least parts of it updating in realtime (we'll see what happens privacy-wise). And the sphere will display essentially infinite data sets about people, places, events, and systems. You'll publish your life to it. You'll be able to drop down into any area and run around as an avatar, meeting with other people. You'll be transfixed by it because it will be the most informationally dense and opportunity rich experience available. The video game version of the planet.

I think at that point in time what will happen is that, and here's the weird idea that's hard to see past, we'll essentially burn through the world's content the way that people burn through a game's content. We'll all be level 70 citizens of spaceship earth standing around in endgame asking what happens next. We'll all know the world's geography, we'll all have friends all over the planet, we'll all see the economic opportunities around fixing problem places, we'll all participate in managing the world's systems efficiently, as a kind of game.

No uploading needed, but if that isn't something worth calling a singularity, I don't know what is.

So, a few thoughts there. Hope it wasn't too personal of a start, but it felt good to say. You asked for free association! :-)


Neat post, Jerry.

I am both excited and terrified that you may be right.

Excited, because the ride to the singularity will be truly interesting and fun, and the first few years once we get there will be a blast. But then? What do you do when you've done it all?

Let's jump forward to the point when we can directly manipulate the brain. When we can either record the experiences of one person while they're doing something and play them back (a la "Brainstorm"), or program them directly. When I can plug some kind of device into my head that makes a 100% real-seeming, indistinguishable from the actual, virtual sensory event. And let's, as Jerry suggests, hook that up to the World Wide Game.

What then? We are programmed, biologically, to *want* certain things. The reason we crave sweet, salty and fatty foods is that they are scarce in nature. The reason we crave sex is that it is a biological drive. The reason we crave relaxation is that it is a signal that we have accomplished something.

What happens when we can have a virtual representation of all our goals, without (necessarily) any of the strife? If I can climb a virtual mountain... is that the same as doing the real thing? If it *feels* like it... is it? If I can plug into this whatzehoosis and seem (in my virtual fantasy) a fit, strapping, thin fellow and dally with fully realized, virtually perfect, seemingly gorgeous gals the virtual, wide world over... and all five of my senses tell me that I, and they, are perfect... is there a reason to bother with the reality?

It's fun to play. I like it a lot. But what does it mean to be "Level 70 citizens?" Have we fed everyone as one of our quests? Figured out the "big issues" like religious strife, energy, education, healthcare, etc? Or is that outside the game?

I want these things. And yet I fear them. Somebody help me figure out how we'll keep the balance.


OH, I get it now Jerry. Instead of going into Second Life, and re-making the world there, or patching Real Life into Second Life, or patching SL to RL to Google Earth or Tinkers to Evers to Chance, we will secondlifify the regular world, and use the other stuff to stretch you have on tap there out where secondlife leaves off, but you'll be bundling it.

I had posted the other day about the future:

Of course, not being a certified futurist specialist like you, I just went by my own imagination and then it just so happened I picked up this Verner Vinges book Rainbow's End which had a lot of the very things you had described (remember when Walker was quoting him on 3pointd).

So we'll go around and of course the virtual piped in will be everywhere on the walls or maybe the wristwatch or that square of flexible clear stuff I explain they will invent by then.

As you know, one of my objections to what you've been saying has to do with this idea where people riff off all the information pouring in from say, all the hell-holes of the world, and then "like a game" they just go and "solve them" -- as if they are sort of quests or game puzzles. So, a complex thing like "why-Egypt-dominates-the-AU-and-and-prevents-robust-action-on-Darfur" becomes a mere quest or puzzle that you solve through intricate game moves. You imagine you will access the Egyptian hip tekkie who will have the brother-in-law in the ministry who just happens to be on a procurement trip to Khartoum...or something. Of course, this sort of thing will be handled by Enlightened Ones -- people who will think they are smart enough to play these high-level games and will make sure the others they don't think are smart enough are kept out. Snowcrash.

I think a lot of problems will prove resistant to game-like skills application to solve them. They will have to do with things like shooting somebody because the sun got in your eyes. If we can't even solve ganking on Thomas' blog, how will we solve Darfur? And so on.

Now my second issue I'm developing still. I'm happy to see 4-eyed Monsters when necessary.

What I'm concerned about is that replacing "Big Brother Watches You" with "Little Sister Watches Herself and Her Friends" will just...have a lot of pictures of my kitty on it, Jerry. And, God know, Myspace stuff...only imagine, everywhere, and in 3-D. I don't think you're ready for that.

I think the corrective that Philip Rosedale puts to this, that we'll be doing it because it is "better" (he imagines it is better) or like the Booz Allen guy that asks whether we would be doing this better with something else other than SL

So you tether it to some purpose. I'm the one that says yes, we will have SL/the Thing You Mean tabbed down on the screen along with all the other tabs. You're going to take the tabs with you and run all over to the deli and the barbershop with them. But of course, you could go to the deli without the tabs too.
Couldn't there be unmediated experience?

If you lifelog everything, how will you think? It's letting something think for you, and sort your thoughts, and remember things that the organic brain would have edited it out -- and possibly rightly so, for all sorts of evolutionary and psychological reasons. As the guy said, he didn't want to keep reliving the moment his son fell down the stairs and needed stitches in the ER.

Shouldn't we know by now, too, with the obsessiveness of chatlogging in SL that you can have the most perfect obsessive copy of everything but it misses the gestalt and the context somehow...

We aren't going to burn through the world's content. That is, you might level up and burn through content only of interest to *you* but you're forgetting that the other 6,525,170,263 people on the planet will be making that user-made content and posting it and generating new complexes.

You're also forgetting about that stretch in the Karakum, Jerry. Or along the Amu-Darya? It simply will not wire up. It resists! Nobody can get there, even on camelback. Have you ever been to Chardzhou? a mafia center, for an infraction, they'll bury a guy up to his neck in the sand, pour kerosene on his head, toss a match, and pfoom! a Chardzhou Haircut. The Chardzhou Haircuts prevent the sort of wiring and content-burning you imagine.


The chief vice of a futurist is to extrapolate from current trends, the chief virtue of a futurist is to anticipate the unexpected -- and black swans will preempt the very best of prophecies.

Where will we be blindsided?

The shifts of greatest consequence will meet with enthusiasm, indifference and backlash, and the backlashes themselves will in some cases become shifts of greatest consequence in their turn. Thus directional projections will in general be periodic in their application, with both a predicted trend and its predicted opposite obtaining at different times, and at times synchronously in counterpoint with one another. This will cause arguments between proponents of opposed views, heh.

Every thing, every body will be tagged as target by someone. Thing targets may be stripped of attributes or of existence. Person targets may be stripped of time, place, possession, thoughtspace or life.

The world will be largely shaped by shifting ideologies, some of them acquisitive, some puritanical, and some genuinely ascetic. We must ask ourselves where these various energies will find their outlets, and how they will mix and match as distance becomes a distinction in thought rather than in geography.

The closest thing we have yet seen to the tagged future world is found not in science fiction but in the realm we foolishly term "myth" -- in the songlines of the Australian aborigines. They have the essence of what a meaning-embedded landscape can be, at once narrative, song, initiation, survival manual, and gift exchange. Second in line is the classical, medieval and renaissance Art of Memory. Hannibal Lecter was there before us.

Advertising will, as some here have noted, be the fungal growth obscuring much of life from those who are not alert to subvert it. Dross will continue to be overvalued, but quality will come to be seen as more valuable than quantity. Memory and imagination will be the last refuges of those for whom sex, spin and speed are not the defining values.

Patanjali’s yoga sutras, and particularly the line about the idea being cessation of mental fluctuations, will serve as the charter of the final human right, that of avoidance of the sponsored influence of others in thoughtspace.

There will therefore be a shift within, towards introspection -- of which Carl Jung is the prophet. We will come to appreciate the worlds of dream and poetry, and the arts will flourish as trainings in life-navigation. We will have distributed monasticism of a sort governed by depth of insight rather than dogma of local origin. Effectively, we shall have a dark age with a bright age within it.

Teilhard de Chadin’s noosphere, the Hua-yen Buddhist concept of the Net of Indra and above all Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game are pre-visionings of what Lewis Lapham once called the "transcendent aspirations of the Internet". Connectedness is a consumer, geopolitical and spiritual trend, and the braiding of these three forms of connectedness will define life's quality.

Openness will be the hallmark of the generous, secrecy of the driven. As ever.

Play is the form of learning. Play is the form of mastery. As ever.


I would like to highlight a few trends.

1. $100 computers -> computer for the global masses
2. mobile phone for the global masses
3. wireless broadband for the global masses
4. micro projectors for mobile phones and other new display techs

The result is that the terms Virtual World or Augmented Reality will be obsolete. Virtual worlds will be so integrated that it will be a normal part of the informational life and move from the second or the virtual to the real.



Thanks for that, Jerry/Andy/Prok/Charles. I've got to read the Glass Bead Game sometime -- I wasn't even aware of it.

Frank -- I take it you're saying the data layer and the "physical" layer are going to be so well integrated that it will be pointless to even have that distinction? Can you give an example of that type of situation?


@ Jerry

Thanks so much for this - I love the vision and the update on these various trends. Breathtaking stuff for sure.

I would only want to include the importance of culture - what we value might not always make "sense" - or that sense might be poorly understood. We're not digital, or, if we are, we don't fully understand the software. In addition to blending our worlds, creating better understanding and more options, we'll need to also better understand what motivates choices... on some level, how we understand our understanding of the virtual and the physical, and so much else. How we influence... how we connect. Why individuals make the choices they do. Without understanding how we operate in our environments, a world of potential will be lost... or something like that.

Perhaps this is implicit in what you've described, but I thought it might be good to emphasize. Just another facet of a really dazzling prospect.


>Teilhard de Chadin’s noosphere, the Hua-yen Buddhist concept of the Net of Indra and above all Hermann Hesse’s Glass Bead Game are pre-visionings of what Lewis Lapham once called the "transcendent aspirations of the Internet". Connectedness is a consumer, geopolitical and spiritual trend, and the braiding of these three forms of connectedness will define life's quality.

You have just given an intention to what is just a physically dispersed bunch of wires and servers.
Actually connectedness is a severe result of reading too much watered down Hegel and possibly a distorted realisation of the alienation of an industrialized and urbanized secular society hoping the very thing that created this alienation-the consumer- will reconnect it.
Connecting billions of alienated people will create one huge alienation. The Glass Bead Game is not just about physically and electronically networked consumers.


"Virtual worlds will be so integrated that it will be a normal part of the informational life and move from the second or the virtual to the real."

"...the data layer and the "physical" layer are going to be so well integrated that it will be pointless to even have that distinction? Can you give an example of that type of situation?"

A kirkyan is such an integration. As currently defined, it's one kind of transreal Thing in a class of smart objects that exist above spimes. The original definition is here: http://blog.rebang.com/?p=786 . If you do a search on my blog you'll see plenty of entries on it and perhaps some references to external comments by people like Cascio and Sterling, along with some interesting thoughts on the ISHUSH blog.

Lastly, there's a practical example I saved here: http://www.rebang.com/csven/Kirkyan.htm (not the Wikipedia; someone entered it and before community deletion I rewrote the entry to include an example to explain the concept).


Thought experiment - Would prisoners in penitentiaries be virtually free if they could play mmorgs all day? how about SL open type morgs?

Put asside the issue of if jail is for punshiment, not to protect those outside,,, and assuming there is a life sentance to take away the issue of assuring skills to work after release.

if broadband and equpement were incredibly cheap and the inmates weren't a rinks to turn the coputer into knife, perhaps a prisoner would only need to find 40$ a month to play non stop... would people start commming crimes to get into low security prisons where they could play games to their full content with food lodging and medical care picked up by the state?

OR how about the 21st century equivalent of an opium den? Be able to live in a tennement with broad band? A college dorm without the college? A sort of Grateful dead living small while living big in the vitural world but one where somehow people sell their soul?

I gues the china sweatshop gold farms are sorta there already? It there a way to suck in student loan money and let kids play 18 hours a day? perhaps its happening already?


csven, I think you should just use ordinary words to describe these things that, after all, in their components are ordinary. Words like "record" or "translate" or "simultaneous" or "instance" or "parallel construction" might go a long way toward making this idea more conversant. But maybe you'd rather hide it behind made-up scientific terms.


Well, plain language is always nice, but there can be times when neologisms and technical jargon are justified. I just read about the kirkyan and it seems clear enough -- I think I get what is being defined.

I'm curious as to the etemology, though. Why "kirkyan"? And what about the other two terms you mention?


Prok, I've never claimed that the idea is unique or that it hasn't been previously discussed. Quite the opposite, and if you've read any of my comments on spimes then you'll understand my motivation (and you of all people should understand it). Truth is, I have a hard time believing it *hasn't* come up before; perhaps in some little-known science fiction novel. However, I've not come across it. If you can contribute in some manner regarding attribution and definition, I'd be appreciative.

greglas, I actually discussed the answer to your question in an exchange with Jamais Cascio. In effect, it stemmed from WorldChanging using my SL avatar name "Csven Concord" instead of my real name in one of their entries about rapid manufacturing technologies. I'd previously found this sort of mix-up interesting (not mine, but another avatar cited in the MSM). Anyway, the joke hinged around how Captain Kirk seemed to always be getting split in two or meeting his other-universe doppleganger. And as Sterling had chosen a nonsense word for "spime" (a concept with which I'd been previously familiar), I decided to do the same.

The other two terms are similarly derived. However, as there's been some confusion, and as I don't care if the terminology changes, the other two might simply be forgotten and "kirkyan" be used to describe all variations of such Things. The simple reason I focused on that one type is that my personal focus is on niche product development; limited production runs or even one-off's. The other versions reflect other options.


In the event you didn't come across the other two terms on my blog, I've gone back and culled them for you. Hhere they are:

stellyans - "a stellayan is very similar though not quite the same as manufacturing CAD inside the 3D virtual space of the development application. This is a singular virtual object but it spawns multiple physical objects. I do that all the time as do many designers/CAD technicians. The significant difference is that the virtual Thing is “smart”, and the physical versions act as inputs to the virtual master so that it can evolve and thus produce improved physical versions."

triblyan - "a Thing that could replicate without limit on both sides of the tangibility barrier"

Again, both are nonsense terms but which have roots elsewhere. Their sources should now be fairly apparent.

One of the more interesting applications is books. The ISHUSH blog is maintained by a librarian, and so some of the discussions there are fun. And as I'm currently reading "The Diamond Age", I'm wondering if he wasn't seeing something familiar in my concept as applied to books and Stephenson's primer. I intend to ask after I finish the book.

By the way, "The Diamond Age" primer is increasingly reminding me of a roleplaying videogame. I'm wondering if at some point the activities will (I'm now at the point where Nell's keys have been stolen by the Crow) evolve into a kind of MMOG. I'll find out soon enough.


I think the idea of "augmented realities" will bloom into a big market of "reality filters". By this I do not mean ads from companies and "mySpace links" to people living in the house across the streets superimposed over what you see.
At first those reality filters will most likely be added to cool shades with head up displays (the modern version of cyber goggles).

"Reality filters" will take what you see and add elements to it that you have chosen. Buildings might look like Batman-Gotham-city-like-with-lots-of-gargoyles or with Buck-Rogers-like-futuristic-look etc. Everyone on the street that participates will have a second, chosen persona transmitted into the net - which gets superimposed over the real persona (modified by your particular reality filter).

Some people might chose to walk the streets ONLY in their online persona, strolling over the virtual streets of "Google Earth Mark 5" ..... and your reality filter adds these virtual people to your view of the real world. And these people can look any way they want (or any way your reality filter interprets them, as angels, monsters, peasants etc.). So the border between virtual and real world partially disappears.

Its only a question of computing power and bandwidth.

Have fun



Excellent post. As you are probably aware of, what you are describing is also commonly dubbed ubiquitous computing.

I share the understanding that virtual and physical spaces/services/situations are increasingly overlapping, as in rikomatic's comment regarding location-aware mobile services, which a lot of people are busy developing as well as using here in Tokyo.

As somebody interested in RMT, the interesting question then for me is this: what kind of roles could virtual assets play in real-life social situations?

I am currently visiting a ubicomp lab, so hopefully we'll be providing some answers to that question in the future. I urge you to think of virtual assets in wider terms though. Not just 3D objects, but any rivalrous, persistent and interconnected resources (as Fairfield put it) can come to have meanings attached to them in the social reality of a group of people.


/second Vili. Getting past our received notions about what constitutes an asset (capital, resource) is not going to be easy. The strange thing is that this thinking broadly is not itself necessitated by the advent of virtual worlds. There are plenty of resources that we draw upon in our offline lives that are not commodities or currencies.

The comments to this entry are closed.