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Oct 10, 2008



oh hai, can i haz oorl 4 vid d/l not streamz plz, sreamz is rubbish if you haz sux broadband and will haz much travel and wil haz keeenote at kidz conf soonz


Josh --

It was a great conference in all sorts of ways. Lots of fantastic people with very different perspectives on a very focused issue. Thanks so much for setting it up.

Personally, my biggest problem was figuring out which way to talk about the topic. There was quite a lot to talk about and we were building bridges in all sorts of directions, I think. I wish we had a few more days to work together on the topic!


Sure thing, Ren -- the vids should be downloadable by right-clicking the link by the time you read this. Let me know if you have difficulties d/ling it.


Bah, to specify: by right-clicking the video links themselves once you reach the symposium page.


Thanks for the links.

The thing I found interesting about Dr. Castronova's presentation is that a highly simplified theoretical model (combining both economics and Darwinian natural selection) behaves in a surprising way.

Intuitively, if playing virtual worlds reduces reproductive fitness (because people are having cybersex instead of making real-world babies), and liking virtual worlds is heritable, you would expect natural selection to eventually cure us of our liking for virtual worlds. (Or rather: the people who are left will be the descendants of those who made real-world babies rather than wasting their time in cyberspace).

If I understood the presentation correctly, this is one possible behavior of the model, but it only happens for some ranges of the model's parameters (how expensive VWs are, how heritable liking them is etc..) If you cross a critical threshold in the parameter values, the model behaves differently and the species becomes extinct.

I imagine this is somewhat analogous to the effect in epidemiology, where if an infected person on average infects > 1 other person you get an epidemic, but if they infect < 1 other person the disease outbreak dies out.

Of course, there a separate question of whether the theoretical model bears any relation to reality.

A lot of the economists I talk to are interested in combining economics with psychology/evolutionary psychology, so this might have wider applications than just virtual worlds. (For virtual worlds, substitute any commodity that effects reproductive fitness).


P.S. This is a different Apocalypse from the usual Marxian one in which Capitalism destroys itself to be replaced by (e.g.) Communism. Here, the end of Capitalism is also the extinction of Homo Sapiens as a species.

"Karl Marx was right, it is just that he had the wrong species." - E. O. Wilson


Cmon let's be realistic, nobody will throw away real sex for virtual sex. Sex defines us as human beings. When you see too many users addicted to virtual sex in a country, it means that country has a problem with its social life. Cause I could bet these are men that would love to find a brothel in the area but they live in a country where its not legal... Always, always real sex comes first, then porn, because of the HD quality, and then virtual sex. Sex is about the status of the individual in the society, but don't compare it to virtual sex, where smart "entrepreneurs" sell pixels moving on the screen, and probably to curious people that never seen their characters having "sex". (Just to be mean, I could even say virtual sex was invented by women , as an add-on to the online chat, to convince nice guys that is real while they give real sex to the others...)

If we will decide to not have babies anymore, it is because probably we will consider it's not worth the effort. Think about Sci-fi movies where people meet aliens very advanced technologically. They are almost always portrayed as being a society with a very reduced number of members. The lesser members in a society, the higher share of wealth and technology for each, so this is the trend of any civilisation that consider itself advanced.

On another hand, the whole debate with the virtual worlds is going too far. I think we should stop, and consider them only "virtual economies"-Entropia,SL, "virtual item markets"-EQ, WoW, "economy simulators"-Eve Online .

I think, to define even more the "escapism" of the virtual worlds, that people try to combine the economic advantages of participating in virtual economies, with fun, and, most of all, without the emotional drawbacks of the real life.
If they manage to become financially independent, they will use the emotional goodwill gained in the virtual world to outbalance the negative emotions gained in the real world.
Is any EVE character a bartender locked for years in a space station ? Or a steel hard worker in a player corporation factory , always working on a battleship hull or inner systems? That is, the bad jobs are never careers in Virtual Worlds.

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