Monday, June 22, 2009

SL's Sixth Birthday

Second Life is about to celebrate it's sixth birthday. During the festivities, we will be seeing what SL residents think the future of the virtual world will be. Undoubtedly we will see a lot of futuristic, glowy places, such as the Android Stage on the SL6B Android Stage.

However, this birthday is quite important to me, at least. My own RL son was born in March, the same year SL was born. (He's almost a charter member!) One of the most significant marks of his birth is that he managed to squeak out two days before President Bush declared war in Iraq. As I have watched him grow, I have marked the endurance of that war by seeing his progress. Through learning to walk, potty training, his first day of kindergarten, and his completion of Legos Star Wars (*sigh*), I have seen the growth of this beautiful child while my fellow citizens faced dangers unknown to me (and unnecessary to anyone it turns out) on the other side of the world.

This has relevance as we think about the birthday of Second Life. Philip Linden chose to launch Second Life during a time of great upheaval in our world. We had experienced 9-11 just two years before. We were and are witnessing our own world grappling with the agonies of a new war (and it involved more than just the US and Iraq--we have to acknowledge that), the fear of conflict, and the sinking of the world economy. And yet he, the Lindens, and the residents persist.

Probably it is a lot of hubris. We have to scoff at a group of people thinking they can make a new world. What did we think we are doing? Nation building? (Want to know what the folks at Linden Labs thought they were doing? Shameless plug here for a friend's book--read Thomas Malaby's Making Virtual Worlds--just released!)

I had a friend who asked me the other day, when you reach a goal, do you look ahead towards the next goal or do you look back and see where you have been? I said, look ahead, of course, because if I look back, I will just see all the things I could have done better. Second Life is choosing to look ahead, to see what the future of virtual worlds will hold (and, I will cynically say, picking the brains of residents for more visionary ideas of where to go).

Let me end this story about the conversation with my friend. He laughed and said, you need to look back and savor what you have accomplished. You deserve to acknowledge that. On this sixth birthday, let's acknowledge that our nation building worked out a lot better than Iraq. Second Life includes residents from all four corners of the globe, people with varying abilities (Virtual Ability), and people who love straight, gay, furry, and all sorts of ways. Despite all the drama, despite the lag, despite the lack of decent hair for men, it's pretty near utopia.

While we are walking through the 20 sims of exhibits at SL, let's take a moment to remember life without prim hair, without 25 groups, without 7 Seas and chickens, without 30,000+ sims, without sculpties and wings, without freedom from Ruth. Let's also a remember our world without Second Life. It would be pretty empty.