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Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I am sure most of the millions of my loyal readers across the Milky Way have not heard of Second Life. This, a creation of Linden Labs, is a virtual world (current strength: 8 million) where you become a resident by signing up. Just like in the real world, you then buy land (from a small house to an island), weapons to defend it, transport to visit other places, etc. You can create any object under the virtual sun and sell it to others.You meet other people and interact with them like you would choose to in real life. How anyone would want to risk making a new mother-in-law is beyond me, but I guess it takes all sorts….
To come back to the point, in Second Life, you kind of live a parallel life, and use the virtual Linden Dollar as the currency for trades. If you want to buy a pretty girl a diamond necklace hoping that you would give you online bed-space, you spend in Linden dollars. Where will these things come from? You have to buy them, with real US dollars! That is the brilliance of this business: it is no longer true that only a fool and his money are soon parted; this is now a general truism. Once you get passionate about your virtual world, with its neighbors, friends and other properties, you start spending real money to get pleasure or property.
So now, if you want to create a huge casino where other residents would be tempted to come in and blow away their money, you need to spend a few Linden dollars. But, hey, wait a bit, this has just become illegal!
In what could spell the death knell for Second Life, virtual gambling in Second Life has been banned by the US Government, parallel to the ban on all forms of online gambling in October last year. I go frog-eyed at the concept: the US, a bastion of individual freedom for three centuries, has banned a gaming activity, which is strictly speaking, none of its normal business. I mean, this is not about screwing pages, interns or Washington madams, or even firing at the wrong people, so why are they interested?
Turns out that people will always give a twist to good things and make things real!
Second Life is under a cloud because intelligence anticipates or fears that terrorists could transfer money across the globe through virtual transactions (after all, you have to buy Linden dollars with real money if you want to gift or buy things). Child sex abuse is also alleged to have happened in Germany. Of course, people suing one another for ‘copyright’ violation of their virtual products is also a reality.
Individual rights have to be balanced in relation to national security and law-and-order. But there are too many occasions for the State to squash individual rights in the name of national security or law. Take China, for example. I believe this is a similar instance. This is all very regrettable. As someone who has never lost money or time gambling, I feel the pain of those deprived of it. Virtually, actually!


Mahendra said...

Nice to see someone championing freedom!

Yes, this is a tricky issue. Al Qaeda is supposed to have "infiltrated" Second Life already. Even the Economist has written about this:

But Government's short-comings in enforcing law-and-order and national security should not be addressed by legislation impinging on individual rights. This is reminiscent of the Patriot Act that gave government all rights to invade personal privacy under the guise of security.

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