The big question is can your virtual life replace your real one? Richard @ mementomari touched on this a little in a post and some of the comments also touched on this very idea too. As humans have evolved we’ve gained various skills and ability’s that are important to our very survival that don’t translate very well into a virtual world.
A large portion of our brains is dedicated to recognizing and understanding face’s, body language and voice. You don’t realise how important these are until they are taken away, how many times have you mis-read an email because you didn’t get that the person writing it was joking? Yes you could use things like emoticons and other similiar things to convey to the other person how you feel but it’s a rather ineffiencient method of communicating these things.
The way the current virtual worlds like Second Life have solved this problem is they allow you to have an avatar which is *you* in the virtual world. But there’s a problem with this how do you make an avatar look scared? or flirt with someone? How do you make the sly smile as you explain your cunning plan for world domination? Oh sure you can map things like the 🙂 emoticon to make the avatar smile but how do you have varying degree’s
of smiling or different types?
Movie’s like the Matrix and Cyberpunk author’s like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson solved this problem by coming up with ways that the mind/spirit/etc is somehow connected to the avatar in the same way your body is linked to it, or you simply upload yourself into the computer. Currently this isn’t possible and no one is really sure what would happen if we were to separate mind and body.
I’m not a believer in the weird and far out religion’s or anything but I do think that “I” am the sum of my individual parts and that “Me” is not simply my brain. We already know that chemical changes in the brain can cause things like depression and various other similiar things in people, the question is how much of our brain’s chemistry is affected by the rest of our body? And does that affect who we are? Does something like your heartbeat or chemical make up affect how you interact with other people?
The other odd thing about virtual worlds is that you can now be anything you want to be, so if in real life you’re a 40something male with bad teeth and a giant beer belly you could be a 18 year old female blond bombshell who likes wearing tight skimpy leather clothing or maybe a giant T-Rex? All of a sudden age, gender and even species no longer has any affect on your social standing. Things like race aren’t important because you could be bright green if you wanted to be in the virtual world. Now you might be thinking that this is a good thing, but if you take away the normal known ways of dividing people up into different groups new ones are invented and these new ones are not always pretty.
One of the problems with these virtual worlds is who owns them. Do you want to hand over your life to a big corporation?
I guess if you wanted the ultimate “virtual world” it would be an Open Source, Distributed Peer 2 Peer Virtual World that mapped your entire body onto a avatar, perhaps a two way mapping so if you’re touched in the virtual world you feel it in the real world.
But isn’t that what we got now?