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« The Village of Tweeter: Follow/Not-Follow Recommends | Main | My Conversations With Hamlet »

April 24, 2008


Cocoanut Koala

"Virtual world coders can stay immersed in their illusion of proprietary totalitarianism because people themselves are forced to render as their coded artifacts --avatars."

Well put!

This phenomenon has always struck me as kind of like a guy who manufactures TV sets. And thinks the set and its guts are the important parts about television.

Completely overlooking the entertainment on it, which is why people have TV sets in the first place!

And if that entertainment starts taking away from the focus on the TV set itself, well, you know, he can always fix it so you can't change channels!

Or have to look at everything in shades of blue, if he doesn't like the uses to which you put *his* television sets. Or code it some other way to make you use it the way he thinks you should.

Cause by damn, he made the set, didn't he? Why, we couldn't watch the programs at all without it!

And God forbid a production company or advertiser should claim to "own" any of the programs.

Or it could be a plumber who thinks he should be able to control your bathing activities because he hooked up your bathtub. Etc.


Crap Mariner

(bullet points, which resolve into:) "The $1000 buys you the link farm."

Ah, I was overlooking the network, database, and social infrastructure again. All that stuff that the sim itself is just the tip of the iceberg to.

Thank for pointing it out. Must have gotten caught in the jumble in my head trying to sort through my thoughts.

Ciaran Laval

There are a couple of things about Harper's post that concern me. Firstly, when did they announce mainland tier on new sims was going up to $295? I missed that one.

Secondly, telling people to stop complaining. Absolutely not, if people hadn't complained then those who had sims on order would have paid $1675 for something that within weeks would be greatly devalued. People complained and Linden Lab realised that it was not the way to treat people.

As for the whole "It's just web hosting". The analogy falls over because residents place a value on location. I pointed this out at Robin's office hour, that Robin's 2048M plot was more valuable than any 2048M plot I own. Waterfront mainland is more expensive than landlocked mainland. If it were merely a server and web hosting solution, then this would not be the case.

People need to realise that all land isn't equal. Residents have placed these values, the vast majority of residents quietly buying or even renting land place a value on the visual representation, it is not an empty space when they buy land.

Those who cry "hardware costs are decreasing" need to pay closer attention to other comments being made, in particular Zee's comment over at metanomics when he said he expects the upfront fee to fluctuate. He didn't say he expects a continued downward trend and that's something that is largely being ignored.

Robin told me that the reasons for the decrease had been explained and that it was a "disagreement" between residents and Linden Lab, but the reasons for the decrease haven't been explained, the hardware costs straw was grasped gratefully. However there has been no real explanation as to why residents valuations had been ridden roughshod over, no explanation as to how Linden Lab view the asset value issue and I'll be damned if I'm going to stop complaining about that.

However my concerns are minor in the bigger scheme of things with regards to people who see land barons as the odious pantomime villain. My concerns are minnor in the bigger scheme of things with regards to the core driving force of the inworld economy being dismissed by those who believe somewhere out there there's a utopian paradise of free resources, it simply doesn't exist.

Corcosman Voom

"there are two religious beliefs about value, upon which all economic theory is constructed, and you either believe one or the other, and they are merely religious doctrines,"

Rather than articles of faith, what about framing these as hypotheses which are supported, or not supported, by tangible evidence?

Can the technocratic dream of endless fields of free sims and no private property rights to IP withstand the scrutiny of the scientific method?

Prokofy Neva

Crap, saying "link farm" doesn't sum up all those things properly, but I was trying to sum it up like a web page.

Corcosman, they are articles of faith not only about virtual worlds, but about countries. Read P.J. O'Rourke. It's funny and entertaining and probably something more people would likely read than Richard Pipe's Communism, another great little work. I'm different than P.J. O'Rourke in that I think you still have to have social spending on certain areas of society that just will never lend themselves to fixing by the private sector.

And it's important to remember that when you speak of systems based on these two articles of faith, it's not all-or-nothing. It's about a center of gravity. P.J. O'Rourke doesn't think there shouldn't be public schools; he's not advocating that a Tanzania not have a public sector for health and welfare. What he is saying is that the vast national and international welfare schemes attached to a place like Tanzania are corrupt and corrupting and regulations stifle entrepreneurs. There's a kind of sliding scale that has to take place.

And even very socialist countries these days of the old Soviet type still allow for some private shoe-shine shops or restaurants or certain small services the state can't possibly handle.

The point is where you decide that value is created and your task is to help generate it, or fixed and your task is to help distribute it as the main proposition of society.

You can ask that these articles of faith be hypotheses that be proved by the scientific method. I'm all for that. But it becomes so complex on each side that it is hard everywhere to show that one or the other article of faith was at work -- in real life. You can say "Sweden succeeds because of socialism" or "Sweden is failing because of socialism" with equal arguments on either side.

You're right that in a virtual world, the endless free sims and lack of economy and no IP are going to be withstanding a test. It's a test Linden Lab already set and didn't pass and revised several times. Others think they can do better.

Ciaran, I haven't heard at all that mainland will be $295, I think that's a mistake.

Yes, once you create a contiguous world with builds and features and people in it, location and proximity mean something. I saw a guy advertise his island as "next to IBM's island". We all advertise land as "Linden protected". A store next to the Ivory Tower of Prims can expect more sales. ETc.

I wonder why it is so hard for someone like Harper to understand -- and respect, even if she doesn't like it -- the simple thing you just said: "people PLACE A VALUE ON LAND". You can't STOP people from doing that. People go on valuing this in incredible ways. Think of the movie Dr. Zhivago. Think of any movie about people struggling to get land back, or losing land, or fighting for land.

I don't care if she goes on disparaging land and hating on land. I want her to be come aware that this is a narrow ideological concept, however. It's only one of two main religious beliefs; only one possible school of thought; not a school of thought that the majority of people adhere to.

It's not about any drop in hardware costs. That's utter bullshit. If the hardware costs dropped in a day for Linden Lab (they didn't), nobody else out there in the server farm industry is crowing about how wow, servers are a fraction of a cost.

Instead, the Lindens decided that something they were charging too much for, they could charge less for. Perhaps they even had a smaller server cost drop, perhaps with more bulk purhcases, but they made it larger for ideological reasons.

The drop in 40 and 60 percent for mainland and island is just staggering - it's a firesale. Firesales happen due to acute need or politics, not price drops in an industry.

Re: 'However there has been no real explanation as to why residents valuations had been ridden roughshod over, no explanation as to how Linden Lab view the asset value issue and I'll be damned if I'm going to stop complaining about that" -- absolutely. That's absolutely what has to be drummed into their thick heads. They need to feel acute, burning shame for this.

We'll see if those creating their utopian free paradises get anywhere.

Croquet Hax

Your broadside got me thinking about the issue of the armchair socialists and their beliefs.

I tend to think of your two doctrines in a slightly different fashion and I have three instead: Create Value (artists, manufacturers, farmers, etc.), Distribute Value (sales, transport, etc.) and Redistribute Value (Government, thieves).

You can argue reasonably that create and distribute belong together as they both are about adding value, but I've found that separating them adds some clarity and forces thought into areas where many are thoughtless. In this scheme, what land barons do is distribute the land value, adding to the value by clever allocations, zoning and improvements. In some ways it's not about transporting land to the people, but transporting people to the land that will give them the most satisfaction.

Marx missed out pretty badly on the second one and I suspect (you almost certainly know about this better than I) that this was one of the root causes that made harvest into a yearly crisis in the Soviet Union. In all that talk about means of production, there seemed to be a blindness to questions of getting the produced goods to where they needed to be and how merely moving goods around can cause them in have increased value. I've always assumed the problem was ideological as the SU kept making the same mistake, year after year.

And the technolibs of SL appear to me to be making similar mistakes. They don't see the function of moving goods around as adding value, never mind the rest of the services that are provided.

Prokofy Neva

I'd have to think a bit more to see if those 3 concepts work better than the 2.

I'm not sure that collaboration with others in an economy of goods and services and adding value to others' value is the redistribution.

From what I can tell, there were four reasons that the Soviet Union harvest thing didn't work:

o forced collectivization killed off a lot of the most knowledgeable, skilled, and productive peasants -- the Lenin and Stalin Great Terror, dekulakification, etc.

o people don't feel a sense of ownership on a collective farm, and they don't take pride in their work, they steal what they can, and do as little as possible for zero salary -- it's not commonly realized that collective farm members had as little rights as people in bantustans -- they were not allowed residence permits elsewhere under the internal passports and couldn't travel around the country -- it was a kind of forced labour

o there were middlemen trying to move the food, called tolkachi, but they would sometimes be punished or arrested -- free enterprise was always brutally discouraged

As much as one third of the Soviet Union's food supply was created by peasants and workers in their kitchen and truck gardens -- even city dwellers would spend a lot of time growing their own food outside the system -- an amazing example of human perseverance

Croquet Hax

It is pretty clear at this remove that the small plots were the only thing keeping away collapse from food riots, and that the Soviet planners understood this at some level, though they couldn't publicly acknowledge it. A pity they couldn't have taken that realization to the next level earlier than they did. I'd heard even higher estimates for the productivity of the small plots (up to 50%, which seems a bit much), but like a lot of things from then I doubt we'll ever know more precisely than that.

To expand on my point, there were times that the USSR had perfectly good harvests. Even after killing off or exiling most of the peasants their replacements and their descendants eventually figured out how to grow food again. It certainly wasn't as efficient as a proper ownership system, but death threats do provide some motivation and the surprising strength of Russian nationalism provided some more. So some good years there was a surprising amount of food...much of which was left to rot as it couldn't be harvested in time, despite calling in the army to assist. Or it rotted in a railcar in a switchyard. And this kept on happening. When people keep making the same mistake on this scale without correcting it, there has to be some sort of systematic error in their thought.

I've noticed that if Marx or Lenin didn't talk about a topic, it was sort of assumed that it wasn't important. Conversely, if you wanted to get an idea noticed, you had to relate it, possibly through a great deal of dialectical materialist doubletalk, to something that one or preferably both had said. The danger in this was the possibility of being caught and punished as a revisionist. Now, your readings in this area are certainly deeper than mine (and you have the advantage of reading in the originals and not in translations), but I don't recall anywhere a recognition in the original sources of the issues in service and distribution to the economic health of a society.

And the result looks to me to be a kind of category error. There was no formal category to place these concepts so it was hard to talk about them in the framework that was Soviet Dialectical Materialism. Or worse, they got filed in some other category where they didn't really belong. Note that I specified three categories, however even that tends to go against the grain of dialectics, which tries to shoehorn everything into oppositions - so even there you'd have to come up with some clever explanation as to where the oppositions were.

I'm sure that everybody understood there was a problem, but producing a solution that didn't contradict the received truths of Marxism Leninism too blatantly seemed to be beyond their capabilities. Or perhaps they just weren't that foolhardy, goodness knows some of the stories of what happened to enemies of the state from the bad old days scare the heck out of me.

As to whether my reconstruction into three points is "better"? I don't see them so much a better but different and useful. Alan Kay once said that point of view can be worth 80 IQ points. He meant that there is value in restructuring concepts to surface aspects of them that may not be obvious when structured the usual way. Humans seem particularly prone to dividing the world into opposed classification pairs (A and NOT A), so I like to try to find other interesting breakdowns into triples or other unusual amounts. I have found that in my dealings with various armchair socialists that this three point breakdown can communicate what market economics are more clearly. Pretty much everybody sees how building a clutch or growing wheat creates value, not many see how shopkeepers, salesbeings and shipping companies can also add value despite not actually doing anything immediately obvious to the goods. Your perspective is also correct and useful, and has the advantage over mine in more strongly contrasting the dynamic view of production of wealth via non-coercive trade against the static view of fixed value that leads to the thievery of redistribution.

Ace Albion

Nobody paid for MOO space, eh?

I think if the people who ran/run MOOs (at least the ones not mooching off their university's IT infrastructure) had to keep buying racks of servers so people could write up cool rooms full of stuff, that *someone* would be expected to pay for it.

Tammy Nowotny

Going not too far off topic here. I hope.

Cocoanut talked about how the programming on your television is vastly more important than the TV set itself. You may have seen those ads about the rollout of "digital TV" where the old analog TV channels as we have known them are about to go dark. I know you have seen them, but I am not sure if you noticed them... and even if you did notice them it is kinda hard to figure out what the grey-haired actors are yammering on about (no, it's nothing to do with sex or digestion.)

We are supposed to heed the ads by buying converter boxes (although if uou have cable or dish-TV, you don't really need the box.) Ironically, this changeover may kill TV off altogether... since folks are starting to realize there are other ways of getting video onto a screen.

Prok and Croquet mentioned that Marxism had failed. And it sure did fail in the USSR. But Marx and Lenin's theories do explain some things Adam Smith's and John Maynard Keynes's don't. He does at least realize that people engage in economic activity for a reason (i.e., to meet their human needs) and that capital comes into existence only because human beings create it. And (even though Marxist states had a bad record when it comes to maintaining their cpaital) Marx recognized that capital needs to be continually renewed and rebuilt.

Tammy Nowotny

Hmm, yea Marxism did fail in the USSR... but it lasted a longish time. It took about 75 years to go from the October Revolution to the breakup of the Soviet Union. And there are still remnants of Soviet culture in the various republics which sprang up when the USSR fell apart.

Red China has been around as a Communist state for about 60 years, and it is no failure (even though I am glad I don't live there!) It is in fact the fastest growing economy in the world.

Prokofy Neva

If Communist Russia took 75 years to fail, that's a good sign, as it is a testimony to the tenaciousness of the human spirit resisting it. Remnants doesn't even begin to describe the metasticized forms it takes now in the stans.

Actually, Red China is a failure. It is running out of water and grain and has too many people. It viciously clings to entities like Hong Kong or Taiwan or Tibet or Uighur or whatever that it should let go. It needs to de-monopolize, but instead, it keeps lurching around the world franchising places like Sudan. A fast growing *anything* isn't "success" -- it's usually a temporary mirage that covers up massive amounts of pollution, dislocation, and death coming down the pike.

Croquet Hax

Marxism failed in the USSR from the first moment Lenin ordered mass deaths. If a State is to be anything more than a criminal gang, it has to protect it's people. As an overall doctrine, while there are some points that have lived on in later theories, Marxism and it's descendants were a complete disaster. It is incredibly amenable to corruption and uses a completely incorrect model of value (labour theory of value). It misses important aspects of economic activity and makes outrageous claims about the direction of history. And that doesn't even begin to cover the deviations in the Soviet version that went even further afield.

It is a testament to Humanity in general and the Russian peoples in particular that they managed to survive so long under it's yoke in their attempt to make it work.

I seem to recall a book I read awhile ago that used the Stalin as a unit for mass killing. A character was reflecting on the number of Stalins that the nuclear arsenal represented and noted the insanity of buying Stalins. Who would want a Stalin? I would argue that a Stalin is the almost inevitable result of such an approach. You don't have to look very far to see empirical evidence of it: USSR and Stalin, China and Mao, Zimbabwe and Mugabe, and the current devolving situation in Venezuela.

China's success has been in direct proportion to the amount of Capitalism the government has allowed it's people. Which, at least to me, doesn't sound anything like a ringing endorsement of Communism. And I suspect that the major reason that they've introduced any Capitalism at all is to prolong the life of a system that would otherwise be seen to have lost the "Mandate of Heaven". Outside of it's growing economy, there are many problems with the current Chinese State. Pollution, corruption, suppression, and disease are all rampant, we just don't get to hear much about them due to their tight government controls.

Prokofy Neva

I'm glad you contributed that post, Croquet. I always marvel that people don't seem to broadly understand these truths. Why do you suppose that is?

Croquet Hax

(Heavens, I hadn't realized I had so much to say about this. I've also posted this at as I wanted to be able to find it again.)

I'm really not sure. Despite having made the gradual transition over my life from being a left socialist to a borderline anarcho-capitalist (NOT a Rand-droid) I can't give any definitive answer. Maybe if I write up my path to enlightenment it'll make some sense of the matter.

I started out, as most do, with the beliefs of my parents who are well meaning Canadian social democrats. They were both well educated, and had been born in the 30s. In contrast to this, the surrounding area was much further to the right of center (in Canadian terms) as it was a rural area with an Air Force interceptor airfield. As part of my rebellion phase I became more leftist, seeking to contrast with my environment. The ideals of Communism, particularly the projected end states (the state withering away, everybody living in prosperity) are very attractive.

During the late 70s in order to come to terms with the possibility of being vaporized in 30 minutes I started reading available materials on the USSR, military theory and practice, wargames, and history. Here I started really noticing the gaps between the claims of the collectivists and the various observations of life in a real Communist state. At the time I did accept the arguments claiming that capitalist propaganda and transition stages were the reasons for these differences, but the seeds were planted. A reading of "The First Circle" late in this period didn't help either. Meeting some Vietnamese boat people attending my high school also made me wonder about the claims of the Communists both local and remote.

But some of this got ignored away when I discovered computers in the late 70s and became deeply involved in learning about them. The most relevant aspect to this tale is I started learning about failure and correctness. The computer is the worlds greatest device for showing you how stupid you really are. It does not excuse you for having good intentions. If the program is written incorrectly, the program will not work. Writing a correct program can be difficult and in the process you learn about accepting failure, finding the bad assumptions, then fixing them. To be the best possible developer you can't afford face saving illusions. And for some of us that attitude transitions from computers into the rest of our lives.

After high school, in the mid-80s I was off to University. Here a got a massive exposure to many more viewpoints and I got to compare them in the wild. This would be where the real drift started. I was a computer science major and, as is traditional, the faculty in engineering and sciences was generally more right than the arts faculty. And I got to meet real north american communists, marxists, leninists, maoists, trots, and various others in various combinations. I got to watch their bickering and obscure politicking, looking for all the world like a bunch of religious sects. Then it hit me that that is what they were, with the Gospel of Saint Karl and various apocrypha for holy texts. Now, since at this point I has already become somewhat skeptical of religion, this made me look more closely at the core tenets and implications of Marxism.

I didn't like what I found. Particularly in light of what really happens in systems that claim to be Communist. A key concept in user interface design is that of _affordances_, the set of actions that the design of a system makes easy and logical to do. And the affordances of Marxism are corruption and domination by the strongest wills. For humans, at least, collective ownership doesn't work as if it's owned by everybody it's owned by nobody. Instant tragedy of the commons. Or it'll end up effectively owned by whoever has the strongest will (via preference maximization), but they can hide their actions behind claims of the will of the people. Essentially, Communist principles, when put into practice, lead to totalitarianism. Every time. I guess there is a statistical chance that it won't happen, but I imagine the probability of that to be very very small. It would be like balancing a short piece of wire on end at the tip of a long pole, possible but inherently unstable without a lot of supporting action. And the initial conditions in Russia guaranteed a faster slide than most.

At this point I started back into reading about the USSR, this time reading for consistency of claims, especially with respect to my new understandings. John Barron's books, while probably written as a CIA funded propaganda exercise, managed to be much better on consistency with other reliable sources than the odd emanations from behind the Iron Curtain. And I started seeing the heroism of the common people of the USSR trying to "build socialism", a doomed effort that could never succeed. I learned about the nomenklatura, the feudal masters of the USSR. I learned about the KGB and Iron Felix. I read the Gulag Archipelago. Further back in time there were the peasants under the Tsar, the Muscovy Princes, and Mongol tax practices and the court at Sarai. And I learned how Russia in many ways hasn't changed since the Mongols left. The leadership owns everything, the people own nothing, not even their lives. And somewhere in there I failed out of school.

And then the USSR fell over and we got to look at the records and archives and talk with the people. And lo, while both sides were guilty of spouting propaganda, it seems that the lies were strongly one sided.

Possibly the most interesting revelations were the ones on "active measures" or dezinformatsiya. And I'm thinking this is where our current problem starts. The "long march through the institutions" was very successful and has left massive ideological residue in western society to this day. Victim-ism, moral and cultural relativism, political correctness, and transnational progressivism all stem from or were amplified by the deliberate Gramscian subversion guided by Directorate A of the KGB. This occasionally backfired on them, for instance some of the various unilateral disarmament groups they started eventually went out of their control and became supportive of bilateral disarmament. On the whole though it was very effective as it gave the collectivists control of many institutions. And the people we argue against went to these institutions and received instruction from these collectivists.

The other interesting note to me was looking at the lists of agents of influence and realizing that, while his methods were disgusting and contrary to liberty, Joseph McCarthy was substantially correct about the identities of communist agents. Not something I expected to see.

In the mid 90s, I started working with a number of Russian immigrants. I asked them about the situation in Russia during the Communist era. And was only mildly surprised to find that in many cases the awfulness of the situation in the USSR was understated in the books I had read. Probably the most delightful discovery though was that Viktor Belenko's reaction to the north american supermarket wasn't unique or a propaganda lie. I also acquired a taste for Pertsovka and probably took a few years off my liver.

I think what finally clinched it for me was economics. In the late 90s I ran into Austrian school economics and their insistence on strict logical argument from a priori assertions and observed facts. The basic Austrian school praxeological arguments in favor of the subjective theory of value are as iron clad as I can imagine. And you really can't argue with their minimalist assertions on human behavior and action. If you did, you'd find yourself biting your own tail quite quickly. There are gaps in praxeology: there still is no theory of conflict and the excursions into game theory are quite limited. I think if I were to be suddenly 20 years younger I would go into those areas of research as there are lots of places open to make a name for yourself and it looks fascinating.

The other aspect of Austrian school economics that struck me was "the calculation problem". You can view the price system as a signaling device that lets us know how others value things. We then run our own calculations internally as to what things are worth trading according to our personal valuations. It is a distributed calculation, carried out in parallel by all of us and over time it converges towards efficient pricing and resource allocation. A socialist or communist government cannot do the same thing in a centralized fashion because 1) it would require too much computational capacity and 2) you can't determine the personal valuation calculations of all of the individuals involved (and these calculations vary over time). These two things taken together guarantee that the economy in a centralized system will constantly misallocate resources. The various shortages in the USSR were a beautiful illustration of this.

I can still think like a socialist when I have to and this has been invaluable in the various arguments I get into from time to time on the topic. If there were a real life permanent report card mine would read "Does not suffer fools gladly." I tend to get into these arguments more than most. This is also why I enjoy reading your arguments with the foolish. I often don't agree with your solutions but I usually agree with your statement of the problems.

So, looking at my life, I have to note some key attitudes of mine that don't always mesh with the rest of the world's:
* Don't assume that if a package says cigarettes on the label that it actually contains cigarettes. Because someone claims to be doing good things doesn't mean they are.
* Good intentions mean next to nothing. Action, and doing right action, is key.
* Facts are our only signposts into an uncertain future. Get the facts.
* Sometimes the extremes are correct. Most people assume that in some situation where two sides are contending on a social issue that the "truth lies somewhere in the middle". It is this assumption that makes the Big Lie technique work so well.
* Individual liberty is *important*. The ability to self own and self direct is what it's all about. If a society or government denies this then it's morally invalid.
* Don't assume that "when the revolution comes" that you will be on top. If more people believed this then transnational progressivism would be dead.
* Life owes you nothing. It may so happen that you live in a society wealthy enough to give you things, but that is merely an accident of history.
* The government big enough to give you all you want is also big enough to take away everything you have.
* Poverty and oppression do not make people noble and good. They may provide an opportunity for these characteristics to show if they are already present, but the also provide lots of opportunity to show the darker side of human nature. For every hero, there are a couple of stukachi waiting in the wings.

Prokofy Neva

Croquet, that's a very interesting trajectory. I read through quickly, and hope to go back and re-read again soon.

Your description of the Trots, etc. sounded like the Sid Smith book tables at the Uof T. I used to run one of the book tables there, but it was the one with Christian literature lol.

I studied abroad in the Soviet Union so that pretty much fixed it for me.

Re: "The computer is the worlds greatest device for showing you how stupid you really are. It does not excuse you for having good intentions. If the program is written incorrectly, the program will not work. Writing a correct program can be difficult and in the process you learn about accepting failure, finding the bad assumptions, then fixing them."

There is a place where they *can* get away with this. It's called "Second Life". It covers a multitude of sins.

Croquet Hax

Re: There is a place where they *can* get away with this. It's called "Second Life". It covers a multitude of sins.

Note my caveat in the original: "To be the best possible developer you can't afford face saving illusions. And for some of us that attitude transitions from computers into the rest of our lives."

I will forgive LL a little because some of what they're doing is hard and has not been tried before. But after that I have to rate them on their performance finding and fixing the mistakes and conceptual errors. Mostly they come out badly in that evaluation. And I specifically was describing computer programming. There are all kinds of other aspects of using computers that provide no such benefits. Unfortunately.

In the end it's like any other form of self improvement: you have to truly work at it for it to help you. But if you do work at it, there are benefits to be had.

I blame the Love Machine.

rebecca proudhon

Land on one's own local computer server is inevitable--as much as one wants--as much as one has hard drive space for.

Land is just not going to be a valid business in Virtual Reality for long. People will sign up for $15 monthly and actually own their own land they can plug into a grid.

There are many other valid businesses people can have, but "land," in a virtual reality of the near future, is not one of them.

No company charging for land on their grid will last.

Prokofy Neva

Rebecca, you have *got* to be kidding. You contradict yourself in one sense. "As much as you want" -- but it comes down to hard drive space. Computer capacity. And admit that there will be a need for connection. And...keeping all these land portfolios linked. This will be more than $15. It's not like a shard system like World of Warcraft because it is user generated and persistent with everybody on all servers accessing all other servers, not just one shard.

Land will go on being a business, because land will always be based on what I have indicated -- scarcity of server space, programmers' time/skills, interactivity/community, etc.

It's a fervent wish of people with your ideology to do away with land. If you can do away with land, you can do away with capitalism, or some variant of an ideology you don't like wedded to land.

People have always been connected to land throughout human history. They will go on being connected.

Prokofy Neva

I'm not in a position to judge about their computing skills. I remember once when I asked Philip a simple question, at SLCC 1, thinking it would get a knowing smile and a pat answer, I was surprised that it got a rant. I asked him if it were true, what all the tekkies said on the forums, that the servers just really weren't going to scale, connect, stay running together -- that it was really just not possible to do (people were always saying that).

And he gave me this rant about how he had the best damn programmers, and boy did they work hard, and they were smart, and of course it would work.

And I remember thinking, but...I didn't ask about whether you had nice/good/wonderful programmers. That's all well and good. I'm sure they're great people. I asked whether *the concept was sound*. Could you defend the concept, please. But...the setting was such that I couldn't really push this.

For me, the problem of the Love Machine isn't that they get to pick what they do. The problem of the Love Machine is that they get to pretend they are transparent and accountable merely because they have an internal Twitter with an upbeat account of their intentions. Maybe no one ever calls them on it. Maybe there's a conspiracy to keep alive each others' deep fictions.

Croquet Hax

My problem with the Love Machine is it's a device designed from the ground up to generate groupthink. I really can't imagine a much better way of doing that than what Philip came up with.

And when programmers (heck, when anybody) gets into the groupthink mode then they tend to mis-evaluate their results as everything is viewed through the prism of group approval rather than whether it's the right thing.

While it wasn't as extreme, I've worked in situations like that and looking back at then, the distortions we talked ourselves into were terrible indeed. For instance, we were convinced that a system that had never gone above 30 users could be scaled to 1000 or so without much effort. It was a good system, with various clever ideas that made it attractive to clients, but there were all kinds of problems and bad assumptions lurking in the code that didn't show themselves with a smaller number of users but would and did choke with a large number.

I suspect Philip gave the answer he did out of 1) commendable loyalty to his employees and 2) he really didn't *know* if it was sound so he ranted in part as a way of bucking up his own confidence. While you may believe your concept to be sound, sometime you have to build it, at least partially, to see if it truly makes sense as there are too many moving parts to visualize accurately. So you have to hire the best people you can, explicitly place your faith in them to give them confidence, and hope that they will be enough. Besides, even if the basic theory is good, the operational issues can end up killing you anyways. Like a lot of business, it's a gamble and is ultimately an economic question: can you get it working and profitable before the money runs out.

rebecca proudhon

I don't have an ideology about all this Prok. I don't care for these "religous" views anymore then you. I am certainly not one of these "everything for free," "open source fanatics" or people who believe no one can own anything.

What I am saying is that it is just inevitable that when people are paying absurd or even relatively cheap costs for "land," other services are going to come along, with the ways for anyone to just have their own "land" on their own local hard drives and naturally people will sign up and pay for grid services and technology services that have that feature, rather then continue on grids that host the land at far larger costs.

Had SL chosen this model originally then it would be far better off today. People could concentrate on actually being creative rather then have to deal with "buying" or renting "land." And LL could be concentrating on the technology rather then being the biggest "land barons" and server farms of all.

People will naturally want to actually OWN their land on their computer, rather then be at the mercy of some company's fate.

People will want to know that if a company pulls their plug and vanishes, their own "land," is still sitting on their own computer system.

If you truly believe in IP rights, then you should see this other view, that no one really "owns" their land as long as it can vanish in a puff of smoke depending on some company's ability to pay their bill or manage their servers---or that they can devalue your land on a whim.

When one pays a web host, one still has their web pages on their own computer in case the web host site crashes or goes goes bankrupt. Then one can put their site up with another host.

"Land" and objects we own or create in SL should be like this and eventually it will be like that. As I said, it's inevitable and very doable and will emerge out of the ashes of the primitve style we have now.

No one is SL really "owns," their land or objects as long as they can vanish in a puff of smoke. People will find the antodote for the SL kool-aid they drank.

"Land" ownership in SL is in effect, a very expensive roleplaying that people do. "Renting," (forget the dishonest use of the word "buying" on an estate) is just a less expensive versiojn of the roleplaying. Honestly do we really have to roleplay being landlords or tenants in virtual reality---especially when even estate owners do not really own anything?

When you can boot up your own computer and all your sims and objects or creations are all there, regardless of whether you are plugged into a grid or not and you can back it up for safekeeping, only then will you really "own" it.

With that model security of your own land and proeperty is your own respnosibility to worry about and not LL's or anyone else's (not that LL does much in that regard).

When you could carry it under your arm, on an external hard drive--which as we all know will soon be gauged in terabytes---will you really own it and not until then.

Someone--maybe even Microsoft will come along and make "sims," an application that is part of your OS. A sim creator would just be an application, like a website creation app, where you can click "save as." I am not talking about having to then upload your work and just have a back up on your won system, I am talking about your own system hosting it. It's just a matter of time.

"Land" is not the same as things and services, people can make and sell. Even if it goes portable, as in seeing your land on a cell phone, or handheld device it can still be based on your own system.

Eventually web hosting will also be on one's own system. This has not happened yet, because the cost of web hosts is fairly cheap and many are free if you sign up to accept advertising and because hosting web server is more complex then most people want to bother with ---so far. "Land" cost in SL however is on the absurd to ridiculous spectrum, so once "land" on your own computer can plug into grids, then you can forget about all that money down the drain.

This may be a bitter pill for people heavily invested in SL "land," to swallow and LL wants you to wash it down with copious amounts of kool-aid, but as we can see already...these new grids are already slashing "land" prices and it's only a matter of a time before grids build up this model. It's also going to be much, much easier to be a grid company that doesn't have to worry about hosting every piece of land on their own servers and only worry about hosting common areas, which could be supported with advertising.

So yes, "land" has value, but only if I own it on my own computer hard drive and can play with it whenever you wish, without being dependent on somebody else's computer, or solvency, beyond a monthly grid service fee and fee's I pay for updates to the apps I use to run the sims on my own computer.

Many land barons or smaller land owners in SL are good people and I'd hate to see them lose large amounts of money on that day, FreeLand goes into operation. As it is now, the various Open grid projects will already reduce the value of SL land once they get going. Sooner or later people will figure it out.

Desmond Shang

I've got a crazy prediction.

Land on the grid will *still* be very expensive in many places, the day it is churned out for free, far and wide and publically.

Here's why.

For the same reason that there is effectively free real land in the middle of a desert, and Tokyo still commands high value. Location.

It's a big deal. Even more so in the metaverse than everywhere else.

We've already got free 3D land on our own computers. There are dozens of ways to set this up.

So why is everyone breathlessly waiting for a service provider to do all the standardisation for their own home servers?

Because under it all is the recognised fact that things don't really work without a service provider. We don't all have the upload bandwidth or the machines to provide a smooth 3D experience. We just don't, and won't until gigabit internet comes along. And home users have failed to standardise, and will continue to fail to standardise just like a barrel of 100 million monkeys. Period.

So yeah, prices will come down... or more likely, money will devalue and services will add on. The family car cost 3000 USD in 1967. Now a comparable one is maybe 30,000 USD.

Get used to paying serious cash. For gasoline, for food, for internet services 3D and otherwise.

When the free land finally does come, as it surely will - it will be the equivalent of a geocities web page. I don't think it will even scratch the overall virtual land market, unless you are dealing in bottom-of-the-barrel land.

Prokofy Neva


I don't drink Kool-Aid. I take a very jaundiced and weathered eye to the value of land. I believe it is fighting for; I don't believe it's worth prematurely reducing value in through various Bolshevik theories that become self-fulfilling prophecies if the wrong wild-eyed coders are in power.

I don't say this because I'm "afraid" of "my investment" going to smithereens. If it does, so be it. Such is life. I've lost many far more precious things in life, believe me. It makes me angry that the Lindens would be callous and inconsiderate of people's "investments" and try to start double-talking and back-pedalling and pitching this as "set up fees" and "rack space" instead of an investment in a world, in land. But I understand they are brutally ruthless with a businesss.

Re: "Eventually web hosting will also be on one's own system. This has not happened yet, because the cost of web hosts is fairly cheap and many are free if you sign up to accept advertising and because hosting web server is more complex then most people want to bother with ---so far"

I take your point here for the future. As it is now, people won't host their own by and large because it's too troublesome and expensive. If someday it's right on your own computer, you have to ask whether there really will be the capacity to hook up billions of people like that to one contiguous world -- there won't be, likely, and something will be lost even as something is gained.

Rebecca, OpenSim does not have an economy. You cannot buy and sell stuff there. Can you grasp that? everybody likes to be able to sell stuff. When they can't, they don't go to those socialist utopians unless they are geeks or getting paid elsewhere like IBM to play in sandboxes.

rebecca proudhon

To Desmond.

I totally agree that developed land is much nicer then raw land. That is the creativity that to me is a much bigger draw for me personally, then making money in a virtual space.

The most enjoyable thing about Second Life for me, has been terraforming the 3/4 of a Tropical Island sim I use to "own" (own=rent) for a year and a half and making my personal playground. That was just a relaxing pastime.

SL has only been a personal creative playground for me. I also enjoy looking at other people's creative spaces. I love going to great builds with amazing sights like yours.

But the land underneath your fantastic and wonderful sims is still just raw land, which has been developed by your creativity.

The ability to create raw land however should just come with the software as should all the tools to develop it however our little heart desires. I would gladly pay for plugging into a common grid and I think very many millions of people will also gladly pay for that.

I think your prediction on this may hold true for a while, but in a virtual reality, raw land is just raw land, no one piece of raw, empty land is better or less generic, then another--except (not counting server classes) It's all about how it is developed.

At the moment there are technologicaly boundaries with bandwidth of course, but that is there anyway----along with the still primitive software and tools, but all that can and will change.

Even now, avid second lifers, are essentially being forced to upgrade to much more powerful computer systems. even the internet as it is today is forcing people to upgrade to see all the content.

Already we can buy systems that come with Terabytes of hard drive space and the cable and internet companies are well aware of the fact that they have no choice but to keep upgrading internet services.

My own main computer an Alienware ALX, with all the greatest stuff barely flinches running SL,(except for all the SL problems)is light years ahead of my last bumch of systems which were all dual processor Xeon workstations.

Barring major world calamities this is not going to slow or stop.

The economic downturns in RL has and will have an effect on the various companies involved in computing and maybe this will even become more disasterous, but there is an inevitability to changes in technology that I think we all know and agree will occur.

I am not a commie or a socialist at all, but neither am I a hard core capitalist per se. If people's collective life state is dominated by greed or animality and dog eat dog, then it doesn't matter what their purported economic ideology is--it will come out the same.

In terms of parallels, and in terms of real world, Real Estate, where I live in the US., I do see that a core, domino effect, cause, of economic problems is real estate and commodity speculation along with brainwashed usuary. This attitude leaking into SL is obnoxious.

Saying this does not make me some kind of commie stooge, but scavenging for profits in incresed or decreased values of property and commodities, does not add much positive value to life or SL, creates a rich-poor divide and generally brings out the price gouging, greed and cutthroatism in people while putting much suffering on others less capable or resourceful.

Take away land scamming as a possible money maker in SL and that will discourage the scam artists and eliminate a huge issue that i predict will, if not changed end up dominating all of these virtual worlds.

At any rate, I have never spent anything beyond a few hundred a month on SL and have considered it entertainment money. Other then that I have sold some real life non-linden$ involved products in SL and although I haven't pushed it, sold quite a bit for a while, but even that was just to see how it would do.

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