Last night, at the offices of the Electric Sheep Company (a company devoted to creating "virtual Real Estate" in multi-participant online simulation worlds such as Second LIfe), I saw Sibley Verbeck give a lovely presentation on the state of the art in these proto-Metaverse technologies.
These days, more than 10K people are online in Second Life at any given moment, it seems. A million subscribers, half of them active. People are talking about the potential for using Second Life for business presentations, as a kind of super-pumped-up 3D avatar-infused WebEx. And of course the possibility for other cool apps not yet dreamed of.
Stirring stuff ... definitely, technology worth paying attention to.
And yet, Sibley's excellent presentation left me wondering the following: Do we really want to perpetuate all the most stupid and irritating features of human society in the metaverse ... such as obsession with fashion and hairstyles!!??
"Virtual MTV Laguna Beach", a non-Second-Life project that Electric Sheep Factory did, is technically impressive yet morally and aesthetically YUCK, from a Ben Goertzel perspective. Virtual So-Cal high school as a post-Singularity metaverse is a kind of transhumanist nightmare.
I remain unclear regarding whether there will really be any **interesting** "killer apps" for metaverse technology (and I don't find gaming or online dating all that interesting ;) before really powerful multisensory VR interfaces come about.
And even then, simulating humanity in virtuo fascinates me far less than going beyond the human body and its restrictions altogether.
But, I do note that we are currently using a 3D sim world to teach our Novamente baby AI system. Once it becomes smarter, perhaps we will release our AI in Second Life and let it learn from the humans there ... about important stuff like how to wear its hair right (grin!)
And I must admit to being excited about the potential of this sort of tech for scientific visualization. Flying your avatar through the folds of a virtual human brain, or a virtual cell full of virtual DNA, would be mighty educational. Not **fundamental** in the sense of strong AI or molecular assemblers or fully immersive VR, but a lot niftier than Virtual Laguna Beach....