Things on their way out:


In thinking about how technology, the Internet, and programs such as Second Life are pulling our society into new, uncharted territory, I can't help but wonder what we're leaving behind. After all, the implementation and success of one thing usually implies the dwindling of another. Television has largely replaced radios, e-mail has replaced snail mail, and so on. Programs like Second Life make incredible things possible, such as having a face-to-face conference or meeting up with some friends at a club without ever leaving your house. One of the things I fear this sort of interaction will replace is physical human contact and physical relationships.

As long distance communication becomes more and more lifelike, people may begin to see virtual reality as a substitute for physical reality. I will not argue that relationships started and/or maintained via virtual reality and online chatting are not true and meaningful, but is there not something irreplaceable about human embrace? Is a relationship that only exists with the aid of machines really complete? Of course I do not know what the future holds, but I think people may eventually cease to remember what it's like to hug someone. If we have little exposure to physical human contact, we will probably not know how to behave when we do encounter another person in real life. Our overpopulation problem might just solve itself if we're too awkward to procreate.
external image gamesphere.jpg
external image gamesphere.jpg

These questions about the future may seem largely pessimistic, but I don't want to give the impression that I am concerned for the world's humanity or integrity. From a universal perspective, I have no moral objections to others living largely electronic lives. The fears that I'm talking about are personal fears -- not for the near future, but way down the road. As technologically savvy as I consider myself (and I might be giving myself too much credit) it's very likely that we will eventually create new technology I will be uncomfortable using for whatever reason. I'll be like one of those old CD-ROMs that wants to run in DOS. Or like Cartman, who just wants to play Nintendo Wii in a time when no one plays video games anymore.

Another thing I wonder about is how communication will change if the majority of it is done via computers of sorts. Most of us communicate online somewhat differently than we do in person, especially in casual situations. Because we typically do not hear or see the person with whom you are chatting (web cams aside), we have fewer reservations about what we say. Things that are potentially awkward or socially unacceptable in person are suddenly fair game in an online conversation. If we begin to live much of our lives in Second Life and other such programs, communication norms may begin to change entirely, for better or worse.

Marriage is yet another institution I see changing sometime in the future. In the US, the divorce rate has risen to about 50%, and an increasing amount of couples (usually older) live together but decide never to marry; 36% of children in the US are born into single parent households (137). I'm thinking there's a trend here. Marriage isn't considered quite as sacred as it used to be. I think it's only a matter of time before people decide the whole practice of "getting married" needs a makeover, and technology may be a catalyst in the reaction. As more serious romantic relationships are created online, couples that have met each other in virtual worlds are going to begin demanding rights to marry legally without ever meeting each other IRL (I'm assuming that this is currently impossible, though I can't say for sure). If people can marry each other legally with the click of a mouse, real-life weddings and other aspects of marriage may disappear. This is all speculation of course, but it may not be long before that joke relationship status you have on Facebook gets you in trouble with the Mrs.


After reviewing the play...


The majority of feedback I've gotten on this Wiki relates directly to this page, and most of it concerns my pessimistic views on innovations such as Second Life. I created this page perhaps a little prematurely -- after I had only used Second Life for a very short period of time. I have since become more comfortable with SL, and my initially negative opinions have ebbed. I recently attended the informal Second Life session on Richmond Island, where we discussed how SL could be used as a constructive tool for things such as teaching and education (I'm sure Professor Ignatius has some screenshots). I now think that SL is still somewhat of a crude application, but it definitely has the potential for some creative breakthroughs.

As far as personal relationships go, I still believe that the Internet and applications like SL are changing how relationships are formed and maintained. I want to add a quote from Snow Crash here: "But [Juanita] has decided that the whole thing is bogus. That no matter how good it is, the Metaverse is distorting the way people talk to each other, and she wants no such distortion in her relationships" (Stephenson, 64). I know it's a fictional example, but if one of the pioneers of the Metaverse decides to keep her relationships out of it, she probably has a good reason. Just something to chew on.


Cited Works
Cannon, J.P., McCarthy, E.J., and William D. Perreault, Jr., Basic Marketing: a marketing strategy planning approach. New York: McGraw Hill/Irwin, 2008.
Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.


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Magic Kingdom -- a short story
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