I must confess to knowing virtually nothing about Second Life, the online “virtual world.” I once toyed with the idea of joining a Star Wars virtual world — Star Wars Galaxies — but was put-off by the monthly subscription and the realisation that it would consume my life. So I blog instead.
I see regular news stories about Second Life, like this one where John Edwards’ SL campaign HQ was vandalised. At the risk of sounding like someone who talks about the “interwebs,” I wonder whether the perps will be arrested by SL police?
The whole thing is apparently nothing to sniff at. The SL homepage states that there are over 4 million residents. Over $1.5 million real money has been spent today alone. (You use real money to buy Linden Dollars with which you buy things in SL.)
According to this thread there’s a small Mormon presence in SL, with groups such as “SL Mormons” and “Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ.” So, that’s my first question: anyone out there a resident of SL?
But something more interesting, perhaps, is this: Let’s say in ten years or so, people occupy virtual worlds in vast numbers the way we surf the web today. The technology could potentially make these worlds very real. Is it possible to prophesy as to how the Mormon community would interact with such a world? Would there be a Second Life “BCC House,” or a Second Life First Ward? Would the church have a Second Life HQ? Will we have SL missionaries? (Don’t scoff. Notice how late the church came to the internet; I imagine the initial thought back in the early-90s was ‘this is no big thing’.)
At the very least, expect the dangers of “virtual porn” to cause much future consternation. (What if you “date” another SL avatar. Is this adultery if you’re married in the real world? I say yes, kind of.)
And now for the truly science fiction: would a virtual reality world allow people to experiment with things that don’t work in the real world? The answer is yes. Where else can a spotty teenager walk around looking like Brad Pitt and have sex with hot young women who are, in fact, lonely middle-aged housewives sitting at their computers in Wisconsin? (And in the future, you wouldn’t be sitting at a computer but be plugged-in to some VR device. “Sex” could conceivably be pretty real.)
Could Mormons, say, build a Second Life Zion, pool their resources, and live the law of consecration? If you had five virtual wives, would the church excommunicate you? Would the Second Life church excommunicate you?
Anyway, my SL avatar is going to be “Lord Ronan of Worcestershire.” In return for spiritual guidance you can donate 10% of your Linden dollars to my new church. Defy me and I will hack into your avatar and give you TK Smoothies. I’m told there’s not much point to SL if you’re a eunuch.