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Synthetic Worlds Initiative, Part I

Initiative is a hard thing to hold on to, especially when things don't go the way you want them to.

This post on 3 point D about the Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University gives a great description of the vision formed and (partially) realized by Ted Castronova.

Only, they're a bit late off the line. Since the SWI was started, and their three-point platform formalized, a couple things have happened that no one anticipated:

1. Research in virtual worlds has now become synonymous (for all the wrong reasons) with Second Life. [There's nothing wrong with SL, but it's not the only place where humans are living online. The myopic nature of academia assumes a lot.]

2. Building a synthetic world takes money. LOTS of money, and the MacArthur Foundation (and many others) really aren't up to the task of $30 million projects. And, really, neither is IU.

3. Communities drive ideas forward as consumers, but communities aren't created at conferences. Plus, there's a passionate, involved and curious community living online already - and some of them are academics, researchers, scientists, inquirers...

None of these are the fault of the SWI. The vision and the man behind it are years before their time - maybe a few too many years ahead when the plan was being conceived. Look at Buckminster Fuller.

A little future stuck in the eyes is a good thing, but it's a lot harder to communicate with the rest of the planet from there, because most of us are living in the past.

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In the past...