It must have been late last year that Sean pointed me towards an Economist review of Edward Castronova’s Synthetic Worlds; and yes, I bought it, read it, and it probably influenced my joining Second Life soon after. Not that I’ve done enough in Second Life, I guess First Life time prioritisation is hard enough as it is. But I will, one day; because I think there are things we can use virtual worlds for, things that we may not quite have figured out yet. At present I’m trying to work out whether there is value in using Second Life as part of enterprise induction and talent development. More of that later.
In the meantime, I see that Castronova has moved on. He’s now looking at building a business, using virtual worlds as Petri dishes to experiment with social sciences. Two worlds, virtually populated, identical in all respects. Except one. Any one. But it should be a social science variable. Like macroeconomic factors. Roll the clock forward, see what happens.
In the normal course of events I would have thought that genetic algorithms already allow me to do that. But maybe not, maybe there’s value in having real humans living virtual lives in the experiment. Maybe there’s a blink effect there that gets us to better and faster answers. Still trying to work it out, something about Castronova’s ideas intrigues me. Anyway, it’s nice to see ideas like his floating around the blogosphere, without a patent or a paywall in sight.
Can’t help thinking there are some governments, prime ministers and presidents who could do with spending some time looking at what Castronova’s planning. Or maybe England football and cricket managers.