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12/22/2007

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Patroklus Murakami

I don't think it's fair to label Neualtenburg (since renamed Neufrestadt as part of the Confederation of Democratic Simulators) as 'authoritarian'. We're Second Life's oldest democracy (three years old and counting) and have had numerous peaceful transfers of power from one faction to another by means of open, democratic elections. Our next set of elections in January will lead to the eighth term of the Representative Assembly - our legislature. We're precisely the kind of open society you favour. We survived the attempt by one of our founders (who, I'll grant you *was* a controlling, authoritarian personality) to destroy the project and we've thrived; we opened our third sim 'Alpine Meadow' a few weeks ago. Come and have a chat some time, we're not as bad as you think.

Desmond Shang

Extropia - fascinating group.

My first (and I must say, my only) exposure to them was a few months back, when I got an interesting request.

I get requests for stuff all the time. Usually people want to link up to Caledon, or get advice on how to make money, or just want this or that thing (no, the lamp posts are not for sale) - stuff like that.

The Extropia group wanted something entirely different - they wanted to use Caledon's Avatar Rights as part of their covenant or something. Wow.

Well, it would be ridiculous, almost Monty Pythonesque if I reserved all rights to our rights declaration! So I gave my blessing, and, well, I don't know where it went after that.

Perhaps they didn't bother, perhaps they modified it, but *just the idea* of shopping around for a rights declaration *from the start* tells me that this group is smarter than your average bear. Sure, they may not really put it to practise (one only knows when tested) and I freely admit the only thing providing force to the Caledon avatar rights in Caledon is me - I don't foresee many people ditching the micronation were I to get rid of it. But flawed as it is, it's *something*.

I was invited to go over to their opening but couldn't make it - Kami went over, and I heard good things.

* * * * *

I just popped over to Sophrosyne's blog to take a peek at how they were doing, and they still seem to have us in mind - see predictions blog post: http://sophrosyne-sl.livejournal.com/48681.html

I wish them all success, and should Caledon's growth be used as a sort of benchmark, I'd say that they would succeed greatly even if they had half of our growth. We had the fortunate timing of low tier, the 'great userbase boom of winter 06/07' and I was lucky to have had a fair amount of good press, as a fish in a much smaller pond back then.

They are on to something. Enthusiasm *is* infectious, community is infectious, and it can add up to great things. I only see two issues:

a) Too much Prozac-y cheerfulness may come off as insincere, or as a 'cover' for something questionable, and that is a real danger. They are a young community, and like college students in a dormitory, eventually someone will pee in the beer and think it funny. At that point, being cheerful *in the face of adversity* - clearly stinging, painful, expensive, personal adversity - will be the real test. Caledon's community has weathered this, has seen its own dark side, acknowledged it, and was able to move on.

b) This is a small thing perhaps, but the 'enter the community first' + 'full refund on exit' is a scary combination. Potentially the perfect storm of mob action and financial risk. This is absolutely no issue when small, but wait until one million square meters, and hundreds of residents. There *is* such a thing as divisive behaviour of people as a group - fuel that with 'cash on exit' as well, and... well, I do hope they survive it. And probably they will, but when 50 or 500 people decide "give us our money back, we are going to start up a parallel group that will exist in financial competition" - ah... no. When push comes to shove, that amount of $L probably won't be handed over to a hostile faction. And it shouldn't be handed over anyway. This isn't refunding a tenant for prepaid tier - grid regions simply can't refund their up front land costs and survive should a large faction decide to break away. Especially if that group goes into direct competition.

* * * * *

Patroklus, I have great respect for Neufreistadt (and congratulations on the new region!) but I have to really give you a gentle jibe over something here.

It's on the order of when Bill Clinton was on the witness stand describing what the word 'is' means. In regard to what 'is' democracy, and what simply... isn't.

Neufreistadt's similarities to everyone else faaaar outweigh the differences. "Democracy," sure, but... no force behind it other than happy agreement. Sudane controls the regions, has absolute authority in the end, and the *real* checks and balances are just the same as Caledon's: people contributing money for land. It's closer to aristocracy than anyone in Neufreistadt is comfortable to admit.

Sure, I appreciate Neufreistadt aspires to be much more, and is held back by the tools. But it's one thing to say 'we aspire to this' and wholly another to say 'we *are* this'.

Were you truly a democracy, 200 people from Caledon could come over, assimilate, vote the government right out of power and reinstate Ulrika as Queen if they felt like it, unless of course it's some kind of closed society. Obviously this is a thought experiment and we have absolutely no hostile intentions (other than a football rematch!) but... a democracy? I don't think so.

Your democracy has just as much real force behind it as my Avatar Rights do - it's only real as long as those with the true capability are willing to play along. Noble aspiration, but that's it.

This is where Ashcroft Burnham was right. As odious as giving significant control of everyone's land or person directly over to the State's elected officials would be, he had a point. Without granting true power to those elected, free of a societal guardian like Sudane who in the end owns everything, it's simply not a real democracy. No real transfer of power has ever taken place.

It's a sort of "emperor's new clothes" observation; basic, painful, obvious. One simply cannot set up a democracy on the grid without identity verification tools and transfer of true power to the elected.

I really do hope the Confederation of Democratic Simulators really gets the tools they need someday to try a true democracy. You guys deserve the chance.

Meantime, I think it's best to call a spade a spade, or it will be even harder to make the democratic progress actually needed.

Prokofy Neva

well, I can see that flattery will get them everywhere, Desmond. All they have to do is to copy your charter, and you think they are wonderful and have avatar rights -- avatar rights that you yourself say must be guaranteed by a benevolent despot (and unfortunately, that's how it has to be in a rentals system where you own the land, and they have to pay your or you lose the land to the Lidnens -- it's not a basis for democracy, truly).

I see them not only as cheerful, but ominous. Only one or two spoke up against Csven's *really bad* idea. They find it "interesting to discuss". The fact that they can even invite a designer to their sim whose ultimate plan is to serve to put sensors of human beings in clothes that will display their feelings is already queasy. That's because the involuntary nervous system involuntarily shows feelings, and people may never, even with elaborate biofeedback training, learn to keep their dresses from literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It's a novelty item that when put into a state system becomes ominous.

I totally agree with Desmond that when you have the property all in one name, and you already have a history of an authoritarian personality causing havoc, you really have to question the claim to "democracy". Democracy that creates a controlled social democracy, at best, or a kind of science dictatorship.

I would go beyond these formalities of Linden ownership, however, to point that they, like Exstropia, do not have free enterprise -- their land is not on the open market for anyone to come in and buy it and join the group and its covenant. People have to be vetted and cleared as "like-minded". That's fine, but then call it a commune, a covenanted group, an experiment in utopian living -- don't call it a democracy.

Ashcroft isn't right, Desmond, don't be ridiculous. You don't turn all land and power over to one person like that, it's a recipe for dictatorship. And you don't need to do that to have a democracy -- but having a liberal democracy in SL is probably impossible, because to put land openly on the market for sale means a sign extortionist or griefer could come and take it.

I think frankly, given these constraints, that mainland sims that people buy together by pooling their pot to one trusted person to bid on the auction, and then putting in group tier that each person pays for individually, more approximates the distribution of power/ownership needed.

I'm not for infecting the tools with some kind of collective ownership device like Smoke Wijaya wants in order to install communism mechanically, however. He wants notification going to all group members for consent, each time one person with tier in the group pulls it out. I think notification of tier withdrawals is a good thing, if the Lindens can swing it, to prevent undertiering and land seizure, but I am not for putting all the organic features of consensus into tools. More on this soon.

When you transfer power to the elected in real life, Desmond, they don't gain control of the country's property. The property remains in private hands, and if state-owned, even in despotic regimes, there are checks and balances of sort by regional party secretaries or deputy interior ministers, and eventually if the dictator is insane, other forces topple or restrain him as we can see from RL history.

In SL, if you were to turn over all your property to someone just because they were "elected" (in the very dicey situation of alts and such in SL), you would take a horrible risk.

Patroklus, I appreciate what you're trying to do, and also that you were one of the few to stand up to Csven and the owners of Terra Nova back in the day.

Prokofy Neva

I think frankly, if we're going to play "democracy on the grid" here, Prokofy Neva's Ravenglass Rentals remains the most democratic system of all, under the rule of law, even having a landowner whom Gwyn calls "a benevolent dictator".

That's because anyone can rent under any type of account, and they are not bound to a Steampunk theme. There are rules for builds, like "don't build over 2 stories" and "Don't build smack at the property line," but these are far, far more free and lenient rules than 'Build Victorian" or "Be in the Communist Party" or "Share our Extropia ideology or we won't even debate you..."

I also have tier-contributors who get a discounted rent for their tier contribution, so they become part-owners of the group. They don't have any say other than to get $250 discount from their rent, but that's fine, because they are free to come and go without consequence or loss.

I think it's the most open system in Second Life, and it's done by having information cards and the notecard-giver script, a wing, and a prayer, and that counts a lot, believe me. I think mainland is better for these experiments, and those that need to sequester themselves from all the realities of virtuality I face -- problematic neighbours, griefing, bad builds that need to be negotiated away, ad-farming -- simply are not learning a real thing about how governance works in virtual worlds. It's hard enough to get it together with a group of your like-minded ideological and aesthetic mates, it's far harder to do it with people whose lifestyles you do not share, or sense of what makes beauty. Yet I have done this, and it can be done better, I'm certain.

Giulio Prisco

There is already a long history of transhumanism and extropianism in SL. Next steps will be defined in a meeting at Extropia Core on Dec. 30.

Concerning "I call them the Brain-Uploaders because many of them actually think that they will someday upload their consciousness/brain/knowledge to the Internet or something like it, and therefore survive death.":

I am one of those who hope, and think, that such radical engineering advances may be developed in, say, the next few decades.

Think of this: we are interacting in a virtual world that most people in the Western world can access with relatively inexpensive devices and network connections. Much of our social and professional lives are migrating to VR.

Our grandfathers, or even our patents just a couple of decades ago, would have been unable to even imagine this. It is an example of exponential acceleration of technology, and the same acceleration may develop mind uploading and other types of future magic in only a few decades.

I am so interested in SL because I plan to actually live there someday.

G.

Prokofy Neva

See what I mean?

Why would any man imagine his brain is worth immortalizing?

Giulio Prisco

"Why would any man imagine his brain is worth immortalizing?"

Who said "worth"? And who defines it anyway? You? Fat chance.

When the option will available, and if I will be able to afford it, it will be my decision. Certainly not yours.

Live and let live my friend. It is really the only way.

G.

Prokofy Neva

See what I mean? The issue of who defines what is worth uploading, and who gets to upload, is of course essential. And already we see these elitist freaks saying to other people -- "who defines it anyway? You? Fat chance" -- when of course that's the question we need to ask THEM.

larryr

pogo- "ive seen the enemy and he is us..."

none

"The issue of who defines what is worth uploading, and who gets to upload, is of course essential."

It's truly frightening that you even think in these terms. That's like insisting it's essential we determine who is allowed to continue living in 2008. To anyone who isn't frighteningly totalitarian in their worldview, the question would never even occur to them. The answer, of course, is everyone. NO ONE should EVER get to define who does or doesn't get this.

Prokofy Neva

First, I'm not the one who is advocating brain uploading. I don't advocate it as an option for humankind. It's not a goal I would work toward. As I noted once in describing a long-ago conversation with Will Wright's avatar in the Sims on Line, I don't have some sort of fear of being "uploaded" and wouldn't mind it if somehow were pressed upon us as a means of survival. I also think someone who has changed their gender is that much closer to be able to do this sort of transition in a less rocky way.

But that's just speculation, and I don't conceive that living in the Metaverse is some sort of option that should be made eternal. I don't think humans are meant to be eternal, and their attempts to make themselves eternal are ghoulish and usually criminal.

Secondly, it's likely that this very complex technology will be very costly, something like a liver transplant. And that means the cost and the decisions about who is worthy will have to be made. I don't doubt that the particular bumch of brain-uploaders in SL fancy themselves as being more advanced than others and more worthy, and imagine this right should be theirs, and that's why one of *them* said *I* wouldn't be the one to get to decide -- which means, basically, that they perceive of this role as not a public good, not democratic or liberal, but something they command.

If the brain-loaders are building into their Great Transposition the idea that "no one should get to define who does or doesn't" they are a) lying or kidding themselves b) assuming somewhere that there *is* a group that will be "worthy" of doing this "right" -- in which they will be included. So one can only hope they aren't going to be like CIGNA, but at the end of the day, CIGNA is also about not burdening the whole for the sake of the one person, and it's a dilemma people don't have good answers for.

Aliasi Stonebender

Hm, well, prok, re: the CDS - it's not really any different than any other real-world government at the heart. It works because enough people want it to work. You can coerce someone in reality with force, but you can't do this in SL - you only have the 'my sandbox, my rules... but there's nothing MAKING you use my sandbox' factor.

Sudane could be a petty tyrant in theory. In fact, doing so would be the quickest way to kill the CDS and leave her footing the bill.

Prokofy Neva

Aliasi, you're *in* this little hothouse community and that's why you're protective of it. From the outside, it looks different. Of cuorse it's different, in that it isn't really a government, it's more like a commune.

My God, these Extropian people are totally afraid of their own shadows. I have to laugh out loud at the idea that they sat around sucking their thumbs and having debates about whether to pre-emptively ban me.

Now one of them asks, shocked, why they are being called brain-uploaders.

http://core.extropiacore.net/?q=node/45

I suppose this is like any cult, where there are various levels and hangers-on and some of the people don't get what the cult's real agenda is.

That Extroprians are all about brain-uploading shouldn't have to take more than a Google or three. It's not about making avatars, but about literally putting the synapse-soup up online.

http://www.alamut.com/subj/ideologies/pessimism/califIdeo_I.html

Perhaps there are Reformed Extropians that don't actually upload their brains, but merely take them out and only sort of let them soak in cups on the nightstand and never take it farther.

Desmond Shang

Actually, brain uploading would be rather behind the times, and predictable...

Consider all the other organs that have been uploaded!

- skin

- hair

- eyes

- tails

- Tateru has that signature heart!

...and don't even get me started on various *other* body parts a la Stroker's business in SL!

If any parts should be left out of the metaverse forever I'd say: the lower back, and maybe the shins.

Both are far too much trouble, and more pain than they are worth in first life...

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