Thursday, May 15, 2008

Governance In Second Life

First half of a screen of this largish post, to do with increasing sizes of groups increases the complexity.

When alone, you need to agree with no one else how you will occupy your time and resources.

Add one other to form a group, you need one agreement, reciprocated.

Add another, and the number of necessary agreements becomes three.

Add another, then six.

Another, ten.

Another, fourteen.

At this point, barring Star Wars premieres, it's becoming almost impossible to pick a movie as a group. Adding more members only increases the number of agreements needed to achieve unanimity.

In the past, this necessitated a hierarchy or authority to get anything done as a group, done.

A pet hobby, and one of my chief fascinations, is watching various groups form or dissolve in Second Life, and on the Web as a whole. [Pimp Book Again] <---All sorts of observations on forming and dissolving of groups. Perhaps it's due to my studies in economics and organisational behaviour, but in the case of Second Life it may have more to do with my finding humour in websites like this.

Canned laughter aside, I do respect the intelligences of the people making attempts at legal systems and governance attempts in world.

For the purpose of this post I'll label anti-social behaviour 'deviance' and such individuals 'deviants'.

Type A Deviant: The griefer (Troll)

The type who enjoys being disruptive.

Type B Deviant: The fraudster

Makes promises and doesn't deliver, or exploits systems to take possessions through questionable means. Caveat Emptor

The Type A Deviant is a momentary problem in most cases, handled by area/estate bans, freezing them until they're forced to log out and try someplace else. Some cases involve co-ordinated denial of service attacks directed at individuals, groups, or Second Life as a whole. These rely on an avatar's disposability.

The Type B Deviant is a bit more difficult to root out, Second Life supports Caveat Emptor. Lose your land parcel to a land bot? Too bad. Take on a partner and lose your shirt? Too bad. Hire someone to do some work that never gets done? Too bad. These rely on both an avatar's disposability and portability. This is the type the in world governance groups would like to take on.

They're doomed.

In the physical world we have economic constraints on supply. We can afford a certain neighbourhood in which to live, certain amounts of clothing, housing, travel. The supply, be you Bill Gates or a noodle eating college student, is finite.

You are not disposable. You are only so portable. There is no Join Here link in the physical world; logging out is forever.

In Second Life, the laws of economics are turned on their heads. There are no precious metals, the supply of land grows and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It is the number of servers that dictates total resources available, and that's increasing all the time.

Human beings, being social animals, gather into groups. The ease of forming these groups is laughable given the tools in Second Life. Forming a group large enough to actually matter is another thing.

About the only 'punishment' you can mete out on an avatar is shunning them, forcibly removing them from your grouping.

Suppose 10% of the grid joins a mutual legal entity pact. That leaves a great deal of stomping ground for would be con artists and the innocent mishandled by the 'government' that disposed of them.

Now suppose 90% of the grid joined such a pact. (HA HA. FAT CHANCE.) That only leaves, oh, 1700 simulators, and growing, and likely filled with some of the most awesome anti-establishment wild artists you'll ever meet, if they don't just go build their own grid. There are always the Mac/Linux nerds with open arms. There will always be room on the grid. The good stuff always floats to the top, past the median.

Looking back at the trouble of complexity increasing faster than size, add that to the portability and disposability of an avatar, picture a democracy of 100 members. There's a crucial vote that requires 2/3 vote for some structural change to a process. It passes, 72 to 25, one absent, two abstentions.

And all 25 take a walk and buy their own simulators, soon joined by one of the abstentions and the absentee. The net result is two groups, easily portable, both refined in homogeneity, tighter in communication, and less complex by more than the size they shrank.

A democracy works for the physical world. An individual has a stake in their nation, and difficulty in picking up and leaving for another nation.

In world, an individual may be more than one avatar, may dispose of an avatar, may start another avatar. With ease.

For these reasons, given the tools in Second Life we have right now, a government cannot stand. No one's less than a teleport away from somewhere else.

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