Monday, December 11, 2006

Science Fiction prophecies brought to life -Larry Niven's Flash Crowds

In my wanderings of Second Life, I've noted that a social phenomena known as "flash crowds" has actually come to be.
What are flash crowds you say?
Science fiction author Larry Niven wrote a series of novels and short stories set in our future where teleportation technology becomes as commonplace as picking up the phone and calling someone. A person would step into a teleport booth and dial Tokyo and step out of the booth in Tokyo. When a major news event took place at some locale on the globe, the new nets would of course cover it worldwide. People being the curious creatures they are would dial up said locale, and suddenly in the span of 20-30 minutes, you would have a crowd of 200,000 people in the streets literally out of thin air. That's a flash crowd.
In Second Life teleportation is the main form of transport and the same trends apparently apply. Residents scanning the map happen upon a simulator(sim) with an event posted and head over. As the crowd grows more residents message each other about the event (which often passes for a news net in Second Life) and the crowd swells rapidly. I've noted that the crowd on the map serves as an attractor in of itself once large enough. Residents see the crowd and go " Hmm, what's going on there?" and join the throng themselves. Thus in the span of a few minutes, a sim goes from 0 avatars to 100+ in some cases. While not nearly as overwhelming as the mobs in Mr. Niven's works, the principle appears to be most valid and insightful.
Thus life imitates art and science fiction becomes science reality , or in this case virtual reality.
Larry Niven's insights to future human behaviors reveal themselves as dead on target on this matter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Recent news and progress

Well its been about 4 weeks now since my brush with death and a few things have happed. The doctors have told me they expect me to regain the majority of my nerve functions in my left arm but I have acquired carpal tunnel syndrome. Some sensation has been returning in my ring finger and a small portion of my biceps has begun to work again. I'm still getting a fair bit of pain in my arm but I'm finding certain tasks such as building in Second Life to be getting less painful. I still face 6 weeks of no driving restriction and at least 4-5 more weeks of my jaw being wired shut. Oh well, life goes on. The real kicker is they still have not found the identity of the folks who put me in this fix :(
But an ICE agent has been assigned to this task and I wish him/her all the best in finding these cold hearted individuals.

On a lighter note I've begun the second floor of the Psyforia Project in Kelham sim of Second Life. This floor is definitely just a prototype and will be reworked a few times until I get a better feel for the concepts and the space.
First floor is essentially area based technological trippyness done in a walk around exhibit style.The driving concept being to encourage visitors to walk the perimeter and enjoy the various ares as they happen upon them. Some are purely visual, some are participatory with rides for a slightly more visceral experience.
The second floor is meant to be far more immersive and will consist of enclosed paths filled with moving moire patterns and other textures I've cooked up to confuse and tickle your optic nerves. This will be an extension of work started with a giant Ourobouros worm/creature I had concocted that you step into its jaws and take a walking tour of its innards.
Second Life's build system allows for art to be a immersive experience unlike any media I've had access to in the real world. But I'll leave in depth discussion of that frontier for another post ;)