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.

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