Here's more or less what he said. Again, apologies, RSS people, I know you get the whole shebang in one chunk. Sorry.
Only my notes, not verbatim, but you get the gist:
I’m the founder and CEO of Linden Lab, and we’re the company that created Second Life. What I have the fun of doing right now is trying to explain something very new, interesting and complex to you and that’s what Second Life is, and more broadly what all this stuff means. Regardless of what Second Life becomes in the future, we can look at what the technology changes we’re seeing used are going to mean.
I’m going to try to do that in a number of different ways. One non-technological way is to ask you an interesting thoughtquestion about this whole virtual world, living-another-life idea. Ask yourself this: if I came to you and I told you I had a product to sell you, and this product was this magical non-technological thing where every day you could go into a quiet room in your house and you could close your eyes and open them again, finding yourself in the body of another person. A person who lives somewhere else, a totally different person. You can walk around in that person’s life and do whatever you like. Make money, get married, start a business. How much would you pay for that? Is that compelling? Even if I told you that you couldn’t choose who you were going to be? You’d still want to do it. That’s interesting, our desires to be and become someone else. I find that fascinating.
So another way of looking at how technology is changing us is this question of who we really are. We talked earlier about identity, how we have multiple identities. But who are you? Think about who you are, your body came before your brain. As a thinking person, you can imagine a lot of things that are you, ways you’d like to be, in a far richer way than you in your physical body are able to express. In Second Life, using technology, you can present yourself any way that you want. This has fascinating appeal too. Fashion. Statements about identity. These are likely to be made in the digital environment in the future because it is so much more facile there.
Second Life is something like an online game, you may think. Well, it is... there are fun things to do, there are gamelike properties, but there’s something fundamentally different too. We were able to use technology to create an environment, to walk around in and explore but this is an environment – the critical property is that you make everything. You can change everything. You can reach out and take that podium and move it or stretch it. I can paint you onto it.
That was several years of work that we did to enable that. It’s an engine for creative projection. Better than the real world, it’s completely malleable.
A lot of analogies here connect Second Life as a technology platform to the internet. In a lot of ways, Second Life works a lot like the internet of 1995. The internet was a place where everyone was free to make their own stuff. It was also collectively a place where you could make money. Second Life has its own economy, and you can take linden dollars and switch them back into your local currency whenever you want.
Today in Second Life people are spending close to 7m dollars in mostly digital goods and services PER MONTH.
This huge market of digital goods and services is pulling itself into. ..[…] … this huge economy. People are creating things and selling them to others – this is lots like the internet. Also, the internet had a unique property of being hyperlinked. The browser lets you see all the links. The equivalent here is that the space is contiguous. Second Life is made up of a very large number of servers connected together so you see the space as one uniform space, just like we see the real world. You have one interesting thing next to another interesting thing – all these different places scattered around, like in the real world.
There’s a famous Philip Anderson quote from physics – “more is different”. Some things like this have to reach critical mass before we understand and believe in them. They emerge properties you can’t see until you hit scale. In 2003 we had nothing but dirt and trees. In 2006 we have:
- 19,000 landowners
- 80 sq miles, about as big as Amsterdam
- 20 million objects
- 20 terabytes of user created content
- 13 teraflops of simulation
In Second Life when you walk up to a doorbell that doorbell is waiting for you to push it. That code is waiting; we have 3500 server machines running this code. Another thing... people... I think because of the success of online gaming, people have looked at what’s happening, and they say, this is a kid’s thing, a new generation leading us. Actually, that’s not true. The people making use of Second Life and its economy are basically more or less like you in this audience. The median age is over 30, about half is international and half is
USA. Recently the international figure has been accelerating rapidly.
The type of person using Second Life is almost gender balanced, early adopters but not necessarily a programmer or technologists. 44% is female usage... 36% of signups are women, but when you look at usage hours, women use Second Life so much more than men do, to the degree that 44% of the usage hours are by women.
Another big business in Second Life is real estate. We put more and more servers on every day, and ultimately it’ll be hundreds of thousands of servers. Buying and selling of real estate is big business; music too is this mysterious thing. The internet community begins with the beating of drums; music makes its way into these new phenomena.
This picture is a clubhouse for a Warner Music project artist; this was contracted, someone made money building this
new york loft for Warners. The thing that is so interesting here: see the people bouncing on the couch there - it’s inherently something you experience live with other people. You’re actually sitting there, with other people, listening to the music; you turn to the person next to you and say, what do you think?
It’s intensely personal, and pervasive in describing what Second Life is. Live performance really started to take off recently in Second Life, and it represents an economy of possibility that’s really fascinating. If you want to connect with an audience, you have to go to a folk street venue and you’re going to have to take your equipment there, you’ll set up, and maybe a 200 people will turn up and buy your CDs and tell their friends. Compare with Second Life – you can set up at a club, you can do the whole broadcast from your home studio with your bandmates as avatars. You can put on a show. The 200 people who turn up will be from all over the world. That’s better than the real world. Live performance is totally taking off: this picture is a group that puts on U2 concerts in Second Life. It’s not actually U2, but they’re good. You’ll laugh.
Another thing you can do with Second Life is filmmaking. I think we have a presentation on this later today. It is possible to build a set in Second Life then shoot a film. Even if you’re not going to... if it’s not going to get a 100th of the quality of a Pixar film, think about the economies of production. You can go underwater, use a boom shot, things you can’t do as an aspiring director in real life.
New mediums are ALWAYS characterized as games or entertainment in their early days, TV made it [in the USA] because this one crazy guy started up this idea of pro wrestling, and people bought TV sets [to watch it] and the rest is history. New technologies are always used for play, novelty, dating, entertainment, that’s what they’re used for first. We don’t trust them until we’ve used them as tools, and then we use them for business.
Second Life is very rapidly turning into a lot of other applications; the fashion world in there is totally dominated by thousands of people making stuff exclusively in Second Life, but now folks like American Apparel are moving in. Education? The Berkman Centre of Harvard has been built in there now, and classes are taught live in Second Life. You can do college work in Second Life: sociology, anthropology, urban design…
When you need to put a bunch of people in a space to do things, there are some things where the digital environment is really powerful. Training. Here’s an example of getting drugs and supplies off an airplane and distributing them after a crisis: you can simulate this in Second Life. There are purpose built technologies for this, but in Second Life there’s almost no cost for doing this. You can build whatever you like and play around with it.
Second Life has a strong community because everyone has this shared sense of designing the future. It’s a country, growing and being shaped by the citizens. If you’re a politician wanting to get your voice heard... or a charity or something like that, the resonance you get with people is stronger there because it’s a place where people believe they can make a big difference.
How many people have used Second Life a little? Did you find it hard?
(Some hands go up, including mine)
It’s awkward. People say, “it’s going to be a cult thing”. You have to be super smart to use it. But the initial learning curve may be steep, and our goal is to make it easier, but what I would throw out is this: imagine now you’re 80 and you live in
India, and you’ve never used the internet. You’ve got one of those 100 dollar laptops. What’s easier – learning Second Life or learning the web? The web is a complex, multilayered set of semantic ideas. You need to implicitly know 20 things to get to LinkedIn. But Second Life – it’s a physical world. You just know what to do.
As the internet through Second Life comes increasingly this, the real world, it can reach out to more people than ever before.
How long do people stay?
The majority of people doesn’t get through the first 4 hour learning curve; but once they’re through, they basically never leave. The way we make money by the way is through property tax. There has never been a piece of land that’s gone up for sale and has stayed for sale for longer than an hour.
Can you imagine there will be different virtual worlds competing like, banks?
That’s a great question. How many social networks will there be? I think long-term there will only be a very small number of these types because the network effect associated with the content is so powerful. Like eBay. There’ll only be one big winner, with a few followers. There won’t be 100 secondlifes.
If you have started something that will still be here in 40 years, you’ll have people who have been in there all their lives, how will it change the world?
The investors behind us, people like Mitch Kapor and Jeff Bezos, are passionate about Second Life and its ability to change people. Through this enormous amount of communication and the ease in which you can change your surroundings, it makes you demand that of your real life. The plasticity of Second Life is like training wheels to make us want to do it in the real world. We hear a lot of anecdotes about people improving their real lives after having done it first in Second Life.