drug wars, failing economies, record Corporate profits
political lies justified by pacification
and the continued reliance on fossil/nuclear energy
destroying our home, Mother Earth
In the economic context of several plants (a renewable resource) being worth well more than their weight in gold (due to police suppression)
and 90% of the world living so close with the Earth that the only contact they have with the "First World" is handouts and military suppression...
look at the worlds that are being made now... even further from the land and air and water and fire that made us all.
As i write this i listen to a radio. A light is on next to me. My digital mouse is being powered through my plasma widescreen laptop. A t.v. is muted in the background. A window A.C. unit is keeping the room cool during the hottest part of this day. A cellphone rests charging at my side.
this is how i relax (or pretend to)... enveloping myself in electricity... http://www.magelo.com/eq_view_profile.html?num=742086
this has been my digital persona for more than 5 years.
As Castronova stared at the auction listings, he recognised with a shock what he was looking at. It was a form of currency trading. Each item had a value in virtual "platinum pieces"; when it was sold on eBay, someone was paying cold hard American cash for it. That meant the platinum piece was worth something in real currency. EverQuest's economy actually had real-world value.
He began calculating frantically. He gathered data on 616 auctions, observing how much each item sold for in US dollars. When he averaged the results, he was stunned to discover that the EverQuest platinum piece was worth about US1¢ - higher than the Japanese yen or the Italian lira. With that information, he could figure out how fast the EverQuest economy was growing. Since players were killing monsters or skinning bunnies every day, they were, in effect, creating wealth. Crunching more numbers, Castronova found that the average player was generating 319 platinum pieces each hour he or she was in the game - the equivalent of US$3.42/hour. "That's higher than the minimum wage in most countries," he marvelled.
Then he performed one final analysis: The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be US$2,266 per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia. It was the 77th richest country in the world. And it didn't even exist.
Castronova sat back in his chair in his cramped home office, and the weird enormity of his findings dawned on him. Many economists define their careers by studying a country. He had discovered one.
...To figure out precisely who was playing EverQuest, Castronova persuaded 3,500 users to fill out a survey. As one might expect, the average age turned out to be 24, and the players were overwhelmingly male. The amount of time spent "in game" was staggering: over 20 hours a week, with the most devoted players logging 6 hours daily. 20% of players agreed with the cheeky (if alarming) statement "I live in Norrath but I travel outside of it regularly"; on average, each of these "residents" possessed virtual goods worth about US$3,000. "When you consider that the average real-life income in America is only, like, $37,000," Castronova tells me, "you realise these people have a non-trivial amount of wealth locked up inside the games."
When he finished his research, Castronova assembled it in a paper called "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier." He submitted it to an academic website, the Social Science Research Network, that distributes working papers free for anyone to read. The site has 43,982 papers, by more than 37,000 authors. He didn't expect too much. "I thought maybe 75 people would read it," he recalls, "and that'd be great." He was wrong. The paper sent a shock wave through the on-line world. EverQuest players pounced on it and wrote up excited descriptions on game-discussion boards. That led to a flurry of posts on popular blog sites. Soon, academics and pundits in Washington were rushing to read it. Barely a few months later, Castronova's paper became the most downloaded paper in the entire database - beating out works by dozens of Nobel laureates. Today, it's still in the top three.
Why the rush of interest? What can a game filled with elves and warrior dwarves tell us about the real world?
Quite a lot, if you believe the economist Edward Chamberlin. In 1948, Chamberlin admitted that all economists face a critical problem: they have no clean "laboratory" in which to study behaviour. "The social scientist ... cannot observe the actual operation of a real model under controlled circumstances," he wrote. "Economics is limited by the fact that resort cannot be had to the laboratory techniques of the natural sciences." Instead, classical economics tries to predict economic behaviour by theorizing about a completely fair marketplace in which people are rational actors and all things are equal.
The problem with this - as plenty of left-wing critics have pointed out - is that all things aren't equal. Some people are born into rich families, and blessed with great opportunities. Others are born into dirt-poor neighbourhoods where even the most brilliant mind coupled with hard work may not forge success. As a result, economists have warred for centuries over two diverging visions. Adam Smith argued that people inherently prefer a free market and the ability to rise above others; Karl Marx countered that capital was inherently unfair and those with power would abuse it. But no pristine world exists in which to test these theories - there is no country with a truly level playing field.
Except, possibly, for EverQuest, the world's first truly egalitarian polity. Everyone begins the same way: with nothing. You enter with pathetic skills, no money, and only the clothes on your back. Wealth comes from working hard, honing your skills, and clever trading. It is a genuine meritocracy, which is precisely why players love the game, Castronova argues. "It undoes all the inequities in society. They're wiped away. Thomas More would have dreamt about that possibility, that kind of utopia," he says.
Virtual worlds have produced some surreal rags-to-riches stories. When the on-line world Second Life launched, the players were impressed to see a female avatar industriously building a sprawling monster home. An in-game neighbour stopped by to say hello only to discover she was a homeless person in British Columbia, logging on using her single remaining possession, a laptop. Penniless in the real world, she belonged to a social elite in the fake one.