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May 02, 2007


Barry Kort

Beth, there are good reasons for Congress to defund Virtual Worlds.

Virtual Worlds are highly functional learning environments and therefore highly threatening to the government.

Consider, for example, the just-released virtual world simulation game called [i]Making History[/i] [ http://www.muzzylane.com/ ], based on Niall Ferguson's 1999 book, [i]Virtual Histories[/i]. You can find a nice discussion of this historical simulation game in this article on WiReD: ["Why a Famous Counterfactual Historian Loves Making History With Games" http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/commentary/games/2007/05/gamefrontiers_0521 ].

Using the game software developed from his own book, Ferguson "discovered something that fans of war-strategy and civilization-building "god" games have realized for years: [B]Games are a superb vehicle for thinking deeply about complex systems.[/B]"

The WiReD article goes on, "After you've spent months pondering the intricacies of the weapons markets in [i]Eve Online[/i], or the mysteries of troop placement in [i]Company of Heroes[/i], you develop a Mandlebrotian appreciation of [b]chaos dynamics[/b] — how a single change can take a stable situation and sent it spiraling all to hell, or vice versa."

Beth, do you have [i]any idea[/i] just how subversive that is?

If young people develop a taste for [i]functional reasoning[/i] through their exposure to virtual world simulations, it will spell the end of public belief in the efficacy of rule-based systems to achieve stable and predictable political outcomes.

Of course I happen to be an iconoclast who thinks that delusional beliefs ought to be shattered for the good of society, but that's hardly a popular point of view, or one that Congress is likely to fund.

By the way, Beth, you still haven't responded to my "impossible questions" of March 30th (Illegitimate Dysfunctionality, [i]et seq[/i]...

Namely, how can we conceptualize and craft the requisite and essential functions and introject them into our institutions by means of technology that helps to cultivate socio-cultural experience?

And how can we do this if Congress is gutting the technological tools for thought that make such a visionary goal imaginable and feasible?

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