Aug. 25, 2008 SDF Virtual Entropia

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On August 25, 2008 at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto, SDForum’s Virtual Worlds SIG hosted John Bates of Entropia Universe to present: Virtual Economies with Real Results: Entropia Universe. Mr. Bates is the most engaging and fascinating speaker I have seen wearing a zoot suit.

People call Economics the dismal science. They have not seen Entropia, which actually has economists on staff. I do not think Adam Smith or John Maynard Keynes ever imagined their ideas would be used to blow stuff up. Entropia has its own virtual currency and some sort of bank-like agreement in Sweden. I do not know if they are FDIC insured and Charles Gibson of Ominivergent quite rightly wondered what would happen if somebody wanted their real money back. There are always risks on the frontier.Text from DJCline.com.

Entropia created a planet and even a moon to sell virtual real estate. It is a dung based economy. People collect the dung and sell it to landowners who use it to raise monsters. Hunters pay the landowners to kill the monsters. Other people make money selling weapons to hunters. Everything in the virtual world is designed to wear out so people must buy new things. I assume this is the entropy part of Entropia. Oh, there are killer robots too. There are rejuvenation centers for when you get killed by robots or monsters. With all the guns and dung, I am surprised they haven not invented virtual pickup trucks and country music. Text from DJCline.com.

All kidding aside, since 2003, over 800,000 users paid some $400 milion dollars for digital goods and services online. They hold the world record for the most expensive digital good: a weapon. People pay real money and get in-world currency to buy and sell things that do not exist. I still cannott get over this. Of course, in a materialistic world burying itself in real garbage, the idea that an economy can function on virtual goods deserves attention. Just hit delete and your digital trash is really gone.Text from DJCline.com.

This has global implications for economies that want to grow but not strip the world of all its resources. Entropia has a deal with Beijing Municipal People’s Government as the platform of development for the Chinese Cyber Recreation Development Corporation (CRD). The project will create a cash-based virtual economy for China that encompasses business-to-business transactions and other sophisticated economic models. They own it, they control it, and it remains to be seen what kind of free expression will take place in it.Text from DJCline.com.

Which brings up the sad point that some people go to virtual worlds to do things and achieve status they cannot do in real life. Will virtual worlds keep people from building a better real one?Text from DJCline.com.

It might and that is why the economics angle is more interesting to me than shooting monsters. Could we create virtual economic worlds representing real world markets? They would have all the current regulations, property and capital but exist online. Economic activity and market forces could be predicted with more accurate models. Would it help understand commodities or real estate and reduce the real world suffering that market disruptions create? Entropia may have more value hunting for answers than monsters.Text from DJCline.com.

Here are some pictures from the event.Text from DJCline.com.

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