Wired UK has a new long and excellent profile of Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity, and Project Sansar by Rowland Manthorpe, deeply delving into the evolution of virtual worlds and what drives them. NWN readers in particular will enjoy finding out about the "frenemy" competition between Philip and Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, their deeply differing view of their competing products, and for that matter, the salty sailor tongue of Commodore Altberg.("'You install a server,' Alterg says incredulously [of High Fidelity]. 'Who the fuck installs servers?'") I spoke at length with Rowland for the article, and having written it, he tells me, he now has a lot to think about:
"For me this was really a piece about dreams," Rowland tells me. "First, because dreams define companies. When I was reporting the piece I was struck again and again by the contrast between Philip Rosedale and Ebbe Altberg. Philip is motivated by a dream, a vision; Ebbe wants to give users what they want. Neither approach is right, but it really shapes what they're producing. It also shapes the risks: Philip may be trying to do much, Ebbe may end up being a bit boring and commercial. We'll see which approach proves correct (if at all).
"Second, and more importantly, this piece was about dreams because virtual reality is the place where dreams come true. That's how Philip Rosedale thinks of it: it's the place where we can do whatever we want, be whoever we want, call structure into being with a wave of the hand. It's not too much of a stretch to say that it's the place where we become gods."
I talked with Rowland back in June, and since that time, the VR world was shaken by Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey being exposed as a supporter of a pro-Trump group associated with Reddit's noxious alt-right fan club for Trump. Unsurprisingly, that seriously impacted Rowland's thoughts about the final story:
"I admire Philip's vision enormously," as Rowland puts it. "But my view of this changed after it emerged that Palmer Luckey is a shitpost-funding racist. I happened to speak to him three days before that emerged. It did make me think about wanting to be a god, i.e. perfect vs wanting to embrace this world with all its imperfections. This is still a thought in development – but I do wonder whether, if VR does get as big as many people expect, this is a conflict we'll see more of down the line."
As you might expect, on this I tend to think Rowland's right.
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