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Tuesday, December 06, 2011


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virtual worlds are for selling ideas and playing shit.. not for living in.. proof by the attitudes of even those you keep calling gurus.


et tu, Cory?

Hamlet Au

Not necessarily, could just be he's been too busy at Facebook and at his last start-up to think about it.

Pussycat Catnap

Geeks: "Hey, so about that metaverse thing..."

Neil: "OMG I'm not a geek, stop associating me with a lamer geek idea just because I made some $$$ writing a sciFi book for those losers. I was just writing acid-trip stuff to get laid. See, now I haz cool-guy goatee."

Geeks: "Hey, so about that metaverse thing..."

Cory: "OMG I'm not a geek, stop associating me with a lamer geek idea just because I helped make some loser video game. I didn't even understand the code the geeks we hired wrote. See, now I haz lootz on Facebook."


George Takei: Dudes... chill, the geeks will be paying your retirement fund for decades if you just accept it. And you get to dress up in tights and be sexy.

Arcadia Codesmith

I can't blame Neal or Cory. When you're an artist, what you're working on now is usually more interesting to you than what you did back then. Works in progress are still your babies; finished works are grown children with their own lives to live.

Speaking of which, I recently finished Reamde. Very nice grasp of the issues of the modern MMORPG in between the meatspace shoot-em-ups, though I think the title is unfortunate.

Hamlet Au

"OMG I'm not a geek"

I really doubt that's the dynamic, Pussycat, it's not like Neal and Cory quit the metaverse to become model-banging rock stars. Stephenson still writes sci-fi books, the latest one about MMOs as Arcadia notes, and Cory still develops online games (albeit for a much bigger platform.)

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

My students just finished Snow Crash for the their final text of the semester. They loved the humor and the global-society mashup. Stephenson got that right...1991 was another planet. More kids now than then have Hiro Protagonist's biracial background, and the kid in the next seat might come from rural China or Estonia.

That said, everyone in class, itching to get out their smart phones as soon as class ended, agreed that the Internet evolved into nothing at all like Stephenson's Metaverse. SL and its ilk remain curiosities to them.

And you don't see couriers around either...not on bikes or skateboards. But the book still rocks.

Now we just gotta keep Rick Perry from getting that Nam-Shub of Enki; faded Presidential hopefuls will stop at nothing to bring back 1950s America, even if it means speaking in tongues...

Hamlet Au

Good points, Iggy. As I remember it, the Metaverse is actually just 20% of *Snow Crash* at most. It's more about Hiro and his pizza delivery, the skate chick YT, Uncle Enzo's mafia family, Sumerian linguistics, that epic scene on the abandoned aircraft carrier, Japanese rap stars, lots of killer samurai sword and glass dagger fighting action, etc. etc.

Metacam Oh

the best part of that book is the blob guy that drives around in a van connected to the metaverse.


Really? Come on. What author wouldn't love to lay claim to conjuring up something that was predictive of things like SL and WoW? And yes, I shelled out cash for all your books but one (Zodiac) and find useful concepts, ideas and metaphors for my own work in these domains. Man up and be graceful about your influence. No one likes an intellectual elitist.

Tateru Nino

That's what Stephenson always says, really. He has no interest in virtual worlds, and always expresses an active distaste for them whenever the subject comes up, so far as I've seen.


The top 1% will always hate the 99% plebes who buy their junk. Always has been, always will be.

As of Cory's ilk, he is in the business of selling personal information. That is what Facebook is and all it is, an advertising database. That could not be done in SL and therefore couldn't be milked.

Tateru Nino

@Dirk The 'Snow Crash' virtual world model and even the term Metaverse both pre-date Stephenson's work. If you hung around compsci departments in the 1980s - especially around those doing R&D on virtual environments - you'd hear this stuff coming up quite frequently. Maybe he's reluctant to take credit for ideas that he knows weren't his own?


Anything this Stephenson writes about besides the metaverse is Horrible. Quicksilver was SO bad I stopped reading all together for months.

Arcadia Codesmith

I'm reminded of William Shatner's brilliantly cruel jab at Star Trek conventions on Saturday Night Live, and Warren Zevon's professed (though possibly feigned)hatred of "Werewolves of London".

Neal's not a prophet. He's a writer. His vision was (and still is) compelling, but it was also tongue-in-cheek (Hiro Protagonist? Really?)

Just as actors and musicians tire of being associated with a single song or role, so do writers not want to talk about a single novel for the rest of their lives. And if fans of that work insist, they may well grow to hate it.

And conversely, the author's opinion of his own work is not the final word. The Internet is not the Metaverse, but what lies beyond the Internet? The unknowable future has infinite room for the Metaverse to yet evolve.

Hiro Pendragon


RE: Hiro Protagonist.

The story goes that Snow Crash was an interactive graphic novel on computer, and when that didn't pan out, he salvaged the story. Given its original intended format, I imagine the words "hero" and "protagonist" were placeholders in the script, given that the main character would have been the user/audience.

Was it tongue-in-cheek? Maybe. I think there's a lot to be said about Stephenson getting *people* right. Corporatization is a major theme and seems to be coming true to a large extent. Stephenson also got 100% right that the makers of the Metaverse (virtual worlds), being a misogynist/Aspy industry, would overlook completely facial expressions and animations.

Arcadia Codesmith

That's one of the things I loved about the novel -- the blend of the depressingly plausible with elements that were over-the-top implausible. It makes for a bleak dystopia that is paradoxically fun, a nice contrast to William Gibson's more uniformly downbeat style of covering similar territory.


I still firmly believe in the future possibilities of the Metaverse. But for the Metaverse to truly rise, we need an intersection between Augmented Reality and Games/Virtual Worlds.

It's going to take a few more years until we get our "magic glasses" that will allow us to overlay the virtual with the physical. But once that happens, you'll see.

The future is coming. It's just a bit behind schedule.


Also, I think Vernor Vinge's vision of the Metaverse in his book "Rainbows End" is a much more compelling (and potentially accurate) template of the future.

Pussycat Catnap

Neruomancer in 1984 was the same kind of world concept as Snow Crash.

Gibson admitted back in the day that he'd never used a computer before writing it. So its a technical nightmare...

Hardwired by Walter John Williams in 1986 on the other hand - accurately predicts what the internet looks like today from an IT standpoint...
- Mostly because the 'backend' of the net was already out there at the time and Williams was a BBSer (at the least).

The 3D world concept has the efficiency of bandwidth issue. Its just not yet the most efficient way to deliver data.


SL proves that its not a pointless way of delivering data either - which is what IT / Usenet folks said of virtual worlds back when Gibson and Stephenson were writing their early works.

In fact Second Life might show that it is an ideal method, just needing improvement and bandwidth.

If a picture says a 1000 words, how many words does video say, and how many more does 3D say?
- just needs touch and smell, as seen in...

...the virtual world that was briefly described in "Brave New World" by Aldus Huxley in 1931...
- yeah, 1931, that's when the metaverse first got described, from what I can tell; he called it a "feelie" and had some basic concepts down, but it wasn't yet something connected.

Hamlet Au

Oh, another reference: Cory once told me Stephenson's *Diamond Age* was more influential on him (and I think other early Lindens) to SL's development that *Snow Crash*.


"Oh, another reference: Cory once told me Stephenson's *Diamond Age* was more influential on him (and I think other early Lindens) to SL's development that *Snow Crash*."

Even more disturbing than Snow Crash inspiration. Diamond Age was about a poor girl getting an education from a stolen rich girl's interactive tutor.

Not surprising really. We are rapidly returning to a world where education is only for the rich and they will use it to lord over us.

Arcadia Codesmith

I just started "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. The book has its flaws, but it's so stuffed to bursting with geek culture goodness that I'm willing to ignore them. And it has a more upbeat take on the future of education than Diamond Age.

Relevant to our discussion, it's also bullish on classic cyberpunk-style immersive VR. The dream lives on.

The Huxley reference is relevant as well. Humans have been talking and writing about visiting other worlds for almost as long as we've been talking and writing. That vision is not going to be derailed by asynchronous social networking or AR overlays.

Immersive VR is HARD. It's going to hit technical brick walls and plateaus. Some of its boosters are going to throw up their hands in disgust and declare it impossible, or at least unprofitable.

But it's going to happen. Bank on it.

Pussycat Catnap

NPR or somebody was talking about this in reference to Steve the Messiah Jobs not long ago... Which in my mind is mixing with a 'New Yorker' article also about Jobs...

How technology is often a great invention or idea comes along and gets tossed aside, until a tweaking person comes in and makes it ready for mass consumption.

The metaverse was invented somewhere in the 1980s by the first MUSH/MUD. Everyone making MUDs back then knew that 'if only we had pictures and talkies in this thing, it would be Gibson's Cyberspace.'

The "web" has been a constant tweaking to bring aspects of the metaverse to common consumption.

We had to figure out how to create the idea of the collective consciousness first, as a vast interconnected 'hive mind' of humanity.
- Like all those dropouts in the 60s taking hits of acid thought they were part of, now we have it; and rather than bringing us peace and enlightenment, its brought lolcats and flashes of Paris Hilton getting out of a car... the things that were -really- part of the human collective awareness...

But its here now.

Turning that 'age of Aquarius' collective unconscious into a full metaverse will take another generation of tweakings.

SL isn't the end goal by any means - its just one more tweak on a road.

What is needed is some group with vison (what LLs lacks) for;

1. ease of use,
2. community understanding (what LLs really severely lacks),
3. purpose (why do I use this? Something LLs has never been able to answer for SL, despite years of its users telling them what its for),
4. easy adoption (frankly I don't buy that this is the hurdle some thing it is - even schmucks can download a app for their not-so-smart phone. The hurdle here is just making it the download process more like buying apps).

The Metaverse needs a Henry Ford, not a Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. But LLs is neither - they're middle men halfway down the chain.


Did anyone see the Gadget Show on channel 5 a few weeks ago.
It wasn't SL,but a war game tht they projected onto a 360 degree screen, moving floor so you could run and jump and a body suit with sensors to adjust how you positioned your arm and weapon,or where you were looking.
At the time I thought "Wow,that would be great hooked into SL"

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