assisi_second_life

Virtual Turing Church – Brainstorm

This is a brainstorm session on how to design and launch a Virtual Turing Church. As usual I am sending this post to several mailing lists, Facebook pages and discussion groups, but I would appreciate it of you could comment on the Turing Church website (commenting is much easier now) to have all inputs in the same place.

One of the three Turing Church projects that I announced last week, and the most ambitious, is:

assisi_second_life
A few years ago I was involved in a project to recreate the beautiful Basilica of San Francesco d’ Assisi in the virtual reality of Second Life. This VR scape was used for many online meetings and talks about science and religion.

A virtual gathering place and services/talks program using advanced virtual reality and videoconferencing systems. I tried to launch similar projects in the past (see Turing Church Talks and Turing Church Workshops), but previous attempts were not very successful. Perhaps the technologies used were not yet robust or user-friendly enough?
[ADDED: I am afraid the “business-like” 3D videoconferencing platforms that I tend to prefer are not appealing enough to this audience, because they lack game-like, playful, hedonistic and virtual-identity-affirming aspects]
A related consideration is that the really new thing brought by the Internet has been powerful asynchronous communication, so perhaps insisting on synchronous communication feels like going back, sort of. In fact, a problem in organizing online gatherings is choosing a date/time suitable for participants in different timezones. Another problem is that many participants pay attention only at the last moment, to realize that they didn’t read the instructions and don’t know what to do to participate.
However, I will try again, perhaps with new technologies and ideas. Of course, I will be delighted if others want to collaborate, doing this well requires too much time and effort for one person.

I agree with the many business and technology experts who are betting on a renaissance of Virtual Reality (VR) powered by immersive interfaces like the Facebook Rift (aka Oculus Rift) and next-generation VR software platforms like Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity (currently in closed alpha).

Our convictions are not widely popular yet, but only shared by a geographically dispersed crowd, so that virtual community-building is the only viable option at the moment. I imagine weekly or even daily gathering, services and talks about technology, life, the universe and everything, inspired by the Cosmist spirit brilliantly summarized by R.U. Sirius in his last book.

I think in a couple of years there will be a solid and disruptive Metaverse based on something like High Fidelity – which might be owned by Second Life or Facebook at that moment – able to provide user-friendly and fully immersive VR experiences, and an ideal platform for the Virtual Turing Church.

As usual, the problem is how to get from here to there. Perhaps we should start with an intermediate step to re-build and strengthen the Cosmist community in good-old Second Life or OpenSim or one of the current metaverses, with future migration in mind?

Comments and ideas (especially new ideas) welcome!

  • Yes, there will be a highly disruptive corporate virtual reality. In this layered consensual dream there will be mechanisms of censorship – in some layers other modulations of freedom will exist, and after a very short barrage of competition (last no more than 2-3 years) there will emerge one standard VR that will be used by the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft andsoforth. Despite reservations by commerce-saturated audience this medium will cater to the lowest, most contemptible common denominators (porn, violence, gaming, protest, radicalism, soap, nascar, religion) to depict a completely new means of interaction that takes spectators and makes it part of the medium.

    This infrastructure of memetics will completely escape its confines in years, when made accessible to audience, despite fierce corporate and government control. The more successful it is, the more freespirited people will start mucking around with it. To try to cling on to this existential Beluga from the moment it is being born may be tempting, but it will be an exercise in futility. Many belugae are being gestated and we don’t know which will be the One to survive the early corporate selection race.

    I’d place my bets on an infrastructure based on Google Earth, and I have done so for several years now, but my authority and intuitive has been less of late. I just don’t have the passion and feel for this medium any more. It’s all too contrived and artificial and complex. I am a child of the first gaming/VR wave and I did immerse myself in it, and like a character in a Gibson novel I developed a healthy allergy for the bullshittery in these environments. It will take immense effort to seduce me back in a virtual world, and contribute in a meaningful sense. If a Virtual World can at this stage seduce me I guarantee you – it will have user adoption rates over a billion within five years.

    The Turing Church is, like the Zeitgeist Movement, H+, Thrive, GF2045, etc. etc. a wonderful concept and ideological base. It will be one of many more, and unless these movements find a mechanism to collaborate (or at the very least acknowledge one another) they will be as successful as a swarm of panda. Pandae?

    The great challenge before is to overcoming the conniving and vicious character of commercial interests. We all know what the corporate world is doing, and they are succeeding. It’s divide and rule on an exponential level of effectiveness, dulling people’s aspiration and desire to improve reality, so in effect reality does not improve except for those who pay for it.

    The Next Virtual reality will be liberated, after a monumental battle. Angels will cast down demons in to Hell, but both will bear sponsorship logo’s emblazoned on their chests. As I have said, I smell them. I smell Babylon. I smell the sickness – pervasive all throughout Second Life and Home and Google Earth. It is a sickness of repetition, a sickening lack of sincerity and originality. A sickness of the collective human soul.

    If Turing Church can manifest Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Love in it’s (virtual) shrine, then I guarantee you – it will flourish. If not, I suggest it would be better to start a communal garden in reality and grow pumpkins.

    • Giulio Prisco

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply K. Re “If a Virtual World can at this stage seduce me I guarantee you – it will have user adoption rates over a billion within five years” – then you are the ideal person to suggest ideas!

      Of course I wish for the Virtual Turing Church to manifest Beauty, Goodness and Love (let’s leave Truth aside at this stage, it reminds me of dusty old books). The issue is HOW to do that.

      I think it depends on organizational principles more than on the technology platform involved. The technical side will be good enough if the technology is easy to sue without hassles, the scenery is nice and sounds works well the first time. So what organizational ways do you recommend to achieve Beauty, Goodness and Love?

      • Do I need to explain everything to you?

        Truth – wikileaks, disclosure, hacking, activism, bitcoin
        Love – social safety nets, collaboration, basic income
        Goodness – long view projects, sustainability, positive futurism
        Beauty – Aesthetic values, art, sound interaction design, good interface

        • Giulio Prisco

          I support all these things (I guess most people here do), but the first 3 categories (besides Beauty) are kind of unrelated to the problem at hand. The community will support these things, if the persons that form part of it support these things. I am not letting you off the hook that easy, please expand on Beauty.

          • vibrant social networks need to facilitate and energize
            1 – activism and popular consciousness as opposed to assholery and modiocrity.
            2 – social consciousness, multiculturalism, hope as opposed to bland consumerism and nihilism
            3 – science, realism and long term thinking as opposed to corporate values
            4 – fun, easy to use, self-explanatory as opposed to bloatware

          • Giulio Prisco

            I agree, but you are telling me that water is wet. I want some real innovative thinking from you K sweetie, or you can forget salvation in the Holy Cyberspatial Mind of the machine overlords ;-)

    • Juan Carlos Paredes

      I am working on two video projects. One called Mass Delusion (a retelling of Orson Welles’ War of the Words using VR/Holograms to fool the eye/replace the radio) and a second one called Camp David that predicts the same thing but is about finding ways around this VR land/mind grab. Your post was thoughtful and very interesting. Would love to talk to you.

  • Juan Carlos Paredes

    You are into something whose time has come. Have you read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the second chapter talks about a personal/religious experience in vr in a way of community.

  • Michael Hrenka

    It would indeed be a good idea to use a matured platform like Second Life to hold Turing Church meetings. After all, it’s a platform that it still relatively popular, and just works for most people who are ready to give it a go. If the Turing Church started holding meetings in Second Life, I would want to join them, too.

    Once it becomes clear that there is a clearly superior alternative to Second Life, it should not be too difficult to switch to the new virtual world. But as Khannea pointed out: We can’t know in advance which platform will succeed in the end, so we better stick with what we know now. And what we know is that Second Life still works.

    When it comes to community building in cyberspace, then it may be a good option to open up many different options for interaction. The Pirate Parties have had some good success with using many different online platforms in parallel. Everyone could join the platforms that he or she found most interesting. I don’t see a reason why this philosophy shouldn’t work for the Turing Church, too.

    In fact, it’s a philosophy I am aiming to replicate with my latest project the Social Future Metanet which is supposed to become a common hub for many “social” “futurist” activists and groups. What exists right now is the Social Future Forum at http://sfmeta.net/forum/

    You are of course invited to join the forum. If you want, I could even set up a user group and a dedicated area for the Turing Church within the SFF.

    • Giulio Prisco

      Hi Michael. I totally agree that it is good to open up many different options for interaction, so that everyone can choose. At the same time, too much dispersion can be self-defeating – if we have ten participants and ten communication platforms, we end up with one participant per platform which doesn’t seem very useful ;-) Also, maintaining more options is more work.

      Second Life still works as long as there aren’t too many avatars in the same place – a few months ago we organized a Second Life event with Philip Rosedale and the Terasem sim totally crashed with more than 100 avatars, ejecting the founder of Second Life himself from Second Life! The episode made me think of that scene in Snow Crash where the owner is ejected from the Black Sun.

      That isn’t a big problem though, because we are not likely to have that many participants initially. Just the usual suspects, and some of them may need to be lured back into Second Life (see K below).

      What do you think are the advantages of Second Life compared to an OpenSim instance or some Unity3D VR world?

      SFMeta is very interesting, I will take a look and join.

      • Michael Hrenka

        Sure. A multitude of communication platforms can be bothersome. But you can apply evolutionary reasoning to this situation, too: Let many platforms emerge and then wait which will perform best. The others will wither away sooner or later. It could of course happen to the Social Future Metanet, too, but I want to take this chance, especially because I’m dissatisfied with the current alternatives.

        I’m not saying that Second Life is a great choice from a technical standpoint. It’s merely good enough to work fine in most cases. Its big advantage is that it’s a very popular platform and often that makes a big difference in the sense that you can count on the existence of a supportive community. Many people still use Second Life for other purposes, so it would at least be natural for those to use Second Life for Turing Church meetings, too. If you choose a relatively unpopular platform, you won’t have these “easy converts”.

        • Giulio Prisco

          re “you can apply evolutionary reasoning to this situation, too: Let many platforms emerge and then wait which will perform best.”

          That makes sense, it’s exactly the same open source spirit of permanent experimentation that I try to promote here (ref. other recent posts). Perhaps we should just organize a get together in Second Life and see what happens. Does anyone wish to speak in favor of currently available alternatives to SL (OpenSim, some Unity3D world or whatever?)

      • I have a problem with Second Life these days. And she is becoming more convincing every day.

        http://i.imgur.com/2IYeG8O.jpg

        • Giulio Prisco

          Nice problem to have! Does she have something against Second Life, and if so what? That input is also useful.

          • She draws away all my energy in to her. It’s a problem.

  • Mark Larkento

    “I would say only do it in SecondLife by voice and record and simulcast the entire thing. Also physical world events/sessions available online. Don’t be only Second Life. Also don’t rule out opensim. It is more configurable and far lower cost and includes open source work to hold larger meeting comfortably without the issues often experienced in SL.”

    “But really all this is moot without a strong compelling core set of tenets and community building.”

    Via Samantha in Singularity Metaverse Facebook group.

    • Giulio Prisco

      Thanks Mark for bridging the groups! This is an example of how multiple communication environments add value but also present coordination issues (ref. Michael’s comments).

      I totally agree with the last part of Samantha’s remark (“But really all this is moot without a strong compelling core set of tenets and community building”), but of course what is compelling for one may not be so compelling for another, and that’s why I prefer a let-1000-flowers-bloom approach, even if that decreases consistency.

  • Giulio Prisco

    If we choose an OpenSim solution as intermediate step, what are the best grids?

  • fartorizon

    IRC is simpler than virtual worlds and efficient for realtime meetings

    • Giulio Prisco

      I love IRC and I think plain text is a superb format. IRC would be a good choice to begin a virtual church, with a delicious retro look – but is anyone using it these days? IRC fans please comment.