Monday, September 24, 2007

Experiments in Virtual Living: Law and Justice in Second Life

Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Labs and a few hundred thousand users, makes for a living laboratory in political science. One nice essay examines the politics of Second Life, tracing its subsidized and well-regulated beginnings to its quasi-anarchic present:

There are no central regulatory authorities. You cannot file abuse reports for fraud. You have no way to know if someone is a known fraud or a reputable businessperson. Although word-of-mouth helps to spread the reputation, that’s all there is. There are also no taxes. And until very recently, there was no control on the kind of content that you could sell.

Some communities established, locally, a way to deal with frauds and abuse from either producers or consumers. On a mall, for instance, it’s customary to kick out a fraudulent merchant; but they’ll simply move to the mall next door, defame the previous mall owner, and business goes on as usual. There is no way to file a suit against someone. Consumers have no rights and no way to enforce them, even if they managed to band together to protest (which they do, but are mostly ignored); producers can be ripped off using several techniques, and they have no way to legitimately claim for justice.

If the technology and economy supported the effort, this situation would be a nice test case for the Libertarian dream of private law and justice committees.

1 comment:

Nobody Fugazi said...

Those are two big 'if's. Linden Lab doesn't seem too interested in allowing those things to happen.

Time to look further. ;-)