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Coming Out of the Dream: How Second Life's Platform Is Like Inception

by Ken Yeung on September 23, 2010

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DreamI’m a bit behind in watching movies, but a couple of weeks ago, I headed to the theaters to catch Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film Inception. It’s an interesting movie – it really makes you think about what’s happening when you dream. The premise is that in your dreams, it’s theoretically possible to have someone break in and steal your darkest secrets. To that end, it’s filled with plenty of twists and turns just to make sure that your subconscious knows when someone has penetrated your dreams to try and force you to reveal what yo u don’t want others to know. While Inception is a great movie filled with suspense, action and a hint of drama, there’s a bigger view when it comes to whether or not the technology is really possible.

It is…and it’s already here.

Remember Second Life? It’s basically the social network for people who like playing online games like World of Warcraft or EverQuest. It’s a place where you can really be someone else and no one will really know. But these games can be quite addictive that sooner or later, we’ll find ourselves being a part of this Second Life world – which will inevitably blur the boundaries between our reality and what happens from the online world. Is this anything new? We seek to escape our lives on a constant basis by flocking to a virtual one where we’re only separated by something as simple as a computer.

Prior to even having social networks like MySpace, Facebook or even Second Life, there were online games that let us take on different personas. Those in college who loved playing video games were probably adept at playing Counterstrike where you impersonated a terrorist or a military figure and did battle in an established course. This is no different from now except you’re able to really personalize how much of a fake you’re willing to be. If you’re a male, you can be a female or vice versa. OR, you can pretend to be filthy rich when you’re just an average working person along with other customizable traits. The point here is whether or not we know where the fantasy ends and where does reality begin?

Do you have a totem? If you’re constantly online playing a different role, what is your totem? That is, what keeps you sane and tells you that what you’re experiencing now is truly reality?  Are you still dreaming? Second Life can be quite addicting and thereby can help raise some issues whereby people are more prone to taking risks and doing things that they wouldn’t normally do – why? It’s probably because that the virtual world is totally safe…you’re able to make up fictitious personas (or use your very own) and then live out your wildest fantasies with reckless abandon.

Are there life lessons that can be taken from watching Inception? Could it be something where privacy issues come up and social networks must respect the individual’s rights? Or could it be that we, as users, must be careful in what we say and do online because it can have unintended consequences for everyone involved? In a way, it’s everything…we must be careful that we don’t get caught up with the web & that we’re able to truly make it work with us in our daily lives instead of taking it over.

Photo Credit: Vangel_PL / sxc.hu

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