Virtually Reality, Part 2

It has been said before, and it will be said again, but the internet is truly the wild west of our time.  No government can oversee what is said or done on the internet, though they try, and people can get away with a lot if they just manipulate the code thanks to anonymity.  In virtual spaces this freedom is especially interesting, since people are treating the virtual space just as they would a real space.  Yet somehow our real-life morals are not always translating to the virtual space.  There are cases of people stealing virtual commodities in games like Second Life and Eve, which can translate to real money outside of the game.  But people can also steal code while in virtual spaces, and while this is an accepted practice in other virtual spaces, code is a commodity in Second Life and is regarded as protected property by those who write it in Second Life.  These spaces, and more interestingly, the commodities and code of these spaces, are considered just as real as the ‘real’ world, yet we still consider it a false reality.

Perhaps it is because of the lack of control we have over these spaces, this ‘wild west’ atmosphere that leads us to negate their reality.  Or in other words, the virtual world is not the real world because we can’t govern it.  If we can’t control a space, if it is not technically within our domain of power, then it is not a fully recognized location, thus not real.  Since we inhabit virtual spaces through our computers or similar devices, we would have to control these spaces through the same means.  But law is written and governance is enacted in a space completely independent of the digital world.  Somehow, the space that governments and law inhabits must cross over to the virtual and digital world in order for the virtual world to become more real.

Some aspects of government are becoming digital, thus beginning the process of combining the real with the virtual where law and government are concerned.  President Obama introduced a website where citizens can sign petitions on topics they would like the government to address.  The site is We The People  and the most recent response the government has given was to a petition with 12,000 signatures demanding the government declare what it knows about extraterrestrial life and their programs to find life outside of Earth.  This virtual political participation has led to real-world results, as silly as the topic may be, so at least in one case the virtually real world of cyberspace is seeing more government inhabitants.

The question that we have to ask ourselves is should the internet continue to be a wild west?  Is this a space we should leave open and free of interference, sacrificing our security in favor of almost complete freedom?  This space is the final frontier of anarchical freedom where users are determining the future, rather than a hierarchical system  of government.  No vote will be tallied to determine the future of virtual spaces, like most things in the course of history, these spaces will simply evolve whether we like it or not.