For every complex problem, there is a simple solution. And it's always wrong. (Paraphrased from quotes from H. L. Mencken and Albert Einstein)The space between the departure of M. Linden and the upcoming community meeting with BK and Philip has left a vacuum many of us have filled with analysis and speculation about the future of Second Life. I do believe that an unexamined virtual life is not worth living. But when we move from evaluating our own thoughts, feelings, actions and motivations to judging the inner-workings of the world around us we must be especially careful not to fall into the realm of fairy tale. Because in the absence of complete information, our mind tends to fill our mental models with the archetypal magic of the subconscious. We can become blind to the gaping chasms we jump over in our leaps of logic.
I was reminded of this process while contemplating the conversation over the weekend in the blogosphere about the reason for Second Life's land and population woes. Here are a couple of the many magical story elements that tend to run through our discussions:
- Scapegoats. Whether it's the FIC elites or the high cost of land, we tend to put a microscope on some real or imagined culprit as the root of all (or at least most) evil. The fairy tale is that if we would just kill the scapegoat everything would be fine and we could live happily ever after. This tendency is exaggerated by the polarizing nature of net-based conversation and communication. I'm doing it right now.
- Magic Beans: The other side of the coin is the idea that if Linden Lab management would just plant this one magic bean, Second Life would be lifted from its fallen state and claim its lofty potential at the summit of the virtual world pantheon. Examples of magic beans include first hour experience and the elimination of lag.
My point is not that we should stop thinking about how we can help solve problems and create solutions within our virtual existence. What I'm suggesting is that we check in with ourselves from time to time and examine our own stories for fictional elements that we treat like facts, especially any scapegoats and magic beans that are in the picture.