Virtual Worlds

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Virtual Worlds

Virtual worlds have many opportunities that simply are not available to us in the physical world. Notice I avoid saying the “real” world. The virtual worlds are every bit as real as the physical world we live in. The avatars in your virtual world are controlled by people who have minds, make choices, have preferences, run out of time, and can perform in the physical world.

One of the most interesting uses of a virtual world is as a place to prototype something. It could be a shoe, a game, a building, or a movie. The prototype can be offered for sale, rental, or viewing in order to get feedback. The cost of prototyping in a virtual world is minimal compared to the physical world, and so is the cost of failure. You can design, fail, redesign, and refine. You can do this in as many iterations as required until you get the feedback you want. Then, and only then, you can introduce it to the physical world.

The virtual world is a blend of Internet chat rooms and 3D rooms in an online environment, where residents can buy, sell, and trade goods and services using virtual currency.

A Virtual World Environment (VWE) consists of multiple interactive scenarios. One example of multiple scenarios in a VWE can be seen in “Second Life” (secondlife.com). Second Life is mix of social interaction, visual participation in varied activities, and 3D models for training, instruction, and participation.

This isn’t just geek stuff anymore.

Universities such as Harvard, Duke, INSEAD, MIT and Vassar have a presence in Second World. World‐class enterprises have shown their presence in Second Life by establishing islands – businesses such as BMW, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Coca‐Cola, General Motors, H&R Block, ING, Kraft, Lactose, Philips, Mercedes‐Benz, MTV, NBA, Nissan, Vodafone, Toyota, Samsung, Sears, Sony, and world famous news agency Reuters.

Governments are also interested in showing their presence on second life (Sweden has established an Embassy).

Aegis is here to discuss trends that can affect your bottom line, so let’s get to the bottom line.

Second Life and other VWEs, also known as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) are just tools. They are neither good nor bad. It is the participants, or inhabitants, that have motives. Avatars controlled by real world payers have either altruistic or subversive intentions. There are many uses for a VWE / MMORPG in both entertainment and commercial applications.

Some participants use VWE / MMORPGs for criminal purposes. In locations throughout the world, money launderers recruit teenagers with low wages to “work” in second life. Using labs with multiple PCs and high‐speed connections, these workers become experienced at engineering sophisticated trades and earning virtual currency. Here’s the hook ‐‐ the currency in Second Life, Linden Dollars, can be exchanged for physical currency. A virtual world can be used as a money service business to launder money in the physical world.

As innovation and technology ripples through a society, it will cause changes in behavior and commerce. This has always been the case, and will always be the case. As Captains of Commerce we can’t condemn unintended uses of technology, we have to observe, be aware, learn, and try to understand the benefits and dangers presented to the participants, enterprises, and governments.

When it was found that a few million dollars had been laundered through a virtual

world, the initial reaction was to label virtual worlds bad, simply because there

were things going on that outsiders did not understand.

We have plenty of problems in the physical world, such as when the FBI accused Bank of New York of laundering 10 billion dollars in physical currency. What’s a few million from virtual dollars? What the story represents is that the gatekeepers are unaware of how these new tools can be used and misused.

Prohibition is not an answer ‐‐ it never was, and never will be. Careful study will lead to a better understanding of new technologies along with their virtues and vices. But I see new AML legislation on the horizon ‐‐ KYA ‐‐ Know Your Avatar!

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