Eavesdropping on a tree in the forest

Moon over clock tower Neufreistadt SLNEUFREISTADT, SL- Wandering a little in Neufreistad last night I came upon a chain hanging from a clock tower. Pulling it would ring a bell far above. It was night in Second Life, the moon and I were alone in the NFS sim, mine the only avatar even in the surrounding sims. The obvious question arose, if I were to ring this bell with no one around, would anyone hear it?

Do I know enough to say? A sim owner or manager, that is to say the person who owns that virtual estate or the person given authority to run it, can monitor SL activity without being online. They have a bird’s eye view, or so I understand, an extrasensory perception relating to the realm for which they are responsible. Ordinary users can see and hear what’s in our vicinity, and can sharpen our sight depending on how lifelike we want our faculties. (actually we can eavesdrop too, with virtual bugs to spy on virtual happenings.) Sim admins have meta power.

Above them, Linden Labs, the real world laboratory which houses Second Life, oversees the mechanics of their virtual creation. Their view is that of lab technician over the maze, watching the mouse try to find the cheese, omnipresent and unobserved if only because of their irrelevance to the reality below.

I cannot say whether any are listening, but I do know that they could. Such is the unexplored, but not indefinite world of virtual reality. You may not have been there before, but someone has, and certainly someone tends to it and has an interest in checking in. And that’s not even to consider the NSA.

Is there a real world anymore where you can act on a thought unobserved? With Google Earth, as an example of surreptitious satellites, could a tree fall, anymore, unheard? Can you travel in your car, sit in your room, whisper out of earshot of your cellphone, and feel you have privacy?

In cyberspace, surveillance is inescapable. But in the virtual dimension, whose landscape is it that’s being watched? Does the virtual world exist on your computer screen as much as it lies your head? From which are the spooks reporting?

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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1 Response to Eavesdropping on a tree in the forest

  1. Avatar James says:

    i think the virtual world has become a reality, as if it was birthed from science fiction and into the real world. Insane

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