According to Fortune magazine, http://www.fortune.com/ in November last year IBM settled on a range of significant investments in a global meeting held within an interesting virtual world known as Second Life. In Second Life http://www.secondlife.com/ all the participants can develop personas known as Avatars and can meet in either open or closed spaces with other avatars to act out either fantasies or reality. So in IBM’s case they held their meeting in their virtual Second Life meeting room, owned by IBM, and the participants were avatars of IBM staff from around the globe. As virtual technologies like these evolve they will continue to challenge ‘what’s real’ with virtual relationships, virtual lives and virtual friends. These are communities where people are making real money from supplying virtual goods and services!
So have we in the process lost our sense of reality – a question much beloved by lecturers in philosophy 101? Does it matter? I would argue that it does only if the focus on ‘different realities’ takes our atention away from the significant challenges that face us and reduce our ability to debate as societies and civilisations how we might tackle such challenges. Lets hope that in five years from now Second Life will be credited as the single defining influence on reducing our environmental footprint. Now that’s the kind of ‘real’ I can live with.
 January 23 2007.