Virtual World Becoming More Real

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

I visited the Second Life virtual world a few years ago, and was unimpressed.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Second Life is an online virtual world with its own virtual economy.  It’s not a game — you don’t go on quests and kills dragons.  It attempts to simulate life — you have a 3D representation of yourself (your "avatar") who buys land (using real dollars to buy Second Life currency, which now as an economy of its own), buy clothes, and does things.

Apparently, there’s more now things to do now in Second Life than before.  Famous people hold concerts (Suzanne Vega, for instance — see picture below).  Most large corporations have presences there (yes, there is a GAP in Second Life, along with just about everything else you find in a mall).  Harvard Law School has a virtual extension school there, and you can attend classes taught by real HLS professors.  And I’ll bet my bottom dollar that in 2008, some presidential candidates will appear in the virtual world for campaign rallies.


But with the rise in popularity and realism of the virtual world, there is — believe it or not — a rise in virtual crime:

And then there is virtual sex. Adults are using their avatars to have virtual sex with each other, with one of them capable of morphing into a pre-teen girl during intercourse. Since no minors are officially allowed in Second Life, it is impossible to say whether any real-world minors are harmed by this virtual sex. But of course, adults may freely give their accounts and passwords to minors if they so choose, and some virtual child prostitutes claim to be real-world minors. If so, is such activity illegal? Is there a defense that I thought my avatar was having virtual sex with a real adult posing as a virtual minor, rather than a real minor who was posing as a real adult posing as a virtual minor? And if that conduct is illegal, which government from which country is supposed to prosecute the offender?

The implications of virtual morality and virtual crime is such a hot topic that there have been serious legal symposia held on the issue.

Strange world(s) we live in.