VWs go to Congress

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Apr 022008

As has been reported in several places, there was a Congressional hearing on virtual worlds — or more specifically, mostly on Second Life. There’s a good sort of “landing page” to go explore this from source materials on Terra Nova, including links to an MP3 of the hearings.

Virtually Blind has what seems to be an eyewitness account that I enjoyed as well: Congress Holds First Hearing on Virtual Worlds; Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale Testifies.

And naturally, it also hit Reuters.

Common to all the reports is commentary on the occasionally off-target opening remarks of the committee members, some of whom referenced MMORPGs rather than VWs, and some of whom were concerned about terrorism (of course). This has led to some sarcasm in some quarters.

It is going to be important to get deep understanding of virtual worlds of all stripes into the various governmental organizations — and for what it’s worth, I think quite a lot of policymakers are quite a ways along on that understanding. So I wouldn’t be making fun of them just yet.

  10 Responses to “VWs go to Congress”

  1. understand what goes on there and how best to engage with them should the need arise. (Not that I know much about them beyond some occasional dabbling and what I’ve read by Edward Castronova.) The Daily Show also caught wind of it… viaRaph

  2. one in which lawyers and accountants stifle development (the bad), and one in which business and academia drive VW’s to practical usage – and thus make them mundane in the process (the ugly). On the front of the second of those possible futures,Congress recently held hearings on Virtual Worlds.

  3. I’m really not sure I have much to say about this event myself. Still, it is the first Congressional hearing on virtual worlds. I wonder what the first hearing on airplanes was like? Update 3: Ok, my last comment on this, in reply toRaph’sthoughts. If you can get past 1) the opening remarks, 2) the promotional video for Second Life, and 3) the fact that everyone at the hearing seemed to think that Second Life was synonymous with virtual worlds (made convenient by the fact that the

  4. So I wouldn’t be making fun of them just yet.

    Personally, I think that the time is always right for making fun of policymakers. But I admit I’m jaded.

  5. Yeah, you really shouldn’t be jaded. If you ever get the time, dig a little into what exactly they do. It gets pretty complicated, and the answers they come up with can surprise you with the overall wisdom of these people. It’s not just the representatives to our government, it’s their staff’s. They do their homework, and come up with well thought out answers most of the time.

    Also, it’s astounding how much they do get done. I don’t think allot of people really know how much work they do.

  6. Count me in the “jaded” camp. Heaven forfend Congress actually spend their resources doing something brave involving leadership. Like maybe figuring out how to resolve the hundred trillion dollar debt train wreck that’s approaching with terrifying speed. What the hell. Just print more dollars, fire the GAO’s Comptroller, and hold some hearings on why Linden Research, Inc. invented everything three dimensional on the web. Linden does earn my respect, however. What amazing self promoters. I’ve heard or read about the “Congressional Hearings On How the US can use Second Life to Better Govern” in a half dozen major media sources now.

    Maybe we should put Linden in charge of the Fed. Seems our fates are interwoven at this point anyway.

  7. Randolfe, don’t listen to the news, they are politically oriented. That and they address their audience as if they were all 5th graders.

    The truth about the national debt is that there is not a problem with it. First off, you have to compare it to the national production. The Gross Domestic Product, to be exact (which is different from the Gross National Product, which includes what our industry produces in foreign markets).

    You can look at it from a personal standpoint. You make X money a year, you have Y assets, and Z expenses. If you want to buy a house, a car, or more appropriate a business, you can take a loan out for it. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you don’t over extend your ability to pay the loan(s) off.

    That’s the situation here with the national debt. Our Gross Domestic Product grows every year too, and it is in line with what experts have always said (from many years ago) is an acceptable ratio compared to debt.

    In fact, we are currently in a similar ratio as both France and Germany. We are in a sound state with our debt.

    But going even further, the debt figures are misleading. We owe around $9 trillion currently. (I think, if I remember right, that the estimates for the total debt in October of this year will be around $12 trillion.)
    That’s a far cry from the 100 trillion you state.

    Also, our deficit, which is the amount that we fall short in taxes to pay debt each year, has been falling each of the last few years under the Bush plan.

    But most importantly, the majority of who our debt is owed to is to ourselves.

    First off, understand that $4 trillion of that total is intra-governmental. In other words, nearly half of the debt figures comes from one US government agency borrowing from another US government agency.

    Secondly, only about $2 trillion is owed to foreign sources.

    So when you look at the facts, you can see that we actually are in extremely good shape.

    Another fact is that we are well under the WWII era debt compared to Gross Domestic Product, even though we are at war (an issue many don’t want to include when talking doom and gloom, mostly for political reasons).

    link to a good start to see what I’m talking about

  8. Amaranthar,

    Thanks for the refresher. I’m no “5th Grader”. I studied under Stiglitz. I’m pretty familiar with how NIA works, and all the implicit neoclassical models.

    I’d suggest you refer to Easterly and others before buying into the Keynesian line that ignores the reality of today’s global capital flows and state. You are comparing now to a time when capital was tightly controlled and international flows of capital were practically non-existant.

    But this is far afield from Raph’s original topic. Thus is the risk with anything containing the pejorative “Congress”.

  9. Randolfe….I don’t know how you can say that. It’s Stiglitz and Easterly who inspire the saying “in a perfect world”. That’s not to say they don’t have great ideas. But it requires that an imperfect world doesn’t interfere. Yet it will.

  10. Hmmm. Well I’m not sure I agree on Easterly. Stiglitz is his own animal, that’s for sure. By the way, you might want to look up the times-interest coverage for the US debt before figuring it’s “misleading”. Even if that’s “owed to ourselves”, and intergovernmental, it’s not cancelable, restructable or delayable without drastic consequence. While the debt may be owed to ourselves, the market for it is global. So one move here changes prices everywhere, instantly. And capital then flows, in a matter of seconds, to fill the disequalibrium. You can’t change that without draconian capital control measures, which itself induces those threshold events you refer to.

  11. Can you explain “the market for it is global”. You aren’t saying that these debts are being sold, are you?

  12. Err, I’m talking about the inter-government debts portion of the US federal debt. Just to be clear.

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