What is common between electricity, the telephone, the personal computer, the internet, and the Atari game system? Why did they change the world completely?
Every culture-shifting technology has permanently bent the world. That is, after the technology it is impossible for people to go back to their former state.
It is happening again.
Take a look at the Virtual Worlds explosion that has started in this year. What started as a harmless medium of entertainment has become a business enabler for people such as Nike and now IBM. They are not a game anymore — they are becoming a permanent part of life on Earth.
I will spare a long lecture on the promise of Virtual Communities such as Second Life, and just give two examples of how the world is changing.
First, IBM is opening up public and private “islands” in Second Life. They are investing in building private islands as a communication channel for the CEO to address the global workforce, and as a means of conducting training to their employees or holding cross-country workshops.
Think about that for a moment. A giant corporate leader chooses a virtual world because they can simply create a classroom in there, show the same attendees, have the same lecture, only that the students can be from any of their country offices.
Second, The Chinese Yuan (actual currency) is getting deflated because of Virtual Currency in western China. This is because people are actually buying and selling real world items (e.g. a car) using virtual money — both sides accept it. As a response, China has ordered stricter control of online gaming.
Both of these examples are not market forces to take lightly — it is almost unbelievable the extent to which virtual worlds are impacting the real world.
Maybe it is time to start investing in Virtual Startups while the economy is still in boom times — hmm maybe CDF can incubate some virtual businesses.