In this recent article, Wired News: Interreality Business Machines, we learn that IBM is taking virtual economies seriously by developing heavy-hitting software for dealing with the logistics of “pretend” economies in online multiplayer game environments.
Keeping track of thousands of people buying and selling and bartering in real time is chip-melting stuff, if you’re trying to do it while simultaneously keeping track of how each transaction is affecting the world it happens in as well. So, this is one step toward enabling even bigger multiplayer environments.
But it’s also a step toward connecting real-world economies with virtual ones. It’s already happening, but awkwardly, with virtual trade leaking out of the ‘game’ and into other environments, like eBay.
I’m a big believer that reality is socially constructed. No, I’m no hard-bitten post-structuralist… I’m just acknowledging a very powerful truth. I’ve also been exposed to just enough Marx that I happen to believe that our money is a big part of what dictates the contours of ‘reality’ for us.
This development is just one more factor effacing the distinction between “real” and “virtual” for human experience.