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Thought for the day

The definition of a real Virtual Reality environment is one where somebody can hold a coup d'etat in it and make it stick in the real world.

16 Comments

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1:

Do you have a particular example in mind or is this just a thought?

2:

Thought generated by work on current novel.

It's like, the first sign that the internet was going to be a political force was in 1991, during the Moscow coup. The troops loyal to the party hard-liners seized the Moscow telephone exchanges and shut off all the lines to the west, except for that odd group that was making this high-pitched hissing, sizzling noise -- obviously they were faulty. For about 48 hours, the only information leaking out of the capital was coming over those Trailblazer modem lines. I think I've still got the IRC transcripts lying around somewhere ... it was basically the first time that they tried to throw a surprise revolution and couldn't keep it under wraps because of the internet.

All the hype about VR from back in the late 80s/early 90s will finally have come true when you can mount a coup d'etat in it.

3:

I see what you mean, yes. And isn't it lovely to be in a line of work where you generate thoughts like that?
(I'm conveniently ignoring the things that make writing and making a living writing hard for now)

4:

Charlie, unless you can produce those transcripts, I call BS. How many active users of any internetworked IT application with access out of the country were there in the Soviet Union in 1991? Having a phone was a struggle and making international calls a privilege.

5:

Alex, you'd be surprised. (Clue: Moscow university.)

6:

Alex, my archives are buried somewhere, but have a look ...

here for a digest: http://www.gimonca.com/personal/archive/irc2.html

and here for the whole damn thing:
http://www.sippala.com/fra/politics/

7:

Interesting about the Moscow coupe. But I'll be dipped if I can figure out how a virtual coup could work in our world.

8:

I was not on IRC back then (still am not) but I was on Usenet, and I remember reports filed by a computer science student at the University of Moscow as the attempted coup was under way. He seemed to be part of the crowd in Red Square, and saw Yeltsin face down the army.

Aside from that, he was just your ordinary, average geek, engaged in discussions about technology arcana just like anybody else.

It was quite exhilerating to read, like hearing the story from someone sitting next to you who had been there.

9:

Charles, I've recognised your superiority in this post, with a bonus Russian telecoms story..

10:

I also have print-outs of IRC logs from then. Sadly, it's more than a decade since I left Leeds so any tape backups that existed would have long since gone.

11:

Wow, you guys are old; I only read about this in iirc Howard Rheingold's Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier.

12:

Martin, at the 1995 Worldcon in Glasgow I was on a panel discussion about the Internet. I'd been on it for seven years at that point. I was the newbie on the panel by a whole decade -- one of the other panelists had worked at BBN with Vint Cerf when they were designing ARPANet.

Now, that's an old internet hand.

13:

In some ways, it's surprising that the 'net took so long to become a mass phenomenon.

14:

But I'll be dipped if I can figure out how a virtual coup could work in our world.

Consider the MMORPGs that have evolved some form of in-game governance structure. If the coup plotters could do something there and make it stick despite the opposition of the people operating the game, that would be revolutionary.

15:

Quirke
That's easy. You just convince people to move to your MMURPG by letting them keep their old relative ranks...

16:

How would it work? Economics of scarcity. Control something (perhaps something that can only be controlled in VR) and everything else follows. An easy (and simplistic) example is the codes for the nuclear football. You get those - and operating only on the internet - you can exert power. The codes are just blackmail though - but lets say you cracked the encryption for every financial transaction/network in the world (quantum computer?)

But your definition approaches true the stonger VR is - but also as the country involved gets closer to the third world.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 26, 2006 11:22 AM.

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