Exploring and Building
Virtual Worlds on the Internet
List of Quotations
The following is a partial list of select quotes and their page references.
From the Introduction
"As Hiro approaches the Street, he sees two young couples, probably using their parents' computers for a double date in the Metaverse, climbing down out of Port Zero, which is the local port of entry and monorail stop.
He is not seeing real people, of course. This is all a part of the moving illustration drawn by his computer according to the specifications coming down the fiber-optic cable. The people are pieces of software called avatars."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, page 35.
Grand Tour of Worlds
"Hiro is approaching the Street. It is the Broadway, the Champs Elysees of the Metaverse. It is the brilliantly lit boulevard that can be seen, miniaturized and backward, reflected in the lenses of his goggles. It does not really exist. But right now, millions of people are walking up and down it."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, page 24.
Dr. John Suler, a psychologist studying The Palace community, has paid special attention to the role of wizards. I present a short excerpt from his full paper, which you can read on the Web at http://www1.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/palacestudy.html.
The ultimate badge of prestige at The Palace is to be chosen as wizard. Wizards possess special abilities that ordinary members don't (like being able to kill, gag, and pin misbehaving users). They also participate in decision-making about new policies for the community. Many members, secretly or not, wish they could attain the social recognition, power, and self-esteem achieved through this promotion. To get it, one must demonstrate commitment to the community, which includes spending a considerable amount of time there. Wizardship can become a very enticing carrot that stimulates addictive attendance. For those few who do attain that position, it can powerfully reinforce one's efforts, and further bolsters one's loyalty and devotion to Palace life. Even though the position does not include a salary, many wizards see it as a job to which they are responsible. The wizard now has a viable reason for being so "addicted." As one user stated the day after receiving his surprise promotion, "I WORK here."
More from Dr. Suler in, ìDigi's Diary, What to do About all those Naked Pictures,î later in this chapter.
AlphaWorld and Active Worlds
What hath they wrougt
"Like any place in Reality, the Street is subject to development. Developers can build their own small streets feeding off of the main one. They can build buildings, parks, signs, as well as things that do not exist in Reality, such as vast hovering overhead light shows and special neighborhoods where the rules of three-dimensional spacetime are ignored."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, pages 24-25.
Black Sun Passport
Stepping Through the Stargate
"..in the entire world there are only a couple of thousand people who can step over the line into The Black Sun. He [Hiro] turns and looks back at the ten thousand shrieking groupies. Now that he's all by himself in the entryway, no longer immersed in a flood of avatars, he can see all of the people in the front row of the crowd with perfect clarity. They are all done up in their wildest and fanciest avatars, hoping that Da5id-The Black Sun's owner and hacker-in-chief-will invite them inside."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, pages 40-41.
"It's ironic that Juanita has come into this place in a low-tech, black-and-white avatar. She was the one who figured out a way to make avatars show something close to real emotion.. they all came to the realization that what made this place a success was not the collision-avoidance algorithms or the bouncer daemons or any of that other stuff. It was Juanita's faces."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, pages 63-64.
Brave new Worlds
"The Movie Star Quadrant is easier to look at. Actors love to come here because in The Black Sun, they always look as good as they do in the movies. And unlike a bar or club in Reality, they can get into this place without physically having to leave their mansion, hotel suite, ski lodge, private airline cabin, or whatever. They can strut their stuff and visit with their friends without any exposure to kidnappers, paparazzi, script-flingers, assassins, ex-spouses, autograph brokers, process servers, psycho fans, marriage proposals, or gossip columnists."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, pages 66.
"People are moving out of the way; something big and inexorable is plunging through the crowd, shoving avatars this way and that. Only one thing has the ability to shove people around like that inside The Black Sun, and thats a bouncer daemon."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, page 76.
One version of the story of the Golem, as told in the on-line interview pieces Adam, Golem, Robot - A Dialogue between Ken Goldberg and Ovid Jacob found at: http://www.cyborganic.com/People/ovid/agr.html goes as follows:
Rabbi Loew asks the creature to fetch water from the well. The Rabbi goes upstairs to sleep and awakens to discover that the entire house is filled with water! The Golem continues dutifully fetch water until the Rabbi tricks it into leaning close enough that the Rabbi can erase the first letter inscribed on its forehead, thus changing Emet (Truth, or Life) to Mem (Death), whereupon the Golem turns into a lifeless mass of clay which crushes the Rabbi to death. Again, harsh consequences for the creator. As a Computer Scientist I note that the rabbi's fatal error was to forget to specify what we call a "termination condition". The Golem went into an infinite loop due to a programming error!
Ken Goldberg goes on to conclude:
Prometheus, Icarus, Faust, the Sorcerer's Apprentice, Frankenstein, the Hasidic tale of the Golem. The archetype generally describes a human who creates a creature that comes to life. Initially the creator takes great pride and delight in the creature, until at some point the creature takes a life of its own and runs amok, and in the end the creator pays the consequences for this act of hubris. The event wherein the creator loses control of the creature is a necessary step toward the development of the creature.
For instance, I was in this online environment one time, and I kept hearing about this character named Dr. Sherry. Well, this Dr. Sherry administered questionnaires. Dr. Sherry interviewed people about their lives in this online environment-but I wasn't Dr. Sherry.
However, many people assumed, not unreasonably, that I was this person. I didn't know what to do. So I began looking into the activities of Dr. Sherry, and I found that she was in this online environment all the time. Dr. Sherry would be there at 3 a.m.; she would be there at 6 a.m., and she would be there at 5 p.m.
It finally dawned on me that this person might not be a person at all. She might be a bot that was programmed to interview people about their online experiences. It was an astounding moment: I meet my double and it could be an artificial being.
So I think that bots are a wake up call that we're getting to the point where some of the entities we interact with online may in fact be machines. It makes us reflect on what it is to be intelligent and what it is to be alive.
front an interview with Sherry Turkle, E-Business January 1997 edition (find it at: http://hpcc920.external.hp.com/Ebusiness/january/main1.html)
Netiquette and Community Hosting
"Avatars are not supposed to die. Not supposed to fall apart The Graveyard Daemons will take the avatar to the Pyre, an eternal underground bonfire beneath the center of The Black Sun, and burn it. As soon as the flames consume the avatar, it will vanish from the Metaverse, and then its owner will be able to sign on as usual, creating a new avatar to run around in. But, hopefully, he will be more cautious and polite next time."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, pages 102-103.
ìThe same social mores that exist in the real world persist in cyberspace! That all the pathologies present in the real world are present in cyberspace by virtue of the fact that we are the agents of the pathologies! And when I say "we," I mean the part of us that can squeeze through the keyhole into cyberspace. That's the very interesting point, that cyberspace, I call it the mirror of the third eye, because boy does it show us what you really are! Because if you look in there, and you see dragons and demons and devils, then I know what you are full of, because what you are doing is you are seeing yourself.
Mark Pesce, Florence Italy, June 1996