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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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vCity 1.0
Chapter 24

"Everybody I see about me seems bent on teaching his contemporaries, by precept and example, that what is useful is never wrong. Will nobody undertake to make them understand how what is right may be useful?"

-- Alexis de Tocqueville --

It has now been almost sixteen full days since I called the referendum on the Exon Inspiration site, and someone -- Lee Ward, presumably -- has become very, very wealthy. Over thirty million people have voted in this referendum already, and there should be a heavy turnout on the final weekend. Ever since the casbar problem disappeared, more people have been able to access the site. Of course, not everybody who voted actually saw the site for themselves. I'd be willing to wager that the seven million new vCitizens bussed in by the Slightly Holier Than Thou Coalition did not visit the site, just merely registered and voted to ban. There's no telling how much money the Exon Inspiration has made, but I'd be willing to guess at least $30 million. That's not a bad return on $400,000 worth of VR design effort. It puts the current efforts of the movie-making business in clearer perspective, I think. Why pay production costs and payroll costs of $20 million to make $90 million, when one conceivably need only pay out $1.2 million to make $90 million? Of course the actors, screenwriters, and gaffers of the world may not see it that way.

At these figures, I imagine I'll be besieged with people begging me to call a referendum upon them, so that they, too, can get rich. Well, the hell with that. There's got to be a way around that problem, what's the solution? Where's my Bulls cap?

Oh yes, the vote count. I almost forgot. It's just about dead-even now. Fifteen and a quarter million (51%) voted no, fourteen and three-quarters million (49%) voted yes. And we got seven million new vCitizens of whom perhaps one million might actually stay with the vCity and learn from it, become part of it, help us chart a better future. That's the real return -- all the rest is merely transient bullshit.

Friday night services during the summer at a reform Jewish temple are quickies, what my mother-in-law once summarily dismissed as Sabbath Lite. Let us come together, to kindle the sabbath lite. You're in, you're out, shabbat shalom!

As the oneg was winding down, our rabbi came up to me. She wanted to discuss the virtual city with me, to see if she understood all the nuances of what was going on. I wasn't really sure if she was against the ban or in favor of it.

"I think what you're doing is a great service," she said earnestly.

"Well, it's mostly a business operation, reb," I told her. "If it didn't make money, I doubt our corporation would be involved with it."

"True, true," she nodded absently. "But I like the social activism. And it's worldwide, too! Everybody talking, arguing with each other. Very promising."

"I'd like to think so."

"Oh, absolutely! If the Internet didn't exist, the Jews would have had to invent it."

"What?" I laughed.

"No kidding," she laughed in response. "We are still the Chosen people, you know."

"Chosen to do what?"

"Ah," she replied, no longer smiling. "Now, that is the question, isn't it? For almost six thousand years we have struggled to answer that question. Why did God choose Abraham? Moses? Each one of us? What is the point of being Jewish today?"

"Well. . ." I began.

"Don't stop me, I'm on a roll," she said breathlessly. "Monotheism? No, that's largely been accomplished. Almost 75% of the world population now believes in one God. Representative government? Done that too. 70% of all the world's population is republican or democratic now. Social welfare and social responsibility? Spread those concepts too. So what's left?"

"Return to Eden?" I offered.

"You betcha. See, the Diaspora forced Jews to think globally and act locally. One planet, one people. We were futurists long before the word was invented. Shomrei Adamah, you know? Stewards of the Earth. We are still Chosen to carry out this task. We must make all the world One. And on that day, God's name will be One, and error shall be no more."

"Amen, reb," I say cheerfully. "I was actually thinking along more spiritual lines."


"Sure. Did you ever think about the possibility that what we consider reality is, from God's perspective, only virtual?"

She looked at me with a mysterious twinkle in her eyes. "Keep going."

"Well, suppose that the body is the avatar of the soul. We move around, we interact, we live our lives here on Earth producing and consuming, creating and destroying, attending weddings and births and funerals. Perhaps all of this is merely a very elaborate illusion, however. The reality is not here at all, but in some other dimension where immortal souls exist. Perhaps souls assume bodies from time to time, for amusement or for some greater purpose which I do not profess to understand. The Forest Green that stands before you is merely a name, a persona -- an alter ego for a soul that has some other name."

"The Name that is spoken is not the Eternal Name," she said.

"Right. Perhaps this soul of mine has taken other personas in the past, or will again in the future. Perhaps Earth is but one small virtual reality world within the entire Internet that we call the physical Universe. Perhaps a four dimensional Universe is but one tiny, visible aspect -- a technology, if you please -- of a much greater reality of God."

"Do you believe in what you're saying?"

"Well, sometimes. It's an interesting theory that would certainly tie together many of the world's great religions and a few of the minor ones. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time that technological metaphor has been used to inspire a new paradigm. The creation of precision clock-making, for example, inspired many European theologists to think of God in terms of a watchmaker who designed the Universe to work perfectly without tinkering. This led many Europeans to search for the underlying order, and to perceive the world in mechanistic terms."

"Why do you think God created time and space, then?"

"I don't know. That is not information available to mere avatars. A software program does not question the existence of the Internet, it merely goes about its business. My soul might know the answer to that question. If you asked me why did people create the Internet, I'm not sure I could give you a good answer."

She pursed her lips and paused a few seconds in thought. "Then you think that the Earth could be like your virtual city?"

"Could be."

"Isn't that a dangerous theology? I mean, if we destroy the Earth, for example, what difference would it make under your system?"

"To us? Or to God?"


"Well, the avatars would cease to exist, of course, as well as all scapps, all terrain, everything. But from a soul's point of view, that's meaningless. You're asking me, what if the simulation itself were shut down? I guess souls would go somewhere else. God would create a new one and try again. But perhaps the point is to try to keep ours going rather than let it degenerate into chaos."

"Sounds like there's a good sermon in there somewhere," she said.

"Good versus Evil, reb. Always a winner."

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