"Electronic entertainment is mass playtime in
mass culture at a peak moment of feculent commercialism."
--Nicholas von Hoffman--
It had to happen sooner or later. But even given that
probability analysis, I am nevertheless surprised to discover that it has
happened sooner rather than later. I have stumbled upon a virtual reality
whorehouse. A vBordello, as it were.
The time is late, probably after midnight. It doesn't
matter. I am feeling Newtonian in my need for a temporal frame of reference.
Call it 02:15 for the sake of argument.
I'm on inspection duty. In the vCity there are no police,
there cannot be police. I am not the police.
Instead, I am the polis. I make my rounds only to
observe. I give advice. If necessary, I post concerns about vCity sites to the
The GD almost always solves the problem by the relentless
force of its combined persuasion. If it cannot persuade, it isolates via
boycott. Social disapproval can render most vCitizens into quivering apologetic
masses of protoplasm.
But sometimes even the GD is not enough. Then I must
consider calling for banishment. The banned no longer exist
within the walls of the vCity. And there are no walls to the vCity. The
banned are exiles, outcasts. They live. They are free to do what they
wish. But they are not linked to the vCity. Their names are no more.
There are very few with the corporate authority to call for
a ban. I take it very seriously.
When the vCity was first zoned, we knew that zoning was
meaningless. Only voluntary cooperation could separate order from chaos. That
is why we set up the underside, which we called Belowtown.
Belowtown was divided into two sectors called Grunge and
Mole. It was set aside for the knights and pages of anti-civilization.
Strangely enough, the denizens of Belowtown turned out to be the most peaceful
anarchists of all. It was as if they understood that this was truly
their place, where all laws remained unwritten. I love them dearly. They
are my people, these paradoxi. Codebreakers who never break the Code.
No, tonight I am not in Belowtown. I have wandered casually
into Uptown, in Confluencia, to see what passes for entertainment among the
Confluencia was so named because it is the area of the
vCity proper where the Three Rivers meet before flowing towards The Bay. We
could have named it Trois Rivers or Koblenz, but those names were already taken
by real world cities. Confluence seemed too harsh in its rational precision.
"Confluencia" had mellifluence.
Most of my inspection tours are PC-based. Very few sites
are capable of full HMD (Head Mounted Display) and/or MSE (Multiple Sensory
Environment) interactivity. I could go that way if I wanted to, but it is too
slow for inspection tours. When I see something that warrants further
investigation, I bookmark it and go back to it later. There is always more to
see, and always more than I can see.
Confluencia was designed to have a close-in, vaguely
claustrophobic feel to it. The point of reference for the area is the Fountain
Circle. I always lose my sense of direction about a block away from it, but I
know the shops and stores in the area. Once it was all open volume which we
used to call "sponge." Now it has hyperdensity, which we call "onion" Within
the volumes people set up subvolumes, like layers of an onion.
I scroll up a side alley and into one of the older sites. I
know the proprietor well, having e-talked with him before. Actually I don't
know for a fact that he is a he. He registers as vCitizen Justin
There is no reliable econdata on Thyme; he does not
purchase from our corporate network, so we cannot produce a profile. Network
marketing anticipated that problem. We can apply a probability program to his
e-mail. There is a 75% chance, SD5%, that he is male, and nearly a 100%
certainty that he is U.S. or Canadian. The irony being that knowing this, what
do we know? It turns out that the only real way to learn about someone is to
talk with them over a reasonable period of time. No one in marketing seemed to
have anticipated this simple fact. Managers -- the people who hire others --
could have told them this. But the corporation sacrificed middle management on
the altar of Productivity a long time ago. So the freshouts, armed with their
reductionist knowledge, are now more ignorant than ever.
The name of Thyme's establishment is Sage Advice.
The virtual hostess is a busty 3D scapp (self-contained application) named
Rosemary. Maybe Justin has a spice and herb fixation, I don't know. More likely
it's some in-joke from the 1960s. Ah, mental note for marketing: strong
probability that proprietor for this site is 40+. Secondary possibility:
Sage Advice is an entertainment center divided into
a number of suites. Rosemary asks one "what you'd like to do," and gives one a
list of options from a menu. Clicking on an option brings one to that suite
directly. Or, one can simply browse through the halls and floors of the
building, looking at nameplates on doors. Clicking on a nameplate brings up a
description of what is going on inside. Some doors are "locked" to visitors,
and some have no nameplates at all. Some suites have Transparency programs that
allow one to observe what is going on "inside", in a mode called
semi-interactivity. In effect, it is similar to reading a transcript of a
conversation or a closed-caption translation, only it is 3D. (Early on, the 3D
objects interfaces were called windows, but someone -- I forget who, I'd have
to check the Archives on this one -- got a cease and desist letter from a
certain corporation, so now we all call them Transparencies)
I haven't been to Sage Advice for almost six months
real time, and I am astonished at how it has filled out. I can remember when
there was practically nothing here but a ZV (Zoning Volume) and Justin's
architectural shell looked like a warehouse. Rosemary was much flatter
"From sponge to onion" as we say in the vCity business,
though. A ZV is actually a bureaucratic entity, a registry of CCs (City
Coordinates). Some ZVs can encompass tens of thousands of CCs. A ZV doesn't
have to be a solid cube, however. ZVs can be interlaced with others. Hence, the
term "sponge" to reflect the notion of a volume whose density is variable and
which can "fill out" over time.
Sage Advice is actually a typical ZV, and works on
the same principle as an office building ZV. Opening a door to a suite
functionally transfers one to another site and, possibly, another server
somewhere else on Earth. So when, on the third floor of the building, I find a
lime green door with a silver nameplate marked Exon Inspiration and I
"enter" the suite, I am transferred to a new location no longer under Justin's
jurisdiction. The CC may be inside of his ZV, but it is not necessarily
registered to him. He merely maintains the link.
Exon Inspiration turns out to be a very
sophisticated site devoted to interactive, 3D pornography. This is why browsing
is necessary and intelligence is useful. The suite was not listed by the
ever-helpful and always smiling Rosemary scapp. The name of the suite itself
would not ordinarily trigger an anti-pornography seeker program. In fact, to be
curious at all about what lay beyond the green door, one would have to know
what Exon meant. Or in this case, who.
A large, beefy bouncer scapp looking curiously similar to a
befuddled Mr. T. asks me if I am over 18 years of age. When I reply yes, he
further asks me for my vCitizen identification number.
This program is already more sophisticated than most, and I
am relieved to see elementary safeguards installed. It was one of the first
things our corporation designed for the vCity, a basic pass system called
Turnpike (Copyright). Easy to install for only $9.99 plus applicable sales tax.
Easy to hack, too, but that fact is generally not advertised.
I type in my vC ID, which is 000.000.000.000.001.
There is a monetary pause. That is not a typo. There is a
program running which is checking my ability to pay for services rendered or
products purchased or downloaded.
The Mr. T. type plasters a dreadful smile on his "face".
"You're credit is always good with us, First Citizen," he announces.
Of course it is.
"What kind of system are you running?" asks the bouncer
I enter the data from an easy-to-use menu. I recognize the
menu driver as a cheap freeware version of our own corporate package, Free
"OK," responds the face, his torso now absent. This is
unsettling. "We're working on HMD and MSE stuff that will guarantee you a good
time. Jack in, jerk off!"
Exon Inspiration is a
nightmare. It's a movable, interactive Bosch painting. Being PC-based as I am,
I can only mostly observe various sexual activities taking place, ranging from
the sublime to the ridiculous. From a purely technical standpoint, I have to
admit that the 3D is excellent. Whoever designed this put in a lot of time and
The PC-based interactivity is shallow. In one room, the
visitor is given a range of gender options and a menu of body types, and is
allowed to "participate" in twosomes, threesomes, and N-somes. In the PC-based
version, what this amounts to is observing one's own avatar and either
dominating or submitting to numerous carnal choices with scapps and possibly
I think I would be apprehensive about trying out the HMD or
MSE versions. In addition to stimulation and penetration of every imaginable
orifice with various organs, limbs, and devices, I see also bondage,
bestiality, child molestation, rape, torture, and murder.
That isn't even the worst part, though, from a conceptual
In one area, one can engage in sex with moving body
parts. Seeing a floating, pulsating penis build a memory with an
undulating, gaping vagina puts a whole new spin on the concept of T&A.
I've seen enough.
Back at the front entrance, the bouncer scapp has been
replaced by a leather-bedecked, whip-equipped amazon dominatrix who informs me
that the charges are $29.99 plus applicable sales tax and have been
automatically deducted from my checking account.
Not quite, madam.
The scapp smiles. "Come again. . .and again!"
I am returned to the third floor of the Sage
This requires some research which I can easily do at my
desktop. As the keeper of the Archives, I can go anywhere, delve into any file,
within the simulation. The Exon Inspiration has existed for 19 days. The
name of the vCitizen to whom the Exon Inspiration CCs are registered is
Lee Ward. S/he has an e-mail address that looks to be an educational site --
the real University in Sydney, if I'm not mistaken -- in Australia. The
SLIP/PPP server address s/he is using to collect tele-income, however, is
located in the Bahamas.
There is not much I will do at this early point except post
TO: "Lee Ward" / VCID
FROM: First Citizen / VCID 000.000.000.000.001
DATE: 20 JUN 02, 02:18 EDT
RE: Exon Inspiration
Regarding the Exon Inspiration, the First Amendment
to the U.S. constitution does not protect pornography. Since you are located in
Australia and your VR files are located on a server in the Bahamas, however,
this is probably irrelevant to you.
To be honest, there isn't any action we, as a U.S.-based
corporation, can take short of pulling the plug on you. For both PR and legal
reasons, we prefer not to do this.
Therefore, let us try a different approach. Allow us to
reason with you.
The vCity was established to provide our corporation with a
marketing tool to engage people, both our customers and other net users, in a
continuing multilogue about the future. Quite simply, we want to know what our
customers want, to serve their needs and interests better. Owing to the long
lead time for some project development, it helps us to know these market
demands in advance. Also, by engaging our customers in a multilogue early, we
can get them to provide input prior to product launch.
Your site, linked through Confluencia ZV:(+)17/(-)190/(+)84,
is technically quite proficient. You should consider contacting our human
resources representative in Sydney about possible employment with the
corporation or one of our many transnational partner firms.
The subject matter leaves much to be desired, however. Is
this really the kind of future you desire? A dehumanizing pleasure economy? A
world in which people consider other people as body parts to be exploited,
abused, and ultimately destroyed?
My personal opinion, for what it is worth, is that while
your VR form is very beautiful, its substance leaves no room for advancement of
the human spirit. I find it difficult to believe that God placed us here on
Earth in order to engage in idle debasement.
Meanwhile, I post a short missive to the GD Board:
TO: Goodwill Division / VCID:
FROM: First Citizen/ VCID: 000.000.000.000.001
DATE: 20 JUN 02, 02:26 EDT
RE: Zoning Violation Referendum
By the corporate authority vested in me on 01 OCT 97, 00:01
EST, section VI, subsection IX, paragraph 4.1, I hereby call a referendum of
the citizens of the vCity to determine if the city coordinates (as attached)
known as the Exon Inspiration shall be considered in violation of the zoning
instructions for the Confluencia zoning volume in which it resides.