The Second Life Philip Linden/Gavin Newsom Fireside Chat, part 2

This is the second of two parts to the Fireside Chat between Second Life's Philip Rosedale (aka Philip Linden) and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at the New Globe Theater, a meeting held and sponsored by Millions of Us, a metaverse development company (MDC), with Reuben Millionsofus as moderator. This is the mp3 and transcript of part two of the chat. You can hear and read part 1 here. Enjoy!

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[Thanks, Celebrity!] PL: Everybody can't see here, but, y'know, I turn my camera as Philip here around so we're kinda looking at the whole audience, talk about the –

GN: Diversity?

PN: -- as you may be, diversity, who you really want to be, y'know, what's, what's the more real you, the body that is you, or the you that you construct in an environment where there are tremendous sort of challenges, you have to get along with people, you have to strike a, strike a pose in an appearance to make sense, but you're tremendously more free in doing that, and articulating that, than you, than you are in the real world. And just looking at the audience here, I mean, wow, y'know, it shows you how true that is, and if you fundamentally believe as I think we both do, that diversity drives success, in a lot of different ways, y'know, here it is. So, let's see, what about, we were talking about something earlier. Sort of, architecture, and reimagining cities. Y'know, one of your challenges, I mean, you've got lots of challenges around. Reimagining, and then reconstructing and changing, creating change, through the challenges that are there in a real city. One of the things I think Second Life's very powerful for and that there have been some examples of so far, is doing that by modeling, y'know, real places in Second Life and then allowing people that live in those real places to come in, y'know, tear them apart, rebuild them, reimagine them, live in a virtual world. There's a couple places where that's happened, there was a park that was near, if I remember, that was near LaGuardia Airport in New York where the borough there opened the park in Second Life and let people from there in New York redesign the park, put up all the facilities where they wanted it. And then have an ongoing debate about this. And I'm thinking that that would be a very powerful way to take on some of the very hard problems that you're facing.

GN: Ah, I love that, and in no more important place than our southeast sector in San Francisco where we're struggling to reconcile the Industrial Age economy by shutting down two of the more polluted power plants in North America. And really focus on the future of reclaiming those sites and this is an area that literally being sketched as we speak and the idea to do it in the virtual world, I'm absolutely intrigued. I love that idea, that very significant idea. 'Course, the challenge again, it goes back to the technology question. And it is yet to be fully addressed. It's one thing to have the tools to enter into this virtual world, it's another to be able to a) afford them, and b) to be able to find them as you say ubiquitously and that's why our free wi-fi in San Francisco is so important, we have a lot of work to do make that happen, but we will become that first city to provide that to all San Franciscans regardless of where they live and how much they earn.

PL: Yeah, absolutely. That is the final step that we've all got to get over, is putting a laptop in everybody's hands, so they can be there. And you're right, y'know, in terms of rebuilding a city or rebuilding a neighborhood, y'know, you wanna let everybody take part in the conversation.

GN: Everybody has a say. Exactly, yeah. But a great idea, I love, I hate any time New York does something before we do it, so it's my competitive juices going, so we'll trump that. Nice try, Bloomberg.

PL: That's great, that's great. Well, let's see, I don't know if we've reached the point where we wanna take some questions? Do we wanna, do we wanna do that?

RM: Sure! So lemme go through what we've got. The first thing that people seem to ubiquitously want to know, and I think this is a bias of this particular audience, when do they get their free wi-fi?

GN: Yeah, well done, I had to bring that up. [laughter] Well, we had a deal with Earthlink and Google, it fell through just a few months ago and today we announced a new strategy with these network of super, of service providers that are coming more organically and sort of connecting that network that organic network in a much more systemic way and so we're gonna be working with a number of those service providers and making some announcements, more specific announcements in the next few weeks on how San Francisco can achieve this called 'Focusing on the Digital Divide', which means focusing on those areas that have been left out of this new economy to date, and then we'll advance it to everybody else shortly thereafter, so it's going to happen, mark my words, one of my principal commitments coming into my second term, and as they say in church, 'God's delays are not God's denials'.

RM: Okay, excellent. There's a, before I take the next question, there's a story from the early days of Second Life that I think is particularly germane to the direction in which this discussion has gone. One of the early users was at the time she discovered Second Life was homeless, and during the days in the Winter, she would go to the public library, sort of the predecessor to free public wi-fi, where there was high-bandwidth connectivity. And she was living on the streets in real life, but in Second Life she built a castle. And from that castle she constructed an empire, which allowed her to get a real home, and she's gone on to great prominence in Second Life. It's sort of a poignant story, right?

PL: I should note for Gavin's benefit that this was not in San Francisco. [laughter]

GN: Darn it!

PL: Well, she wasn't, she wasn't homeless in San Francisco.

GN: Yeah, no, I gotcha. Too many people are, but we're working on that, that's the aspirational model that we're talking about, that's exactly what it's all about.

PL: It's very powerful. I mean, there's so many cases where Second Life and just, I think virtual worlds in general as they go forward are gonna create jobs for people and that's gonna be a fascinating thing to watch.

RM: So I'm gonna go into the next question here. Codewarrior Carling asks, Codewarrior if you wouldn't mind raising your hand, you probably have to stand up to do so. Codewarrior asks does allowing input via virtual reality into city planning risk slanting things toward geeks? [laughter] And leaving out normal people?

GN: No, in fact, that is exactly, that's a great question. And that's exactly what we were, what we're trying to address here in terms of any effort to do that, we need to make sure that we provide that technology and that capacity and the ability to all of our citizens including, I think it's a perfect segue to what you said, people that aren't, that don't have housing. That may not even be residents. You know, I'm very proud of San Francisco as a sanctuary city. That stood very much in strong contrast to what's going on in the federal government here in this country, sort of anti-immigration flare-up. And this city cares about its residents regardless of their immigration status so that's something else that's important. So regardless of your income, regardless, again, of your race and your gender and your sexual orientation, regardless if you're rich or poor, you have a house, you don't have a house and you just came here a week ago or a year ago or twenty years ago, it is fundamental. And it's fundamental in the question that everybody have that access so that we truly can be representative of this great city.

PL: You know what I would say, though, is much like the emergence of the Web, and some of the big Web communities like eBay for example, which we touched on earlier, it's surprising how much the early users of Second Life are in many cases not geeks. It's a very diverse society. I would say that in Second Life we all have the time to invest there. Because at this point it is still difficult, it's still early, it's still hard to get things figured out, it's amazing when you meet people how much, y'know, their age ranges more than you might think, and how much their background ranges, so, y'know, I'd add on that, y'know, well, give us a chance, y'know, we may be a little bit geeky as a virtual world –

GN: Why are you so sensitive about geeks? It's all good! We're all inherently geeks!

PL: Yeah, yeah. Worried, like a true geek, for me.

RM: So the next question comes from Kattier Riteveldt and please forgive me if I've mispronounced that (and forgive me if I've misspelled that! – Akela). She asks does San Francisco use Second Life at all as a city or have plans to do so beyond fireside chats?

GN: Well done. Good question, and we've been talking a lot about that before we came on and we have some ideas using our mayor's office and neighborhood services which is sort of the portal to contact our city and we have a new 311 call center which is sort of that one line, or that does it all and now we're looking to drill that down towards manifesting real service delivery. And we look forward to advancing these discussions shortly after we get off here today, so the answer is yes, we have plans, we just don't know exactly how those plans are gonna take shape just yet.

RM: Great. So, one thing I thought I'd throw in here, first of all I'd like to, to ask folks, specifically Eric Rice, to throw out more questions, but in the intervening time as folks compose their thoughts, it strikes me as we talk about the virtual worlds and the intersection of real world governance, and the virtual frontier, there's this sort of union that's going on in Tokyo, for instance, you're not really getting one-upped by New York right now, but Tokyo is breathing down your neck. And they're in the process of building something called Virtual Tokyo, which is this interesting confluence of sort of startup culture, sort of witness it in Second Life, and corporate underwriting, so someone has to pay for the building of Virtual Tokyo, it doesn't just materialize. So, Toyota and Hitachi and then, and then local issues, right? So perhaps that can serve as a model, despite the falling apart of the Google/Verizon deal.

GN: Earthlink, yeah.

PL: We started seeing people reassembling fragments of cities, Second Life, to build a whole city in Second Life is very expensive if you're an individual content developer in Second Life. Because that's a lot of servers. But we have seen pieces of cities starting to be built, you know, we've mentioned this Tokyo project. I think there's a fascinating kind of mirror world of the future here, people in Second Life talk about it a lot, that it's just interesting to share of, of the yeah that this sort of virtual adjunct to the real world, and the virtual world's, of course, much bigger in terms of what people wanna do with it, not just rebuilding the real world, but rebuilding the real world has some fascinating information aspects to it, y'know, imagine the ways that you could allow people to provide extended services to each other or advertise to each other or do whatever essentially atop a virtual model of the real world. I know it's something we think about, but I have no idea what's gonna happen. I'd say –

GN: It's better than us making all the mistakes that we make in the real world, and then having to fix them. I mean, obviously, a way to experiment, trial and error, and to get the input and feedback and that perspective, I mean, that's, again, that doesn't surprise me, though. I was just over in Japan, we have a sister city with Osaka, and, again, this is why, I mean I don't wanna start becoming, y'know, I'm not wearing a red tie, so I can say this without being accused of being too political, but that's why this country better wake up to what's going on in the rest of the world. I mean, we were, I think, y'know, third or fourth in broadband access, just a few years ago. And now we're fifteenth, sixteenth in the world. Depending on, again, the stats you use. This is suggestive, they've already moved to that whole next phase in Tokyo, and it doesn't surprise me at all. Again, it's great those models are out there, because we can, if we have the courage, we have to go out and find them and try to adopt them uniquely in our own strategies.

PL: It's so funny. As leaders, it's as if you're doing the hard work of helping our community catch up with where it needs to with the rest of the world, technology, education. We, on the other hand, are basically trying to make it matter less. By putting everybody in one space so that they can educate each other. I guess it's kinda like if either or both of us succeed then it's all good.

GN: Well-stated. [laughter]

RM: So, the next question comes from Fleep Tuque, and the question for Gavin is any thoughts about taxation policy in virtual worlds?

GN: Ahh. My gosh.

RM: How much do you want?

GN: It's a democracy, and I will listen to the people first, before we make that determination and over-regulate. In fact, today I called for cutting taxes for small businesses, so I have to keep in that theme. But y'know, it's an interesting question. And that goes, again, to governance. Goes to the tough questions you'll ask yourself as you build something, how do you build for the greater good, how do you invest in the future, and who pays for it? I love the question because it's very suggestive, the question I've asked every single day as mayor of this real world of San Francisco. Though it's a world that's often been described as forty-seven and a half square miles surrounded by reality. [laughter]

RM: Surrounded by virtual reality.

GN: Virtual reality.

RM: To put a point on that question, to make it sort of a little more real, San Francisco's an expensive city to live in. Right? I, personally, operate a business here, where we have forty employees. Right? Then we have another hundred around the world. And many days I envy them. Because, guess what? They're living, they're earning wages for a company based here, doing stuff in virtual reality, but they may be living in places where their mortgage is three hundred dollars. It's a very potentially disruptive thing that's about to –

GN: No, I agree with you. And then it goes to quality of life. And what we offer competitively against someone who's able to afford a mortgage, or find a mortgage who can get down to three hundred dollars a month. And that's my job. I never would, would have never though, nor do I believe that San Francisco would be the most cost-competitive city, but I think it's the best city to do business. And I think there's a reason that you're succeeding here. And again, it's that remarkable concentration of people from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, and that quality of imagination. And the remarkable capacity for the city through its tolerance and its diversity to attract people like mine from around the world. That's a magical thing, and that's something you can't necessarily put a price to, in spite of our struggle, to make San Francisco more affordable to everybody. And that is a struggle, and a perennial task. I think, fundamentally, if we get into just making our city the cheapest city to work in and do business in, then we'll lose part of what makes this city a great city, and lose that soul and lose that nuance and complexity and those layers and layers that make it such a spectacular place to be.

RM: So we have time for one more question. This one comes from Akela Talamasca, and he says congratulations on your engagement! [laughter]

GN: How did he know about that?

PL: That's not a question!

GN: Unbelievable. Now he wants advice? Marital advice?

RM: He goes on to say do you see a use for the networking capability of Second Life in local governmental affairs? Like, for instance, holding San Francisco town meetings in Second Life?

GN: Oh, the answer's absolutely yes. I thought you were gonna ask if I planned to do my wedding in this virtual world. [laughter] But, no I, nothing, in fact, that's, to me, self-evident here today, is the town hall opportunities, and that's something I believe so passionate in, I've done a lot of town hall meetings, and to extend it to this next phase would be great, and here we have someone that I doubt will be arriving at any of my town hall meetings anytime soon. [laughter]

RM: Never bet against a six-inch tall fox with a[n] eyepatch. [laughter]

GN: No, absolutely not.

RM: Well, this has been great.

GN: This was awesome.

RM: I'm glad we got a chance to do this. It's been fantastic to have you, and congratulations again on being our mayor for the second time.

GN: I appreciate it. Congrats on your success, as well.

PL: Keep working on ways to, keep working on things to do. Thank you so much.

GN: Thank you, thank you everyone, for participating.

RM: Excellent. Thank you, everyone!

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This article was originally published on Massively.