It is an uncertain world that we live in – we may think we have it all sewn up, with everything neatly in its place and doing exactly what we want it to do, but the reality is, we’re not in control. It doesn’t matter which way you look at it: Whether you believe that God, physics, fate, aliens or sheer luck is running the show, once thing is certain – it’s not us!
We like think that we’re in charge, but even the most banal of occurrences can serve to remind us that the extent to which we control even our own man-made environment is pretty limited and by no means immune to flaws and failures. This week, a rogue quarter-inch pipe decided to disconnect itself from a tap at my workplace and spent the whole of Monday night merrily hosing out water at high pressure. The end result was a three-storey, modern office building reduced to a rather wet, completely unusable shell, several thousands in damage, and being put out of use for 7 days. It’s been a fun week!
Which prompted me to wonder… What if that had happened at Linden Lab’s offices, rather than my own? We often see assertions that SL is doomed and that the Lindens could flick the off-switch whenever they feel like it, but the assumption always seems to be that it would be a deliberate, conscious decision, when – if you consider all the possibilities, there’s a whole host of potential scenarios that could easily result in ‘game over’, that could happen in a flash and nobody would even know they were coming. Explosion, fire, flood, zombie apocalypse, killer meteor, alien invasion – these could all spell the end for SL as we know it, as could the very real threat – considering where the Lab is based – of earthquake. Only this week, warnings that the Hayward Fault could soon slip with brutal consequences were given – let’s hope that doesn’t happen, more so for the residents of SF than for any other reason, but it is another potential harbinger of doom for SL.
Or is it?
Even if all of the above were to occur, it wouldn’t necessarily spell the end for SL – whilst it might put an abrupt end to research and development, maintenance and support services, the virtual world itself would probably continue to function much as it always has, at least until somebody stopped paying the bills. SL is not solely based in one office in San Francisco – many of the Lab’s personnel work remotely and the virtual world itself is distributed across a number of server farms – it would take a concerted and targeted effort to take the whole thing down, and even the loss of a couple of server centres wouldn’t entirely bring SL to its knees, as we know from past experience of DDOS attacks that have adversely affected its supply network. SL, whatever we may think, is actually pretty robust.
Even if the worst case scenario was to occur, there’s no reason why SL shouldn’t continue to function for quite some time beyond what we might expect – it doesn’t need people to function, and as long as there’s a power supply and barring any fatal breakdowns, it could pretty much go on functioning for years, and if that was the case, just imagine how weird that could be…
Picture a world – post zombie apocalypse: Society has collapsed and gangs of shuffling, brain-eating zombies roam the streets. Those who have escaped their clutches hide behind barricaded doors, jealously guarding the rations they have hoarded, loaded weapons within arm’s reach. In the corner of the darkened cellar, a computer monitor glows as the room’s sole occupant stares at the screen, occasionally tapping away at the keyboard on their lap. On the screen: A virtual world – SL – a reminder of happier times when the streets were safe to walk and where people gathered to laugh, dance, shop and socialise. And, through the medium of SL, life – albeit virtually – still goes on, just as it did before, despite the fall of society beyond the walls behind which people hide. Here, at least, there is still a semblance of normality. As you sit silently, watching events unfold in the virtual world, a disturbing reminder of the real world outside sneaks in… Another tremor, stronger this time, and you wonder when the big one will strike. Vaguely you hope that when the quake comes, it will wipe out the zombies; but maybe it won’t… just so long as it doesn’t wipe out the power.
Not the power… that would be unbearable.
there is a place that still remains
it eats the fear it eats the pain
the sweetest price he’ll have to pay
the day the whole world went away
Nine Inch Nails – The Day The World Went Away