I apologize for not being able to correct the title of this post so as to conform to the new trademark policy of Linden Research. A suggestion by the office of C. Linden and / or Linden Research’s
censorship bureau is however pending.
Linden Lab’s ban on
SL banks is in effect as of today, on the dot two weeks after it has been announced. Two weeks in which, in the words of Massively’s Tateru Nino:
…we’ve had protests – some assuredly genuine, some apparently staged – runs on banks (a sort of game of musical chairs, where everyone hopes not to be the one left standing when the music stops), and the usual commingled mish-mash of cheering, screaming, jesting and angry outbursts…
– much of it happening in the
SL blogosphere (see my own round-up of it here). Now the grace period is over, the economic effect of the ban turns to have fallen somewhat short of the sky caving in, in fact seeming to be near to negligible for the SL economy as a whole (though I am sure that on the personal level, for people having lost money in the crash, this is an entirely different story).
Seeing that and the fact that Linden Lab seem nowhere close to reverting their decision, the discussion of the pro and con seems to have petered out somewhat. Artur Fermi stating in essence ‘Good riddance, and keep the hype down’ on Your2ndPlace and Aldon Huffhines / Hynes arguing on SLNN that Linden Lab’s decision is ill conceived and drives needed financial services out of the official
grid, and that LL should reconsider are more or less the last ones to battle it out. Prokofy Neva and Benjamin Duranske on the other hand have added most welcome shades of grey to the often black and white discussion by casting some light on the people behind the banks. So, what am I up to, besides fawning for some more pats on the back for my diligent compiling work?
Well, there is a twist on the debate I find fascinating: it is the guessing going on about LL’s rationale. Everyone I spoke to on the matter seems to have their own pet theory of why the Lindens acted the way they did (starting from one very smart person dear to my heart, Void Singer, whom I mention here because she wrenched that contribution from the claws of her depression; please go over to her blog and give her a virtual hug, everybody). One of the more popular theories seems to be that LL faced a subpoena in the legal battle (purportedly, one should add) pitting Midas Commons against the World Stock Exchange – read the gist of it here. Note that this conclusion is basically, and somewhat daringly, extrapolated from a blog entry by Lindsey Druart of in-world L & L Corporation. Put in less kind terms, it is sheer guesswork based on a single, unverified source.
Now I’m not bashing Aldon; the same remark holds true of all other theories, including my own. Just watch us pundits latch on minute signs, nearly unrelated facts, few and in between sources inside and outside the Lab – unverifiable by the very lack of collateral information – as well as on the occasional leaked document (with its authenticity, and possible rationale for the leak, discussed, as it was for Philip Rosedale’s internal email on Cory Ondrejka’s departure from the Lab – see here and here for examples); watch us construct theories (again, and with my apologies for this kind of reference, see here and here) on the Lab’s internals decision making processes, power balance and future direction on the authority of these crumbs. Doesn’t it all strike you as very reminiscent of the guesswork, sorry, I meant to say political analysis, going on when it comes to judging the internal decision making of authoritarian and tightly knit RL regimes, say contemporary China, or the defunct Soviet Union?
To me it does. For a company liking to extol how transparent they are, Linden Lab excel at keeping their motivations and internal workings to themselves (the pronouncements on their intentions by their speakers – well, Robin Linden / Harper mostly – remaining cryptic, vague, and, of course, entirely non binding) leaving observers to their second-guessing, most of us probably doomed to finding ourselves far out on a limb retrospectively.
More than a simple curio, the similarity highlights one harsh fact: benign as King Philip might intend its rule to be, Linden private law (privilege – ever wondered about the etymology?) reigns supreme over
Second Life, by its very nature despotic (despotism having very little to do with the goodwill of the rulers, or the style of their rule). Internal power struggles in the ruling group are the only politics, mock-democratic crowd mood sounding systems like the public JIRA notwithstanding. That is the status quo of Second Life’s burgeoning society.
RL history shows that evolving societies do not tolerate despotic regimes indefinitely. They either topple over, or evolve before they get toppled over.
Second Life’s society is evolving; maybe it is time that we, as its members, start pushing.