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Reader Comments (55)

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 1:19AM (Unverified) said

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Tateru, you've declared this basic, obvious manifestation of the human self -- the avatar -- in a basic, obvious, environment of rights or not-rights in this way in order to violate the avatars' rights, and to pretend they don't -- or worse, cannot physically or legally or logically -- exist. Nice try, but avatars go on fighting for their rights. How do they know they have them? When they are violated!

It's like going to another country with a passport. If you're going to claim that an avatar is merely a tool like a passport, and that while I'm in this realm of the game gods I have to do as the Romans do, and can't expect not to be deported if I violate a local law, you're not conceding that in real life, all the Romans are urged to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and moreoever, *the Romans do*.

You're saying that game gods get to keep positing "Rome" and never sign any UDHR and never zoom out above their "Rome".

If you're going to reduce the avatar to a mere appendage, a mere "email attachment" as Benjamin Duranske dismissively puts it (he doesn't want avatar rights, either, evidently), then you're diminishing the scope for the human to claim and enjoy rights in the game-god domain.

There's no reason why games and worlds should be somehow so magic and so special, that they get to violate rights that everywhere else pertain -- and I'm not talking about the violation of rights that accrue from gameplay, i.e. the violation of the right to life in World of Warcraft in a role play of battle.

By declaring avatar rights as moot and even off-topic and some separate list called "user rights" you're merely adopting the game lobbyists stance, not surprisingly, as coders and Platformers are usually strictly loyal to the game companies above all.

Posted: Jan 16th 2008 10:55AM (Unverified) said

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Well, I was certainly wrong to say that no one seriously believes avatars have rights.

Virtual worlds are the property of their creators, and that is how it should be. Some creators may choose to relinquish or waive some of the property rights over virtual worlds, just as some property owners may be more indulgent of various behaviors on their property, but that's up to them.

I am especially unclear on why the virtual-ness of the world seems to make so much difference. Are the patrons of Disney World unfree because there are rules governing their behavior that they had no say in creating (except, obviously, for their choice to visit and buy tickets)?

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 7:51PM (Unverified) said

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The analogy of Disneyworld is very weak. Because Disneyworld doesn't aspire to be a "Metaverse" encompassing all manner of business, socializing, entertainment, non-profit work, and education. It's a word only for entertainment and tourism, with a beginning, middle, and end. It doesn't endlessly expand as an open-ended premising as an entire "Metaverse".

The "exit clause" is how every tekkie tries to justify their authoritarianism. "If you don't like it, leave." But setting down those kind of nasty, draconian rules everywhere in a growing context where there isn't any place else to go because it's a huge Metaverse -- that's sheer deceptive sophistry.

Right now it's the case that if you don't like the rules "there's the door" because there isn't any world with as much capacity for user creation. User creation *must* include helping to design the rules for the world, too! Why should user creation stop at the door of crafting a sword or making a skin in Photoshop?!

The 'exit clause' is nothing other than a forced expulsion or forced immigration policy to solve the real problem of domestic oppression, and it's not viable as a solution in real life, and I don't see why we need to accept it as one in virtual life.

The anarcho-capitalist/extropian/Randian whatever view being expressed here posits a million private-entrepreneurial worlds, where each one freely makes up it rules and expels people it doesn't like or they can find the door. But there isn't any million worlds. This kind of regime is fake, as there is really only a few big worlds and a lot of little worldlets.

Disneyworld, to succeed, has to accept a certain public mission. It couldn't print on the ticket "We reserve the right to expel you for any reason or no reason". If they began to expel, say, non-English speakers, blacks, Hispanics, you can be sure they'd be the target of a lawsuit or federal action in a jiffy. You can't posit the endless unlimited horizon of anarcho-capitalism forever and ever. Even capitalism and free enterprise -- in their normal and realistic variants as distinct from the Internet extremist variety -- accept that various restraints and checks and balances are needed on capitalism to make capitalism itself go on being viable. It can't destroy or drive away all its customers, obviously.

Nobody gives up their rights in the way you imagine in Disneyworld precisely because Disneyworld accepts a kind of corporate responsibility that you don't seem willing to admit that they have. And in the same way, we need to force game-gods to have the same corporate responsibility that we'd demand of a Disney, a Ford, a Rockefeller, a Vanderbilt or any other captain of industry. They aren't special.
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Posted: Jan 16th 2008 11:51AM (Unverified) said

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Okay, since avatars themselves have no rights, could we get rid of the camping and land bots, pls. They have no right to be here. Kthxbai :)

Posted: Jan 16th 2008 12:28PM (Unverified) said

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I'm not an expert in laws, so this will be more int he form of a question than an affirmation


the example of the chatlog notecard thing

lets say you enter into a company building, a private property, they have a keyboard ona wall that lets you type stuff that will be displayed on a big led based display above the keyboard for a couple of seconds, would it be ilegal for the company to hide the wires to prevent people from intercepting the data transmited between the keyboard and the display and start denying access tot he building to anyone that tried breaking the wall or otherwise trying to incercept the data transfer by any other means than reading what shows ont he display? (this would be analogous to a company allowing people to use their online servers to transfer data in the way they want to allow (for example, chat) while having the client code aswell other parts of the system attempt to prevent the data from being intercepted or copied by any other means than having the human read what shows on the screen, is it not an exact enough match?)

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 10:20AM (Unverified) said

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Nice try, but avatars go on fighting for their rights.

No, users do.

You're saying that game gods get to keep positing "Rome" and never sign any UDHR and never zoom out above their "Rome".

And why should they have to?

Moreover, why the sharp distinction between "game gods" and avatars? Many developers -- most, even -- are also users and avatars in the worlds they've created. They obviously have a lot of say in the rules that govern virtual worlds. But this is not enough, it seems -- you want everyone to have a say, regardless of their qualification. Yet even in the real world, children and convicted felons do not vote.

You seem to be insisting, without any real argument other than "it's just obvious", that users of virtual worlds are somehow citizens, entitled to a panoply of rights directly analogous to the ones in real-world liberal or social democracies. But they aren't. They're guests, just like the patrons of Disney World. And while some real-world rules protect the rights of guests -- such as the examples you give in your note in the Disney World case, or the rules governing reasonable Terms of Use in virtual worlds (no virtual world could charge a subscription fee and then deny access; the owners of that world would be sued and lose), guests do not get to dictate how the host's house is run.

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 10:37AM (Unverified) said

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At the end of the day, a person *with* an avatar has no more and no fewer rights than the person would without an avatar.

There's no magic circle, and no special fantasy that transforms the nature of spaces.

Posted: Jan 18th 2008 1:31PM (Unverified) said

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The fact of th ematter is avatars are manifestations of a beings psyche. The word, avatar, is a hindu word meaning the manifestation of a spirit. There are 2 kinds of avatars. Existers and Extensions. Simply put, the Exister avatar exists as a seperate entity. This entity effects the actions of its mundane. (Mundane types, avatar determines the strokes). Extensions are entities that are one with the mundane. Their voice is that of the mundane or at least a half second behind or before the mundane.

To catagorcally say...avatars "do not exist" is repulsively naive to how many view their virtual existance.

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 4:03PM (Unverified) said

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I disagree with you across the board: http://sophrosyne-sl.livejournal.com/52892.html

In short:

1. Tools *do* have rights of their own: see the 400 year history of the corporation.

2. There's a good claim (though there are arguments on the other side) that a person should not lose core rights when they act in a digital, as opposed to an atomic, space. Thus, persons should have similar rights when acting through avatars as when they act through physical bodies.

3. The concept of "one body, one person" is peculiar to this particular moment in moral/political history. Two hundred years ago few people would have drawn the circle of personhood so broadly; two hundred years from now, no one will draw it so narrowly. Equating one person - one body - one avatar is unwise and perhaps immoral.

Posted: Jan 17th 2008 7:49PM (Unverified) said

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1. A corporation is an organization, not a tool. They also are treated by law as an entity.

2. I agree with that. See the comment directly above yours.

3. I have no opinion or position either way on that.

Since we are not in disagreement on any of these three points, where's the problem?
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Posted: Jan 17th 2008 7:52PM (Unverified) said

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Tigro, you're not making any sense. There aren't any examples in real life as you say, where a keyboard is intercepted in the lobby of a building blah blah. Please try again.

Sophrosyne, you're right on no. 2 that a person shouldn't lose their rights just because they manifest as an avatar, any more than they lose their rights when they manifest as "student" or "driver" or "unemployed" or "returner of bottles". People definitely have a claim to the same rights they have offline in the meat-world as they have in the meta-world; precisely because there is nothing so truly magical and special about these realms that those in fact who accept that they are realistic and immersive also demand that the human using the avatar as an extension/metaphor/tool not be stripped of his rights while using that tool in the coders' space.

But then, due to your Extropian beliefs, you lurch off into something truly scary and insane, and that's why we all have to be worried.

While individual rights have not been protected throughout history as much as they are today, the idea that there is some collectivized human in the past belongs to utopian and dystopian and totalitarian clap-trap, not actuality. People have always been recognized as individuals with lineage and distinct names and features. They may have been expected to conform to the tribe or state to a great or lesser extention, but the idea that their physical unique body was somehow invalid is preposterous.

When a person is hurt, they say ouch. The tribe and the state may or may not say ouch. Whenever I heard this particular bad form of argument, that rights are not universal, that they are flexible and change over history and merely culturally dictated, blah blah, I am reminded of what Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, used to say. That an African woman, even if she was in the bush, without education, without knowledge, would know what torture was, and would know when it had happened to her son, and would cry. And that's pretty basic stuff. A person tortured, and those close to them, know when they have been violated.

The idea that we are to give up our bodily integrity (one of the basic human rights) for some abstract collectivism in 200 years is frightful -- and also not very realistic. It's part of the insanity of this brain-loading stuff, that various collectivized and controlled artificial or uploaded or whatever beings will exist not in bodies. Of course, even in this fantasy, there's still usually a handful of unaccountable leaders running everything, hiding behind the Hive Mind, as always occurs with these fake wikis we see encroaching everywhere.

I fail to see why integrity of the body and integrity of the avatar would be "immoral" -- quite the opposite.

Sure, people make corporate avatars that different human beings operate in Second Life, but when they do that, they are speaking behalf of a kind of corporate face, with the company's rules. They are "in character," so to speak. The case is no different than, say, a FEDEX employee with a FEDEX company badge on but his own individual name. He's an individual, but working/speaking in his role as an employee of that company.

Posted: Jan 18th 2008 12:19AM (Unverified) said

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Prokofy, at no point did I mention - in this post or in any writing of mine, collectivism.

What I said was that, 200 years ago many societies did not recognize women or slaves as "persons" - not "beings" but "beings with civil rights." This is undeniably the case.

I then said that within 200 years the categories of "beings with civil rights" may expand to include artificial intelligences or intelligences of other species. One could legitimately argue that nonhuman intelligence is impossible, of course.

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Posted: Jan 17th 2008 8:00PM (Unverified) said

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Chalice, your analogy isn't a very good one, unless you imagine it worked like this: that you could get a driver's license in one US state, that enables you to drive on public highways in any other state, but suddenly some little state announced that they would not allow, say, drivers from New Jersey to enter Rhode Island -- just because -- and everybody said, oh, but Rhode Island is a private state and they get to do that.

Everyone keeps according all these special privileges to game companies and virtual world software makers as if they can do what they like, oppress rights, and even count on their class warriors -- fellow coders -- to constantly diminish and downgrade avatar rights in the name of the Platform Uber Alles.

Baloney. No company or private or semi-private entity running any sort of public space in real life gets to do that in quite the draconian way. Imagine if a hockey rink, rock concert hall, park, mall, arbitrarily ejected people "for no reason or any reason"; arbitrarily and abusively refused to allow them to copy or transfer any of their communications made in those realms anywhere else. Imagine if they told you that they were trolls and had to be banned for 14 days if they criticized the management.

In fact, the management of all these real-life examples would be oriented to serving the public, taking care of customer complaints, and having rules that guided their own as well as public behaviour.

Posted: Jan 22nd 2008 8:46PM (Unverified) said

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Yes, they can and do eject people for breaking their rules. When I'm at work there are certain things my COMPANY has set forth for me to follow. If a customer does not abide within the rules set forth in our work place (i.e. No shirt, no shoes, no service) then we can and will legally eject them from our establishment.

If I create a work of art, that work of art becomes my property, protected by law and allows me to distribute it as I see fit. If I wished, i could deny my work to be distributed by a certain nationality. I choose not to do this because I believe people are equal beyond skin color, nationality, belief or anything else.

However, I am free to distribute as I see fit. As long as my specific rules do not break the rules governing the treatment of an individual person (here defined as any living or non-living thing capable of making a decision) I am free to set those rules. If you wish to use my work, then you can as long as you follow my rules. If you do not follow those rules then I can legally seek reperation or seisure of anything related to my property.

The makers of Virtual Worlds are nice enough to spend their time to create a place for you to come and play in and spend time on. You did not create their game. Your user created content is protected by Second Life. They have created a place where you are allowed to sell or buy what you wish. They did not say you could come in and burn their carpet because you feel you should have some say in how their house looks or is run.
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Posted: Jan 18th 2008 9:52AM (Unverified) said

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Well, I'm done on this thread, as it's now clear the avatar rights folks have no actual arguments that don't depend on everyone sharing their prior view that, well, avatars have rights. It's also irritating when people try to label others' views ("anarcho-capitalist", "Extropian") in a heavy-handed and unjustifiably authoritative way.

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