It was with some surprise that I saw that the creator of the Silk Road website was so harshly sentenced to life imprisonment for what was described as a drug trafficking enterprise. As you may recall, Silk Road was the dark web commerce site where drugs and contraband were sold for Bitcoins. While there was a certain debate as to the harshness of the sentence, there seemed to be no surprise that the sentence was being handed down at all. In this age of internet impunity, it seems like someone being held responsible for their online actions are more the exception the rule. While I do feel sorry for Mr. Ulbrict, one can only applaud in the hope that this is the beginning of some internet accountability, that one’s avatar will be as accountable as their flesh and blood actions. While this may require some rethinking of our idea of a corporation as an avatar, remember, corporations do have many of the legal rights of people and receive few consequences from their illegal actions, maybe we are growing up in this new digital realm.
While reading Wade Davis’ “The Wayfinders” I was stopped in my tracks when I read about the descendants of an ancient civilization known as the Tairona in South America. It seems that and I quote “ What is important, what has ultimate value, what gives life purpose is not what is measured and seen but what exists in the realm of Aluna, the abstract dimension of meaning.” This world Aluna is the unseen spirit or life force that moves through the earth and their world. One can imagine this as an earth born version of Avatar with everything being alive and having meaning. It’s almost as if it were a shadow world existing in our own that the native people still are in touch with and revere. Perhaps we also have such a world of meaning unrelated to the one we live in. We call ours Facebook.
It was with a sort of dread I approached the gates of ( It isn’t my favorite Disney Park) when my daughter stopped and said, ”what’s that?” pointing to what looked like several enormous potatoes suspended in the air. It turns out that these were to be the floating islands of Pandora that were being built as a part of the coming “Avatar” attraction. I like the movie Avatar and the idea that the entire planet of Pandora is connected, the planet as a single organism. This idea is not unlike the Internet of Things, that everything will be connected to everything else in one large meta organism. It was odd to think of this at a Disney property, people who are known for understanding the interconnectedness of an organism. That a theme park can work like a living entity, predicting needs and providing services before we know that we need them. For example ponchos are moved to the front of the stores when rain is in the forecast, characters “magically” appear on the edge of crowds to disperse groups of people and increase traffic flow. Perhaps Disney is our working model for the internet of things and the true prototype of the world of tomorrow that EPCOT was intended to be.
In another life I had the privilege of playing the “Phantom” in the Kopit and Yeston version of Phantom of the Opera. It was an amazing and difficult role made more difficult by the fact that I had to wear a mask for the entire show. I mention this because as an actor I had to find a way to communicate with my entire body the things that my face would have communicated. I realized that no one on stage could read my expressions or “see” what I was thinking. I think of this in terms of posting on social media and it make me wonder- am I my avatar? Am I a true expression of the person that I portray on line or are we all electronic phantoms masking our true selves