Today is the fourth anniversary of the creation of Franklin Lubitsch in Second Life, a day known in world as my fourth rezday. In honor of this occasion, and to get the discussion started, I present the following Statement of Existence. Some people will agree with it, some won't, and that's okay. Because so many people worldwide have an online life, and because the numbers are increasing, a debate on the subject is going to be beneficial. So, here is my explanation of who I am.
A Statement of Existence
However, some would say that I am not real, because Franklin Lubitsch exists only online. While it is true that I exist only online, I submit that this does not negate my existence. This essay is my explanation of my existence.
Let’s look at the facts. I was created, and I am controlled, by an actual human being. My thoughts are actually his thoughts, my words are actually his words, my actions are initiated and controlled by him, using a highly advanced computer program. And, yet …
And yet I, as Franklin Lubitsch, have an actual existence online, especially in the virtual world known as Second Life(r), but also in communities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk. I have several hundred friends and acquaintances, all but a handful of whom know me only as Franklin Lubitsch. I interact with them only online (physically with some). I communicate with them only online (there are a few who I communicate with offline, as well).
More to the point … even though my existence is entirely within the bounds of the Internet, even though I cannot possibly exist outside of the Internet, I have done all of the following: eaten food, drank beverages (including alcoholic beverages), slept, used the toilet, danced (both by myself, and with some lovely ladies), had sex, held a job, founded and run my own business, been married and divorced, and -- one of the greatest joys of my life -- I have adopted a daughter.
I have what is known as a virtual existence. Let’s get one thing straight right away. Virtual does not mean “fake”. Check the dictionary. I have a physical body, technically known as an avatar. This body has all the parts necessary to do everything on the list in the preceding paragraph. It just so happens that this body is computer generated, but that doesn’t make it any less physical, it just makes it less tangible to anyone who is outside the bounds of the Internet.
This virtual existence is an extension -- or, if you will, an augmentation -- of what some would insist is my “real” or “actual” life; my human life. While I live my virtual life as immersively as possible within Second Life(r) and other virtual worlds, overall it augments my human life That means I am not suffering from some kind of split personality disorder. I am fully cognizant of my humanity.
You may ask about extremes. You may wonder whether it’s possible that I might throw myself into my virtual identity to such an extent that I neglect family, friends, and the rest of my life. The answer is yes, of course it’s possible. But it’s also possible that a corporate executive in the business world can be immersed in a career to the point of neglecting family, friends, and the rest of life. It’s possible that a performing artist can be immersed in a career to the point of … well, you get the idea, and no doubt you can think of other examples. I am not defending such an extreme, I am merely acknowledging it.
I am not trying to diminish my humanity. My offline existence -- which makes up the majority of my total existence -- is a wonderful life, filled with a loving family, good friends, and a wealth of experience which has filled decades, and shows every sign of continuing.
The point of this essay is to show that my virtual existence should not be diminished either. After four years it is almost as fully formed as my human existence. It has been filled with joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats. It also has amazing potential when you consider the direction being taken by the technology of electronic communication. I love my virtual life, not for itself alone, but because it is a part of the whole of my human life. While it cannot possibly stand alone it is, in the end, unique.
My name is Franklin Lubitsch, and I am a real person.
Okay, there you have it. Let the debate begin.