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In response to "Ghosts in the Machine" from the Escapist Forum: I think the paradox of "constantly communicating, never connecting" is a fascinating one, and this game's unique quasi-multiplayer setup does seem like it offers an interesting way of viewing that. Good insights, well written.
Well, before I thought that Demon's Souls might be interesting to try out, but now...you've gone and got me both intrigued and terrified of what the experience would do to me. Especially with the sleep paralysis comparison - I get that way too often and it completely freaks me out every single time (especially when I've just dreamed that I'd woken up in bed, only to later wake up [or not] another time, something which also happens to me far too often). I'll have to make sure to have some friends around to keep me from losing it if I ever give it a go...
"Artificial intelligence" is real intelligence.
Ray Kurzweil lost my attention when he said this. He was probably just ranting and brought up a not-quite-a-tangent, but it sounds like he doesn't know what he's talking about.
Anyhow, "virtual" as used today, at least in a professional context, still holds a great deal of meaning. In all computer-related context as well as others you quoted right up until "virtual reality" it serves to mean as the distinction between the logical and the physical, or the method in which they are separated; a bridge of sorts between what we us and the way we organize our thoughts and the world around us. "Virtual space" is not physical space, it is an abstraction thereof, a representation of what we see and perceive, itself seen (and represented physically) differently by different people - virtual. Which agrees with Deleuze, by the way.
A lot of the problems brought forth by this article is that "virtual" has also come to mean, in common parlance, effects that take place through and of such realms. A "virtual romance" is not indeed "virtual" but is of or through "virtual space".
However, I will concede that some uses are a bit out of hand, such as "virtual colonoscopy" which only describes taking an image through non-traditional means. Such things are probably just a means by which to distinguish techniques or from a legacy meaning. In the case of colonoscopy, probably to separate the non-invasiveness of the new technique from the infamous "hands-on" traditional technique.
In any event, it is not uncommon for words to balloon in meaning up until they fall in disuse, usually when one or more new and popular words take up the meanings. Such is the organic nature of language.
Eh, it's just a word. Wouldn't your average American from 60 years ago be able to walk home and tell his mom he was very gay because he had found a job?
Plus, it is a virtual world. If Kwolds Golddagger, Golden Barbarian ceases to exist, John Truman, Expert Accountant will continue to exist. If John Truman ceases to exist, so does Kwolds Golddagger. One might probably think about 'virtual friendships' and how such as real, but odds are that if someone is really your friend you'd end up having other ways to contact him, which makes it less virtual (even if through a virtual medium, as one of the fellows above me said). If your best pal is Kwolds Golddagger, and suddenly you need help for your mom's surgery, either he will reveal himself to be John Truman to help or suddenly stop contacting you.
There might be something about 'virtual economy', and how you are spending real money on fake things, but then again the money you are spending are bits and bytes on a bank's website that have now gone to the company's bank's website. Even though we spend money as real, most of it is really virtual, based on the promise that the government and banks will pay up if we need it, even though they don't actually have that many money. It works the same as real money - but a few years ago there was a rumour that the Argeninian peso would suddenly become devalued, so thousands of people rushed to trade their pesos in for dollars, and the government and banks didn't have enough dollars to pay and it all ended up throwing the country into a recession. So you have the money, you can use the money to buy stuff, but if you try to take all the money out it's not really there. It's real, but not quite.
I had an idea for a book that started with a violent war scenario. Then at the end the main character would say he'd need to log off and disappear. The next chapter would show him working at a drab desk job. At the end of it, he'd say he'd log off and disappear. The war scenario was a game inside a massive, worldwide simulation; even though they're both as 'real', the job he works in is what pays his salary, while the war scenario had no long-term consequences. Now that would make me wonder.