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PC Forum 2006

This afternoon was the start of PC Forum 2006. I'm here for probably the 10th or 11th year, and can only say that this is one group of people capable of rocking me with creativity and their "headroom."

Barry Schwartz has kicked off the session this afternoon with the interesting and completely believable notion that with an abundance of choices can lead to less enjoyment, possibly contributing to depression, but certainly greater dissatisfaction or paralysis of action.

Schwartz presented a concept of "Libertariain Paternalism" -- setting the default in the best interest of the user or of the community. He quoted the difference in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and their respective approach to opting in/opting out of no-fault insurance. New Jersey, an opt-out state, where the default is no-fault auto insurance, has successfully saved the citizens of that state over $400 MM in the past two years. In a panel session going on now, Esther and Barry are discussing the basis on which the "default" is set in place. Who decides, on what basis?

Then Philip Rosedale spoke with Esther Dyson about Second Life, an immersive, multi-player online game in which the users are almost unfettered in their ability to create, as opposed to choose. It was a bit creepy, to tell you the truth. It reminded me of the Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age, in which a group of artisans derive their pleasure and self-worth by placing individual craftsmanship as the highest goal. But it also was with a twist... because it was so unfettered, the ability to create "a second life", it seems also to lead to the creation of potentially aberrant behavior. Someone sitting next to me, after hearing Rosedale speak about avatar-sex and the growing SL industry of "sex furniture", asked aloud... Are kids permitted on the site?

But the notion of Second Life brings up a fundamental difference between the impact of unconstrained choice (Schwartz) and creation in an unfettered environment. Clearly, they're not the same, and the opportunity of unfettered creation seems to me a boon to personal well-being and welfare.

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