The 2004 Accelerating Change Conference focused much more on current changes than last year’s attempts at providing long-term visions led me to expect.
The one topic that excited me was a virtual world called Second Life. While it might sound superficially like just a virtual Burning Man, the designers are serious enough about their nationbuilding to encourage commerce, both within the system and via currency exchanges such as The Gaming Open Market with other worlds. Their VP of Product Development Cory Ondrejka described Hernando de Soto’s book The Mystery of Capital as "must reading". They have been careful to insure that people have few incentives to take disputes arising in the virtual world to meatspace courts. For instance, they once banned a vandal from the game who owned a fair amount of land; they auctioned off the land and sent him a check for most of the proceeds – $1600.
Some of their customers are doing well enough in the virtual world that the company that runs Second Life has trouble offering them a salary good enough to compete with what they’re making in virtual life.
They don’t seem as concerned about the highly deflationary effects of their monetary policy as I expect they ought to be. Why will people buy their land (the sale of which seems to be their main source of income) if they can earn a safe and sure return by just holding the local currency?
The responsiveness of the company to citizen complaints (e.g. simplifying and later abolishing taxes in response to tax revolts) is fairly strong evidence that a non-monopolistic dictator is better than a democracy with monopoly power.