Theoretical physicists have many ideas about how the cosmos came to be, but one of the most popular ones is the one which says that are an infinite number of universes, each of them different. There is, for example, our universe, another one where all your missing socks go, and one for your car keys.
The multiverse theory makes good science fiction fodder, but researchers really need look no further than the Internet for proof of the existence of worlds we can’t touch or smell.
Take, for example, the online game World of Warcraft. Here, players log on and take part in a sword and sorcery role playing game. In addition to being able to thump each other with a Hammer of the Naaru or a Multidimensional Sock, players can talk to each other, form guilds, go on raids together, chit chat and exchange messages. I bet some of them go like this:
Bolroth: Hey man, I see you’ve acquired new armour since our last encounter! [Casts spell]
DarkLord: Yes — this is the good stuff. [Swings axe] How’s the wife and kids?
Bolroth: Great! Jimmy’s just finished grade four. [Ducks, throws fireball]
DarkLord: Congrats! [Puts up shield, makes stabbing motion.] Sally starts high school this year.
Bolroth: [Dodging sword.] Time flies! [Throws lightning bolt. Waits.] Wow, dude, that armour was really conductive.
DarkLord: [Disintegrating into cinders] Next time, I am going to chop your head off, I swear. Say hi to Cindy for me, will you?
The game provides so much interactivity that many people have formed long lasting friendships with people they’ve never met in person. There are even reports of players holding weddings online. Yes, I’m talking orc and troll unions here.
One of the more fascinating aspects of World of Warcraft and other games like it is they have created entirely new and quite real economies. People have begun buying and selling “objects” from the games — things that will help you do better when you play, like weapons, or maps, or potions — for real money.
There are even people who make a living by playing the game, improving a character to a certain point, and then selling the character for real cash. Yes, you read that right, these people earn money by playing video games, making that reason number 4,758 why *your* day job sucks.
Then there are the hybrid universes — based in reality, but still completely virtual. A good example is Facebook.
As you know, Facebook is one of those now ubiquitous “social networking” sites that allows you to connect with people online. First you set up your own profile, and then add people you know to a “friends” list; they in turn set up their friends lists, putting you in touch with friends of friends… and so it goes.
This is one of those wildly popular phenomena that I did not understand until I signed up for it myself. My conclusion: the makers of Facebook have found a way to push an intoxicating gas through the Internet and out through your keyboard.
Okay, not really, but the site is incredibly addictive. Part of the fun is searching for people you know, or that you once knew. This is like having a high school reunion, but because it’s online, you don’t have to worry about how to lose the 30 lbs. you’ve gained in the intervening years. You can post only the most flattering [read: Photoshopped] pictures of yourself, and only connect with the people you’re most interested in.
But the key tool is the Status Update. That is, you can tell everyone in your friends list what you’re doing at any given moment, and the announcement appears in your friends’ news feeds.
Why would your friends care about your daily life? The truth is, they probably don’t. But *you* get to see your name in the news feed, and by telling the world (or a least this particular alternate universe) what you’re up to minute-by-minute, you can be your own paparazzi. This can be a most gratifying egotistical experience.
This must mean that there’s a little Paris Hilton in all of us. And that’s a scarier thought than an entire universe of missing socks.