Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Virtual Disasters: Have we really learned anything?

As I was writing for my poetry blog this Sunday I began to think about Ike and Katrina and every hurricane or disaster in my lifetime.

I also began to think of virtual recovery scenarios and wondered why more aren't developed and ran by the government.

For example, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has a presence in Second Life, why aren't they running an infection scenario for Bird Flu or other common issues. A whole virtual population waits to see what that might be like.

For hurricanes? There are fabulous 3-D engineering programs like Pro-E or Autocad that can simulate everything from car parts to buildings with estimated stress reactions. In theory, an integration of these to programs with data from the national weather service could replicate anticipated damages or track possible weaknesses within cities.

Add in the Red Cross or other disaster recovery organizations with typical human response times and supply amounts and you could quickly calculate costs and human labor needed to clean up a disaster area.

Pathfinder Linden in Second Life works on such scenarios.

I guess I wonder why the government can pay 100 dollars for a hammer and not a couple of thousand for a Second Life Island.

In general, if you read enough about the new collaborative capabilities of the web, there are not many excuses left other than failure to "play" for why larger problems are not solved more quickly. We have very powerful abilities to combine wikis, blogs, virtual worlds, and image sites to talk about solutions and contribute answers to the larger human survival issues.

It only takes one place and 1000 minds to frame the problem, provide data, summarize the data, and find a solution. Computers cannot think like a human yet, but they can be a collective conscience if we let them.

Have you ever lain down at night with a problem you couldn't solve only to wake up with the solution from a dream? Web 2.0 and virtual worlds could be our big, "Ah ha!" What would you solve if you could with the help of the whole world?

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