February 2008 Archives

From Larry

This site hosts this video to explain the launch of two exploratory projects -- first, a Change Congress movement, and second, my own decision whether to run for Congress in the California 12th.

I have decided I want to give as much energy as I can to the Change Congress movement. I will decide in the next week or so whether it makes sense to advance that movement by running for Congress.

Many friends have weighed in on that decision -- both strongly in favor and strongly opposed. Many more have joined draftlessig.org and a Facebook group asking me to consider it.

Watch or listen and you will understand some of my reasoning. Feel free to send your thoughts or advice to lessig@lessig08.org (though please excuse any slowness in my response).

-- Larry Lessig, February 19, 2008

See Lessig08 for more information.

Go Larry!

UPDATE: Why Larry is not running.

Ulrike Reinhard posted a nice "best of" video of our DIY Video panel. The panel was a lot of fun. The moderator was Howard Rheingold and the panelists were John Seely Brown, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins and me.

A few weeks ago, Stewart Brand emailed me asked if I was still playing World of Warcraft and if I had read DAEMON. I was still playing World of Warcraft and hadn't read DAEMON. A few days later, thanks to Amazon, I was reading DAEMON.

Years ago, I remember thinking about Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) and how much they affected people in the real world. I knew people who were obsessed with MUDs, the first Multi-User Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). I was obsessed. (I think the first time I ever appeared in Wired was in 1993 when Howard Rheingold with Kevin Kelly wrote about MUDs and mentioned my obsession.) In MUDs, people got married, people got divorced, people lost their jobs, people shared ideas... The MUDs I played touched the real world through all of the people in the game.

Unlike the World of Warcraft and more like Second Life, MUDs allowed players to create rooms, monsters and objects. When you entered a MUD, it was like entering the collective intelligence of all of the people who played the game. There were quests that were designed by people using their knowledge of Real Life™. Playing in their worlds was like walking through their brains. These worlds merged and collided as people from everywhere collaborated in creating MUDs of various themes with various objectives.

At some point in the evolution of MMORPGs, MUDs forked and we ended up with most of the people who liked creating objects and worlds in places like Second Life where, while you CAN make games, most of what happens is world creation. The "gamers" ended up in games like World of Warcraft where the game play aspect has been honed to a fine art, but the player content creation aspect has been completely lost. (Although most of the developers are former obsessive players.)

What I envisioned back when I was playing and hacking MUDs more was that if you turned the world a bit inside out and imagined that YOU were the MUD, the people who played your game were like little pawns or interfaces for you in the real world. They inputted content and created worlds and taught you about the real world. They promoted you to their friends. They played obsessively increasing experience points and commitment to the game so that they would forever feed you and keep you alive. They would set up servers and pay for hosting just to feed their obsession and protect their investment. If you became extremely popular, a group of your players would spawn a new MUD with your DNA-code and there would be another one of you.

The hardcore players would hack your open source code and keep you evolving. The Wizards would educate and add character to each instance of your code. The players would be your footprint in Real Life™.

When most of the gamers moved to corporation owned closed source games designed by a team of developers, I stopped having this dream. The games were no longer "alive" in the same way I had envisioned them evolving.

After reading DAEMON, this dream is back. Leinad Zeraus depicts a world where a collosall computer daemon designed by a genius MMO designer begins to take over the world after his death. In many ways, the vision is similar to the vision I had, but the author adds a macabre twist and many many more orders of scale to make this one of the most inspiring books I've read in a long time. The author is "an independent systems consultant to Fortune 100 companies. He has designed enterprise software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries." He uses his experience to make the book extremely believable and realistic and still mind-blowing.

It was super fun to read and is a book I'd recommend to any who loves the Net and gaming. I'd also recommend it to anyone who doesn't. It's a great book to learn about the importance of understanding all of this - before it's too late.

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Hello Kitty MMORPG goes beta

Sanrio Digital's "Hello Kitty Online" accepting players for closed beta

Hong Kong - February 12, 2008: Sanrio Digital (www.sanriodigital.com) today announced the closed beta launch of "Hello Kitty Online", a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) based on the famous Sanrio characters. Hello Kitty Online allows players to explore and adventure in Sanrio's fantasy world, a magical land that has recently fallen under the influence of a mysterious and malevolent power.

Players for the closed beta version are invited to apply at the official game site (www.hellokittyonline.com) or community site (www.sanriotown.com) and experience Hello Kitty Online in advance of the game release expected in the second half of 2008. Targeting female players from their pre-teens to twenties, Hello Kitty Online is the first installable MMORPG to set its sights on this demographic profile.

Woo woo! I'm so there. I'm going to start a We Know guild there...

Disclosure: I'm on the board of Sanrio Digital and am work working with this team a bit.

I'm leaving today for the 24/7: A DIY Video Summit. My sister Mimi blogs:

We are in the early stages of a fundamental transformation in how we create, share and view video. This transformation is enabling a new media ecology that can support widespread amateur video creation, and peer-to-peer and many-to-many distribution to audiences both large and small. Although it is clear that there is tremendous demand for user-generated and bottom-up forms of digital video, it remains unclear how best to support these activist and creative projects, what the implications are for documentary and artistic practice, and how to build bridges between old and new media. Although there are many events that cater to specific constituencies with in the Internet and DIY video communities, so far there has not been an event that convenes the wide range of actors involved in this arena, including different creative communities, technology developers, academics, and policy makers.

The goal of the event is to catalyze relationships and dialog that will further the public interest in the Internet video space, and to provide a showcase for new forms of work that are emerging from amateur and grassroots video creation communities. We will be featuring academic panels, workshops, and screenings of DIY video genres that include live action "vidding," activist media, machinima, video blogging, political remix, anime music videos, youth selected videos, and independent arts videos. Featured speakers include Yochai Benkler, John Seely Brown, Joi Ito, Henry Jenkins, Lawrence Lessig, and Howard Rheingold. The hope is to discover common ground, and to chart the path to a future in which grassroots and mainstream, amateur and professional, artist and audience can all benefit as the medium continues to evolve.

Details can be found at: http://www.video24-7.org/

I'm on a variety of panels and a workshop. The schedule is available online.One panel that I'm really looking forward to participating in is:
Plenary: Envisioning the Future of DIY Video
Moderator: Howard Rheingold.
Panelists: Joi Ito, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins, John Seely Brown and Lawrence Lessig
Apparently most of the session will be webcast, but this one will be taped and uploaded for technical reasons.

Anyway, look forward to seeing many of my friends and sharing thoughts with everyone.

Ever since I started my vegan diet the year before last, I've been looking for a good word for what my diet is called. This search was intensified when Lawrence Lessig started a similar diet and insisted that he didn't like the word "vegan" - although that is what he currently is. The problem with "vegan" is that it has some political overtones and the vegan diet includes high-calorie-low-nutrition foods such as refined starches and oils.

The problem with this is that when you request a vegan meal on a plane, you end up with something like a pile of pasta with tomato sauce - which is really not the point. The point of our diet is to eat as much healthy whole foods as possible. One of the problems with refined starches, oils and meats is that they have much less nutrition per calorie than plant-based whole foods. So while cutting down on animal proteins and "bad fats" is part of the deal, a huge part of the deal is cutting down on "blank calories".

Anyway, I've decided that the current working name for my diet is "Plant-based whole foods". If anyone can think of a better word for this, let me know. I have yet to find one.

PS If you're a PMOG player, I made a Veganism mission. The problem with "Plant-based whole foods" is that it's a bit long to make into an "ism" - Plant-based whole foodsism... hmm

For the 22nd time, Prix Ars Electronica, the foremost international prize for computer-based art, calls for entries in the categories Computer Animation / Film / VFX, Interactive Art, Hybrid Art, Digital Communities, Digital Musics, the Media.Art.Research Award and u19 – freestyle computing, Austrian’s largest youth computer competition.

More than 3,300 submissions in 2007 have further enhanced the Prix Ars Electronica’s reputation as an internationally representative competition honoring outstanding works in the cyberarts. This year, six Golden Nicas, twelve Awards of Distinction and approximately 70 Honorary Mentions as well as the Media.Art.Research Award are presented to participants. The 2008 winners will receive a total of 115,000 euros in prize money.

We would like to ask you to help us "spread the word" in your community by circulating the information as widely as possible. We also would be very glad if you could help us identify some projects, which in your opinion should participate in the competition.

For a detailed description of the competition, please consult our website http://prixars.aec.at

The deadline for submissions is March 7, 2008.

If you need any further information or support, please do not hesitate to come back to me.

With best regards,
Bianca Petscher
Organisation Prix Ars Electronica

My favorite computer-based art competition and festival. I'll be there again this year.

I spent the weekend at a Preventive Medicine Research Institute (PMRI) retreat. PMRI is the organization created by Dean Ornish to research and promote his work on preventive medicine.

As readers of my blog should know, I started a vegan diet in December the year before last, started exercising and meditating and became Joi 2.0 in the process. Since then, I had been trying to express on my blog and to my friends what was going on in my head and my body.

During this process I saw Dean's TED talk where he shows that a low-fat, vegan diet could not only slow down heart disease but actually reverse it. I filed Dean's name in my mind under "cool people to look up".

At the last TED, Lawrence Lessig and Dean met and scheduled to get together sometime. Larry, who has been "getting well" recently, knew that I would be interested and invited me to go see Dean with him. After our meeting, Dean invited us to attend an upcoming retreat and gave us copies of his new book, Spectrum.

Larry was unable to make it, but I did some scheduling judo and was able to attend.

After reading the book and attending the retreat, my conclusion is that Dean has a very effective program for increasing happiness and health. It tied together all of the pieces that I had been working on and anchored them with solid research. Dean's obsession with finding and conducting rigorous research to backup the effects of various components of his program make it completely different from most alternative medicine and lifestyle programs. Dean brings to the wellness movement the highest quality science which I believe is essential for all of this to go mainstream.

The program is not simply a diet. It includes a balance of four important parts: diet, exercise, relaxation and intimacy. During the retreat, we ate wonderfully healthful food the whole time, did yoga, exercise and meditation. We discussed medicine and science. We had small group sessions where we discussed our own issues in a very open and intimate setting. These sessions were much more effective than I would have imagined.

These group sessions weren't like psychotherapy or group therapy, but were small groups where we shared our feelings. They quickly became intimate and turned into a sort of fountain of compassion. The importance of intimacy in health was missing from the "formula for health" that I had been working on. Dean's research together with these sessions proved to me that it was an essential component and complimented my spiritual goals around compassion.

Dean has research that shows that intimacy, relaxation, diet and exercise all have an impact on our health. In particular, clogging of our arteries and inflammation in general are affected by these things. Dean shows that constricted arteries and inflammation are the cause of many of our modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and even impotence.

Most of this is described in his book. One interesting angle that the book takes is that there are a spectrum of foods ranging from the least healthy to the most healthy. If you choose the most healthy diet - my vegan super-duper-diet that I did last year - you can reverse heart disease. If you're pretty healthy and happy already, you can be a bit less hardcore. Dean suggests that you never should feel guilty about what you eat, but that you need to be aware of how healthy the food you are eating is. He has a table that rates the healthiness of various foods. You should choose the healthiness of diet that works for you and adjust it in moderation, allowing yourself to occasionally indulge. Dean tries very hard to prevent people from feeling like diet is something you should feel guilty about and is trying to design a sustainable diet that makes you happy instead of making you suffer.

I had just reached a point in my diet where I had reached my weight and health goals and was having a hard time driving myself to work harder on my health. Maintaining your weight is a much less exciting goal than reaching a target weight. Spectrum helped me think through how to make my healthiness sustainable. The retreat rejuvenated and recharged me completely and I am now committed to augmenting my diet with yoga and to start my meditation practice again. I also learned after consultation that the best way to maintain my weight is probably increasing/recovering muscle mass to increase my metabolism rather than focusing only on aerobic exercises and calorie management. (I had regained 7 of the 20 kg that I had initially lost and was trying to figure out what to do...)

Thank you Dean and the whole team who put the weekend together. Thanks also to the other participants in the retreat who shared.

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