I was called a philistine and worse for suggesting that virtual worlds like Second Life were anything but digital paradises where people were able to free themselves of pesky meat-space hindrances to inter-personal joy like their middling looks or inadequate personality. Today brings with it a small bit of vindication:
Intelligence officials who have examined [virtual worlds] say they’re convinced that the qualities that many computer users find so attractive about virtual worlds — including anonymity, global access and the expanded ability to make financial transfers outside normal channels — have turned them into seedbeds for transnational threats.
Unlike the Matrix, death online does not also result in death in real life, but writ large that doesn’t matter much. If you are able to sufficiently enhance the ability to recruit and train operatives in an environment where distance, time and physical security do not matter, you’ve ratcheted up the threat level. Some people say you can’t learn to build bombs online; I say you can do surgery via the ‘Net so don’t tell me what cannot be done.
In light of all the hubbub about electronic surveillance by the government, the next question on your mind should be: are the spooks going to be invading the virtual world? Well, given that the government is not exactly going gangbusters with regards to HUMINT in the physical world, the idea that the CIA will be flooding the zone with virtual case officers is probably not a pressing one. Still, with future generations of agent handlers having grown up using using such technology, the fact that you can pull a tour of duty in cyberspace could be a boon for recruiting.