Avatars consume as much power as Brazilians

They don’t have bodies, but they do leave footprints. It was only a matter of time before someone took the avatar world to task for their environmental impact. (In case you think an avatar is a new model of Hyundai, here’s a brief primer. Avatars are computer-generated, physical representations of people in virtual online games ...

605704_chung5.jpg
605704_chung5.jpg

They don't have bodies, but they do leave footprints.

It was only a matter of time before someone took the avatar world to task for their environmental impact. (In case you think an avatar is a new model of Hyundai, here's a brief primer. Avatars are computer-generated, physical representations of people in virtual online games or social worlds. Think Second Life, Sims, World of Warcraft, etc.)

The virtual world of Second Life, which hit one million residents back in October, is one of the most popular online games of its kind. To even call it a game is perhaps inaccurate. It's a full-fledged virtual world, complete with crime, sex, commodities, and real-world advertising. (Don't miss BusinessWeek's journey into Second Life or its great "Old Fogey's Guide to the Online Universe.") It goes way beyond the traditional online games of old: These days, politicians like former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner hold town meetings and musicians use music streaming to stage "live" concerts in Second Life in order to be heard.

They don’t have bodies, but they do leave footprints.

It was only a matter of time before someone took the avatar world to task for their environmental impact. (In case you think an avatar is a new model of Hyundai, here’s a brief primer. Avatars are computer-generated, physical representations of people in virtual online games or social worlds. Think Second Life, Sims, World of Warcraft, etc.)

The virtual world of Second Life, which hit one million residents back in October, is one of the most popular online games of its kind. To even call it a game is perhaps inaccurate. It’s a full-fledged virtual world, complete with crime, sex, commodities, and real-world advertising. (Don’t miss BusinessWeek‘s journey into Second Life or its great “Old Fogey’s Guide to the Online Universe.”) It goes way beyond the traditional online games of old: These days, politicians like former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner hold town meetings and musicians use music streaming to stage “live” concerts in Second Life in order to be heard.

So, it’s fascinating to see blogger Nick Carr (also a former exec editor at Harvard Business Review) calculate whether avatars consume more energy than their human counterparts. He found that the thousands of avatars “living” in Second Life at any given moment, given the servers and computers needed to run the virtual world, use about the same amount of electricity as a comparable number of real-life Brazilians. So, here’s my question: Has anyone done any research on whether avatars are much more wasteful than their human counterparts? Say, in terms of energy: Do avatars not bother to turn off the lights? Email us.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.