It seems that Second Life and perhaps other virtual worlds are gaining legitimacy beyond the living room to find use even in the boardroom, or at least in business at-large. A team at Denver University is using Second Life for a combination of education and experimentation now. What really interests me is the use of a system like Second Life for conducting social science experiments.

When I first read about the “Fair Tax” there were a lot of predictive claims quoted in the literature from Harvard Professor Dale Jorgenson, regarding revenue neutrality, the proper tax rate, etc. Those claims are based on econometric models. How could you really test how people would respond though? Even a large econometric model only takes into consideration so many variables, and while they might be the most significant, some variables might turn small changes into much greater effects. Wouldn’t it be neat, I thought, if you could make an economic game, an economic MUD perhaps, in which you could change the rules and see how people reacted? Maybe even with real monetary incentives to win?

Or, why not just run an experiment like that in a virtual world like Second Life? The results would only give you a suggestion of what would happen, but it would be a start to real testing.