Gray Goo, Part 2
One of the deeper thoughts coming out of the "Gray Goo in Second Life" incident is a reminder:
Baseline human intellects are not native to virtual realities.I think there's an argument that any substrate rich enough to support computation and replication and has a sufficient degree of error can host life which will evolve. For us, the laws of physics provide computation (particles interact), replication (via RNA, later DNA/RNA/Proteins) and error (DNA replication has good but not perfect error correction).
Left on its own, an artificial environment like Second Life would be overrun by replicators which are "native" to the environment. Yes, someone has to create them maliciously - for now - but bugs and eventually real errors would creep in over the millenia. Like a replicator in Core War (see the FAQ) you can have extremely efficient creatures dominate the substrate very quickly.
Consider one possible start for life on Earth - the "clay substrate" hypothesis. Patterns embedded on the surfaces of clays allowed some degree of self-replicator to operate before the whole concept of "cells" was invented. Anthropomorphize for a bit, and imagine how those little clay-based doodads must have feared the first cell-based replicators. Almost in an instant, the cell-based goo has dominated!
From our perspective, the whole planet was dominated by squishy unicellular goo for billions of years until more complex stuff showed up. You could probably argue that "goo domination" is actually the normal state for a substrate that supports replicators. Only occasionally does something more interesting pop up. And that thing that pops up will see the goo domination as the natural order of things - we certainly do! We're comprised of colonies of cooperating goo that consume other colonies of cooperating goo, think and replicate with goo, and fend off constant attacks as we swim through a veritable ocean of goo!
My point: "gray goo" should be the normal state of existence in a virtual world - like squishy goo is in ours. To be truly native, you must take this for granted.
In something like a long term Second Life-type simulation, I could imagine higher life forms which function as colonies of replicators, and thus get (collectively) larger slices of the scarce resource (CPU cycles).