In a recent post titled 'Is Second Life Sustainable?', Tony Walsh raises the issue of how much electricity is required to keep the virtual world running:
...it's worth pointing out that the nearly 4,000 servers currently running the virtual world suck up an awful lot of real-world electricity.
He then goes onto quote Philip Rosedale (CEO of Linden Lab, the game's makers), as saying:
With approximately 10-15,000 avatars active in Second Life at any one time, Walsh finishes by asking:
"We're running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in collocation facilities... We're running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we've got machines in."
How much power do 15,000 human beings consume daily compared to 15,000 avatars? Is Second Life sustainable ecologically?
In response Nick Carr has a go at doing the math, and after factoring in the server and client uptime and electricity consumption required to keep all of those avatars 'alive', he concludes that "an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same ballpark".
While it's a fun exercise, it does seems a little selective to focus on Second Life's ecological impact. For example, how does it compare to XBox Live or any of the other online gaming platforms? Looking even further, how much power does each human consume 'googling'?
Enough math already.