'Second China' in Second Life seems uselessly second-hand

The "Second China Project" is a federally-funded initiative by a team at the University of Florida to create a virtual training ground for American diplomats who will work in China. It'll be a virtual city in Linden Lab's Second Life that will introduce first-timers to the sights and behaviors they can expect in China.

It sounds good, but compare it to the usual training regimen for young diplomats: language training with experts, watching videos (probably dated or hokey, but with real people), talking to senior diplomats who have worked in the region. My usual "Wow, the future is here!" reaction just isn't kicking in about a Sims-like virtual China in a game that's more dubiously questionable than useful (though that's a rant for another day).

It goes without saying that there's no substitute for first-hand experience in any field — especially diplomacy — and virtual simulations are a far cry from a holodeck. I love games and can see educational applications where virtual settings would be useful, but I just wonder if these diplomats will feel any more prepared once they are in China after traipsing about in a simulated one.

University of Florida News, via EurekAlert!