Ribblesdale2As the FT's Martin Wolf tells us, we are living in a gilded age of increasingly massive disparities between the extremely wealthy and everyone else. So what do the rich get up to when they aren't counting their cash? I wonder if any of the top 1% of Americans who earn a full 12% of all American wages, are members of Second Life, the rapidly growing online community? I wonder if the super rich want a (second) life.

According to the April issue of Discover magazine, Second Life is a place where "everyone is made to feel welcome." The article, written by Steven Johnson, tells us that online fantasy world is really awesome:

"People who join this rapidly growing online community create fanciful animated representations of themselves called avatars and are free to explore a vast 3-D landscape gorgeously rendered with oceans and mountain peaks and teeming with eclectic structures designed a built by residents."

So second life would be a great break, for the rich, from their humdrum real world existence. Instead of going to Aspen, they can go the virtual mountains. Instead of the Cote D'Azur, they can enjoy the ocean in glorious 3-D. When they are bored with their NYC penthouses, they can build their own "electic" structure in cyberspace. What a democratic (second) life!

But how with the rest of us, the other 99%, react to the arrival of the super rich in our virtual community? That's the exciting thing about Second Life, Johnson tells us. Everyone is the same there. It's a truly democratic experiment in our increasingly democratic digital media. It welcomes everyone, irrespective of gender, religion, ideology, age, sexuality, income or any other deviance.

So here's the good news for the top 1% of American earners unhappy with their real-world existence. There is an alternative to reality. It's called Second Life.