Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance tells us that the forms which arise are much the product of the forms that have arisen before, that is, nature knows habit. From this it is easy to understand the essential conservatism of nature; it goes with what it knows. But when nature labors to create a new form, it most often chooses to aggregate existing forms in novel combinations.

However, there are rare moments when a new form emerges. It is energetically expensive, but, once done, that new form creates a resonance in the morphogenetic field which makes it that much easier for subsequent forms to assume the qualities of the new form. This is the law of increasing returns, as provided for by the natural force of habit.

VRML is an ecology of ideas about what cyberspace is, what it contains, and what it can do. As is true in any natural ecology, it works to maintain its own coherence and vitality through time. But the ecology in which VRML is embedded contains environmental niches that remain unfilled, yet offer great opportunity to anything form fit enough to inhabit them.

Hence, there is a consistent pressure on VRML to be more than what it is, to expand and inhabit the entire range of possible ecologies available to it. This pressure works against the coherence of form, and seeks to extend it in multitudinous directions. Inevitably, this means that the form mutates into a nearly aligned form. But each new form introduces qualities unique to itself, qualities which - because of the fact of their existence - become ever more likely to recur.

In brief, every time VRML changes, the more likely it is that VRML will change in the future. Quickly this rampant mutation becomes pathological, an uncontrolled growth - a form of cancer - which must inevitably kill the body that contains it. That body is this community.

For this reason, I find myself in the position of the arch-conservative, who seeks to work purely within the ecology as it exists at the present moment. The danger which follows from changes in the forms which comprise cyberspace is too great to allow any change at all. For all the things that VRML must be - and there are many - we must find a way to contain these forms within the current form. The syntax as defined must not yield to change. Any other choice would - inevitably - be suicidal.

This may not be an easy conclusion to accept, but I do believe it to be true, on the basis of observed fact. We are forever walking a boundary between health and pathology, between practicality and perfection, between growth and cancer.

Santa Monica/San Francisco
January 1997