In the News and On the Air: Unreality Check

Will they or won't they win? We have a producer whose experience leads him to the following hypothesis: if everybody says something will happen, it won't.

That advisory, from NPR's Barry Gordemer, is worth keeping in mind as forecasts call for Democrats to win at least one house of Congress this week.

My own hypothesis comes from covering airline disasters: on the day of a plane crash, anything you learn about the cause of the crash will turn out to be wrong.

I'll remember that if Republicans do suffer disaster, and everybody starts analyzing what the election means.

Will they or won't they vote? One person reserving judgment on the election is John Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Green studies the evangelical vote. He reports that Republican religious leaders have been straining to minimize the effect of Republican scandals, describing the Mark Foley e-mail scandal as a "unique situation," and casting Democrats as even worse than Republicans.

On today's program, Green tells us, "It's entirely possible, in my view, that... we'll wake up and see that Republicans have done a little bit better than expectations."

Will you or won't you spend? If your side loses the election, you can always retreat into a world that's easier to manipulate.

On today's program, we're visiting "Second Life."

In this computer simulation, players buy real estate, build houses and businesses, and live imaginary lives while spending real money.

At a currency exchange, they spend US dollars to get the fake "dollars" for the game — which can later be exchanged again for US dollars, like a real currency.

And as they visit stores and showrooms, they may see subtle promotions for real products.

"You're interacting with the brand in a fairly intimate way," says Reuben Steiger, who helps businesses place real products on Second Life.

He took us for a "drive" in a Toyota: "You can customize it to your heart's content... That's very interesting for companies."

It's just like real life: corporations track your every move, looking for (depending on your point of view) better ways to serve you and/or reach your wallet.

In Steiger's case, Toyota may now have information that he crashed the car into a river.

If you think you know where this sort of business will lead us, please consult the hypothesis at the top of this column.

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