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Future Implications Of Virtual Reality

June 14, 2011

As I was out for a walk today I found myself reflecting on the vast implications virtual reality will have on the future of our species. The importance of this future technology shouldn’t be underestimated.

Take one of the biggest issues facing the world today — the haves and the have nots. I used to reflect on this problem a lot, and found myself terrified at the proposition that if we cannot solve it, as technology progresses, we’re very likely to destroy ourselves fighting over the “stuff” of this world. Whether it be homes, cars, gadgets, or whatever. We live in a world that is unfair, where some people seem to have it all — money, influence, power, good looks, a beautiful home, amazing life opportunities, and the list goes on. We’re all guilty of being envious and resentful as we look at our own lot in life and compare it to others. We find ourselves screaming, “Life’s not fair”, but what can we do?

Today people think of video games as entertainment, simple fun. But when you start reflecting on the direction that technology is moving, you begin to see the emergence of virtual reality (“VR”), and that is far from just entertainment. The human species is actually on the brink of a technology so amazing, it will revolutionize everything. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. When we have tiny robots which are able to go into the human brain and manipulate signals from various sensory systems, we’ll be able to place ourselves in VR and it will be as real and as vivid as you sitting where you are right now. You won’t be able to tell the difference. It will be like the Matrix.

Think of how easy it is to manipulate data on a computer. Imagine if you could plug into VR and live any life you can think up. Imagine never getting sick, never getting hungry, never getting tired, and you can teleport to any location, and be with anyone you desire instantly. Everyone can live in their dream home, everyone can experience life in any human body they desire, and they can interact with one another in total safety. Imagine virtual locations, everything from private homes to giant cities, which are like video game “maps” today. You select a menu and choose where you want to “spawn” into, and if you have the proper permissions, in the blink of an eye, there you are. Your friends are there waiting for you and you all go off on whatever adventure you desire.

There’s several questions to address. First off, never getting hungry, sick, or tired? How would that work? Here’s what I honestly think, and you all may differ in opinion. When I mention this to family members, they laugh at me, but I don’t think they understand what I’m really saying, or believe that this technology is right around the corner. I think once VR is as vivid as real life, people will come to hate their physical bodies and find them a cumbersome burden. They’ll see themselves in the mirror and think, “This thing is ugly. It gets sick, constantly needs bathed, I have to brush my teeth, and ugh. I hate this thing. I can’t fly, I can’t teleport, I’m fragile and can easily be injured. This just sucks.” Then a thought will enter their minds. They’ll say, “Why don’t we have robots build a vault down deep within the Earth, fully protected by robot sentinels, and we all take our brains out of our skulls and put them in jars, stored and protected by the robots. Then we wire ourselves into the VR system. We’ll have the robots provide our brains with whatever nutrients and minerals they need to operate, and they’ll constantly monitor our brains’ status, making any repairs, and keeping us healthy.” As for interaction in the “real” world, we’ll have robots which we can wirelessly “spawn” into, which we’ll control with our brain, similar to VR. To us, the “real” world will be just like another location to spawn into.

Does this sound unreal and science fiction like? When I reflect on how it all works, in order to plunge ourselves into VR, the first main step is the tiny robots. And how long before we’ll have those? In twenty to thirty years we’ll have nanobots capable of doing this. Now does this mean in thirty years all of this will happen? No, but that’s when it’ll all move rather quickly in that direction. Once people get used to interacting with one another in VR, they’ll drift more and more toward finding that as the place to be. Then they will demand technology which allows them to live completely in VR and not worry with their physical body.

I look at human life right now, and our lifestyles and desires are so demanding on the biosphere, we’re killing everything around us. We’ve left no room for other species. Without VR, I wonder if the “real” world could possibly support us and our insatiable lust for change and new things? How could we solve this problem? We could go underground and move all our brains into protected vaults. We could then clean up the Earth’s surface environment and leave it to wildlife. But how would we get our power to run our VR systems?  We could send probes out into space toward the asteroid belt. We could then harvest all that metal and material and turn it all into solar panels. We then move the panels up close to the sun and harvest all the energy we could possibly need.

All life today is powered by plants who harvest sunlight from photosynthesis. We even burn fossil fuels to create electricity, which amounts to harvesting energy collecting by past organisms, such as plant life. We need to bypass all of this and go straight to the source — the sun. Harvest all the vast energy that big fireball is pumping out. The sunlight which makes it to the Earth’s surface is highly diluted compared to how powerful and concentrated it is up close!

I wonder to myself, “Will I see this happen during my lifetime?” I think the answer to that is yes. By the time I’m an older man, around sixty or seventy, this stuff will be flourishing. Kids won’t be playing Playstation, they’ll be immersed in VR. That generation in particular will be so comfortable in VR and most of their experiences will be from within it. The “real” world to them won’t be as “real” to them as it is to us. They’ll be much more anxious to rid themselves of their physical bodies.

What would you do in VR? I’d build that dream home I mentioned in a previous post, brick by brick. I’d construct an old 1940s propeller plane and fly over my island. I’d design and build its engine by hand. I’d play all sorts of VR video games, mostly fantasy role playing games where I’m some wizard battling dragons like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. Fellow nerds could join me and we’d all traverse some medieval labyrinth deep within the Earth, filled with ghouls, goblins, and skeletal knights. After I finished gaming, I’d teleport off to science conferences where I’d discuss all the latest technology, and work on upgrading the VR computers, and research the latest scientific pursuits. I’d also work toward enhancing my brain with the robots so that I could think faster, and process information much more effectively. I’d create wormhole technology and then connect my brain to deep space probes and robots, where I’d conduct research on black holes, pulsars, and other exotic structures in space. It sounds wonderful.

VR has so many possibilities. Is someone annoying you? You think a thought, “Remove this person from my experiences.” And poof, they’re gone. VR environments could be protected and annoying people would be banned and not have access. This may sound pretentious, but there are people I’d prefer never to have any dealings with. There are people in this world who have no respect for themselves or others. The other day a person drove by my house and threw their car’s floorboard garbage out the window onto my front lawn. If I could have a world where they wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near me, at any time, that would be wonderful. You could exist in a VR world with only the types of people you want to be around. Hillbillies could live in log cabins out on the bayou and hunt virtual alligators and drink beer. Scientists could have access to all the latest equipment and spend their time around other minds on similar pursuits. Artists could erect beautiful cities and entire environments which themselves are giant showcases of their talent and ability. The possibilities are as endless as our imagination.

Think for a moment of what it’d be like to live in this VR world. Imagine never having to worry about crime, or being injured, or stress. You’d be so relaxed. Lovers could be with one another without worrying about things like finances and job security. You could have all kinds of amorous affairs and participate in wild loving making orgies and would never have to worry about getting STDs or your partner getting pregnant. You could eat all you want and never get fat. You could really show other people the real you. You wouldn’t be limited by all the stupid restrictions that this world we live in now imposes on us. And if the robots could repair our brains, we’d live for an incomprehensible length of time. This wouldn’t be heaven, but it’d be a huge step forward.

Does this sound like a techno utopia? In many ways it is, but that’s not to say this sort of thing isn’t very possible. Our technology is almost at this level now.

VR allows us to fulfill our desires, no matter how extreme, without effecting anyone else, without imposing burdens on anyone else, and without destroying the environment we all need to survive. It creates the possibility where each person can live their dreams, and nobody, not anyone, can force you to do anything. VR is the ultimate manifestation of freedom and security. It’s not just about entertainment, it’s the ability to guide and control what we experience and that is a VERY big deal.

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