When Fiction Becomes Reality
“The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us” -Steven Spielberg
What a time to be alive. Although we have yet to see a legitimate hoverboard and the holodeck could take a few more years, we are caught in the thick of the age of technology (thankfully not the age of Ultron); the competition to output the new new is fierce. Companies that fall behind get bought out by bigger guns, and monopolies begin to take form. The 2006 film Idiocracy all of a sudden doesn’t seem so absurd or far off after all. It seems like yesterday that we were playing with Tamagotchi’s and extremely pixelated Nintendo 64, yet here we are on the verge of the Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) bubble; a bubble that seems ready to pop at any moment.
Dr. Ian Malcolm said in 1993, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” A quote that directly ties to Uncle Ben’s 1962 line, “…with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” Science fiction authors as well as filmmakers have been warning people of the consequences that come with the misuse of technology, but what about the positive aspects and potential breakthroughs that come with a responsible advancement?
In 1990 Total Recall sent us on a journey of memory implants that begged the question of what is reality. 2002s Minority Report went a step further and introduced us to an array of Big Brother tech along with a Matrix parallel of ignorance is bliss; a sort of “asleep to what’s actually reality.” However, where is the balance of good vs. evil that Star Wars is always harping on?
AR/VR have an unlimited potential within our world; as an escape from reality; a means to enable justice (or unjustice); a means to drastically advance the medical world; and the list goes on and on. Google Glass had the right idea, even though it wasn’t nearly as successful as Google was hoping for. The Google Glass technology will certainly change the way we interact with our surroundings on a daily basis. Before long, a company will fine tune the tech and mass market it in a similar way that the iPhone took off.
Humans are desperate to make their lives remotely easier (enter WALL-E), which that kind of AR tech would inevitably achieve, but easier could also translate to accuracy. The medical community has the potential to prosper from AR in the instance of incorporating it with surgeries in order to limit human error; the military could better identify hostile forces and thus limit civilian casualties; and VR provides a practice space for any industry so as to practice without fear of error aided by unlimited resources within the virtual space.
The virtual space could be implemented in any kind of which way. Of course, money talks, and thus will inevitably be used in whichever way will be the most profitable regardless of whether it’s the most beneficial to the human existence (i.e. probably in the form of a video game).
In this post Harvey Weinstein era, there is a unique opportunity for VR, a service that if implemented correctly, could change the way that we interact with each other as humans. I propose a video game-esque experience that would allow humans to spend a day in the life of a member of the opposite sex. This could be done in such a way as to provide a sexual harassment avoidance course (particularly for men) in such a way where men would directly experience what it’s like to be sexualized and harassed on a constant basis. What better way for a man to understand sexually harassment better than personally experiencing it from the other side?
Virtual Reality has the potential to do good things in the world, but with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (thanks Ike). As we’ve witnessed with the rise of the video game culture, there is a tendency to lose oneself in the game. We can get so caught up within the game world that all of a sudden it’s four days later, and we’re still collecting resources or whatever.
Humans have a tendency to find ways to escape from the difficulties of the real world; whether it’s with drugs, alcohol, sex, video games, etc. Virtual Reality has the potential to tip the video game scale, and provide the space for the escapism culture to sky rocket. Steven Spielberg is directing an upcoming film, Ready Player One, based on a novel by the same name that is directly related to using VR as a means to escape the hardships of the real world. Granted, the film is set in a 2044 dystopian reality… but we have plenty of time to make that future our own.
Augmented and Virtual Reality are certainly a double edged sword. With the immense opportunity for benefit and growth, comes the equal potential for disaster and downfall. How we choose to proceed is the difference between utopia and dystopia. These two technologies could certainly advance our civilization to the next era, one that has been endlessly depicted as science-fiction; or into the opposite direction, and send us into Idiocracy/WALL-E territory.