Virtual Reality and Modern Cyberpunk Pt. 2

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Following the threads and strands of a dark history into our bright future, we are able to see that the entire human endeavor was leading up to virtual reality. Early stories told by the campfire were the crude prototypes of the new synthetic experience, teaching us things that we could only learn through peering into the trials and adventures of others. They were stories told by simple storytellers and shamans who, in their short time, had gained a vast insight into the human condition. Their fragile voices and hand gestures held their primitive audiences captivated in wonder, much like we see with the first participants of the Oculus Rift technology. In fact, these early stories told by word-of-mouth, books, radio, television, and video games were only practice for our leap into the digital alternate dimensions of tomorrow.

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The spoken word, language itself, was our initial leap into the hyperspace of conceptual thinking. It allowed us to pass ideas back and forth between each other with an intensity and specificity that was unparalleled in the animal kingdom. Written language, after many, many thousands of years, evolved and condensed until we could pass information and entertainment along to our contemporaries many miles away, as well as readers far into the future. The printing press sped up that process, and not long after, radio was broadcasting our thoughts around the Earth and into space. Soon after, television added picture to the audio and created an entirely new experience. Our minds then gave birth to computers, and in a few short decades VR was born, the ultimate in sensory interaction (until holodecks are invented).

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So how about a scenario?

I want you to imagine you’re laid back in a comfortable chair. The lights of the room are dimmed, the shades are drawn, and you’re all alone. You slide on your VR headset and . . . where do you go? If you found that absolutely anything was possible, and you could experience any fantastic quest or guilty pleasure you could imagine, what would it be? This is the circumstance we find ourselves in today, at the very first steps of our journeys into endless universe of virtual reality.

But there is something quite grave we must understand as we go forward. Virtual reality is no fad. In terms of pure visual exhilaration, it will surpass even the most jaw-dropping 3D movies. In terms of interactivity, it will certainly be light-years ahead of video games. In terms of how we access information, socialize, learn, and explore our environment, VR will turn the internet into the sad and puzzling toy of yesteryear, and humankind will never look back. Once these things come to pass, the entire enterprise will be subject to human whim and nature, and I believe that here is where things will get ugly.

Before VR, we were absorbed in our primitive television game shows, until VR allowed us to be contestants inside the show. We played video games through a monitor using rudimentary hand-operated controllers, until VR immersed us in the alien jungles of Tau Ceti, where we could smell the ioned gunsmoke of futuristic laser weapons. We waited months or years to go on vacation, until VR permitted us to explore the plains of the early Cretaceous from the safety of our living room chairs. And all of it was exciting and new… until we grew tired of these things and longed for the next step, ignoring the real problems of our fragile planet, lost in search of the most mind-blowing experiences imaginable. This will simply be human nature taking its course, and between the rubble of our homeworld, we will persist.

This infinite hunger burns within us for exploration, gratification, and entertainment, and will beckon us to a second VR revolution, one that will lead to the opening of vast cosmic doors into digital dimensions and staggering concepts that are virtually unfathomable by today’s standards. Even if we try to fathom them, it is our efforts themselves that push these future VR unknowns deeper into an explorable, mappable mystery.

It is these unknowns that we will explore next week in Part 3 of Virtual Reality and Cyberpunk.

Stay virtual, stay free.

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