An article in Wired says: The future of virtual reality is far more than just video games. Silicon Valley sees the creation of virtual worlds as the ultimate free-market solution to a political problem. In a world of increasing wealth inequality, environmental disaster, and political instability, why not sell everyone a device that whisks them away to a virtual world free of pain and suffering?
and quotes John Carmack, Doom co-creator and the former CTO of Oculus:
People react negatively to any talk of economics, but it is resource allocation. You have to make decisions about where things go. Economically, you can deliver a lot more value to a lot of people in the virtual sense.
Actually, I doubt that there is any kind of tech-industry-wide conspiracy to cool the people out and keep them from revolting by enmeshing them into virtual worlds…mostly, this is just about making money and doing cool technical stuff…on the supply side that is. On the demand site, it should be of more than a little concern that escapism is so important to so many.
I’m reminded of some of the reactions when the movie Avatar came out. CNN reported at the time:
James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.
According to the article, there were more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.
Neptunus Lex responded: “Some folks don’t get the point. You have to come home when it’s over.”
But we seem to have an increasing number of people who don’t want to come home when it’s over…who don’t want it to ever be over…but want to stay in that virtual world permanently.
And, relatedly, there is also pharmaceutical-based escapism, legal or illegal. Various forms of addiction, already at concerning levels, have risen considerably over the last year. And, apparently, it has long been true that considerable numbers of people find an ordinary trip on an ordinary commercial airliner to be so stressful that they medicate themselves beforehand.
In my 2010 post on the Avatar reactions, I said:
I immediately thought of the old Chinese opium dens…which were largely inhabited by people whose lives were so miserable that their desire to disappear in dreams was entirely understandable.
But what misery or bleakness are the would-be permanant habitués of the Avatar den seeking to escape?
And this question can be extended to other types of addiction-dens, as well.