Nothing beats “Real Reality”. And, just in case we live in a simulation, I will say that by “reality” I mean “our” simulation.
From the very best to the very worst, reality has always covered the broadest spectrum of possibilities. As the central part of our reality, we humans tend to contribute to making things worse and taking no responsibility whatsoever for our individual and collective actions. It is true though, that (if you look carefully), you will find the kindest and most heartwarming examples of altruistic human interaction. However, it is also undeniable that, without as much effort, you will also find the polar opposite. And that is in “normal” circumstances…
Already, the Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the rusty machinery of capitalism and, with it, all our crumbly social constructs. If anyone was waiting for a wake-up call, I can’t think of a more humbling one. And yet, the first general reaction has been disappointing: self-centred behaviour.
Before any of this happened we already had some early towel-throwers: people that, if they could, would leave it all behind, isolate themselves from the real world, and chase the chimera of their own personal happiness. Some critics of VR worry about how this medium could be reinforcing such attitudes in the long run: a technology that steers us towards a more alienated and isolated future. I don’t think it is an intrinsic problem of the technology but, having said that, things going wrong is a perfectly plausible scenario. Same old story all over again.
During these times of forced isolation, there is an exceptional opportunity for VR technology to make a statement, loud and clear of what it can be. A symbolic declaration of intent in a very exceptional moment: VR can be our backup plan to prevent disrupting our social interactions and carry on with our lives as normally as possible. What a plot twist that would be!
Earlier today, I read somewhere that there is a high chance for Brexit negotiations to be postponed due to the Coronavirus outbreak (the clash of the only two topics people have seemed to care about lately). Despite the many more important things to deal with right now, the article was suggesting that the main difficulties were related to the requirement of physical presence for face-to-face interaction during negotiations. I can’t imagine a videoconference with so many parties involved but I can, however, picture a virtual parliament where our representatives would meet and discuss whatever is needed to be discussed. In fact, now that I come to think about it, it could save us all a lot of money too. Most politicians lack the honesty that translates to truthful facial expressions anyway, so… no need for face tracking!
Jokes aside: it might be a bit late for that one. There are no robust platforms available to conduct such gatherings in the context of international politics at that scale (that I know of). However, the rest of us, while locked at home, can find in Virtual Reality a temporary replacement for our social interactions, whether for leisure or business. Some people will have a harder time than others with self-isolation and loneliness can pose a challenge in society among older people who live by themselves. I would definitely like to see more research and immersive contents being done for the elderly in the near future.
For an undetermined amount of time, we are going to spend more time at home than most of us are used to. I say let’s try to make the most of it. We will have the luxury of time for those things that are always sitting on the back of our minds and never have the time for. Meditate and listen to yourself, read more, explore new recipes, discover new music, write something, play an instrument, try painting… put on a VR headset and hang out with your friends and family (or even meet people). Take the opportunity.
While everything is on pause, we can still make the world a better place, for when we get out there again, there are going to be many things that will require our attention and will certainly keep us entertained.