No more reality, please

May 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

Over at The Economist, Free Exchange is wondering if the idea of developing virtual reality for chickens portends a human future that is rid of all things reality.

It is interesting to think of VR as a disruptive technology—one that might eventually disrupt today’s dominant reality technology, reality. Reality is superior in all sorts of ways. There are many more apps that run on it, everyone is already on the platform (well, most everyone), and it comes with dazzling features like “the wind in your hair”, “a really good steak”, and “sex”. On the other hand, reality is costly. Access to a lot of the apps costs enormous amounts of money: like “education”, “health care”, “automobiles”, and so on. Interacting with people all across the platform isn’t easy. Downloading “journey to another country” takes a long time, and not everyone’s passport is compatible. Reality is costly in other ways as well. It’s unpleasant and dangerous. Just going to work can be a trial, what with traffic and fickle public transport. You have to take all the bad sights and smells with the good ones. And at any moment you could be hit by a truck. One sympathises with the chickens; free-range life is stressful.

And of course, there is a set of questions being raised

Would the equilibrium be one big reality or lots of separate ones or billions of individual ones? What are the rules, moral and otherwise, concerning AIs in VR? Would people grow bored of too-perfect VRs and introduce the occasional misfortune to liven things up (would chickens get tired of a field without foxes)? What happens if you die in the Matrix?

So if one were to follow this pattern in terms of science-fiction films:


Devoid of reality turned out to be fine.



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