I have commented briefly in other posts on how people are addicted to their cell phones today. For example, sometimes when I am standing in line at a restaurant I will notice the people. I often see people who are sitting together, but they are looking at their phones rather than looking at each other. One time I saw a family eating at a Wendy’s. While I waited for my food, I noticed that the mother was looking at her phone the entire time, not her family. For this reason I will avoid using mine when I am in line. Recently when I was picking up some dinner on the way home from work I left my phone in my car and instead brought in my notebook so that I could brainstorm some ideas while waiting.
Reading Ready Player One has brought back a question I considered a few years ago. Suppose programmers and engineers did develop a fully immersive virtual reality which provided data for all five senses, or at least for the eyes, ears and touch. Maybe something similar to the Oasis, or the Matrix (but not so malevolent). Suppose it seemed as genuine as the real world or close enough to hold a person’s attention for hours. Would some people still feel compelled to have a virtual cell phone to communicate with other people linked to the system? Would some people want a VR version of texting, Facebook, or Snapchat? Would they speak to each other “face to face” (in a VR sense), or would they still want to speak through a handheld device. When people in the real world are accustomed to communicating through a handheld device, how well would they do if all communication in the VR system had to be face to face (in a VR sense)? In Ready Player One people communicate in both ways. They have virtual email and texting, but they also meet in person, avatar to avatar. If such technology were invented and released to the pubic tomorrow, how would people today operate and communicate in the virtual world?
Science fiction has long been a great vehicle for social commentary, maybe because the genre is speculative from the outset and therefore fits naturally with ‘what if” questions. This would be an interesting premise for a story. Such a story could provide some useful speculation about where our society might be headed.
I see many other potential pros and cons to such a virtual reality system. I hope to address them in a future post.