Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Virtual Normality

Written by Adam

“With more than one billion permutations available—from unique textures to clothing, accessories, and more—you can build something that truly represents your own style,” the firm said.

Wow.  I guess the inevitable future has finally arrived, at least according to the firm.

What Oculus (the firm) announced are the initial steps towards people participating in virtual reality, and the major concepts and potential of the burgeoning technology.

"This is the first time that tech has made this level of social presence possible," said Oculus' social product team leader.

The new software will allow people to exist in the same virtual space, and thus do everything from watch a video to be transported to the surface of Mars.  Oculus also revealed that users will be able to create their very own avatars to appear on screen, and even create virtual rooms to chat with them.

I first read this news shortly after I arrived in the Indonesian city of Jakarta.  I was in the earliest stages of trying to understand the reality that I was now a part of by virtue of simply getting off a jet and having my eyes wide open.

Virtual reality is quite interesting, and in some ways equally disturbing.  I suppose that virtual reality would mostly be inclined to best serve those with the requisite resources, both economic and educational.  

The idea of escaping your own reality in order to begin an existence in another one can be considered to be a bit cavalier, and for some an unattainable luxury.  I say this because of what I have seen here in Jakarta.  There is a broad spectrum of society that populates this city, ranging from the very wealthy to the very poor.  So, Jakarta seems to be like any other place on the planet.  

If you have the money to live well in Jakarta, why would you want to virtually leave?  Beyond the practical business applications of gathering people together to have a meeting - or perhaps just enjoying some of the more banal social aspects that the Internet encourages - why would you ever need to seek a planned evacuation from your own already privileged reality?

The poorest of the poor in Jakarta need to earn close to 25,680 Indonesian Rupiah per day just to survive, the equivalent of $2.00 USD.  Setting some money aside for the future is probably out of the question for many of them.  Millions upon millions of Jakartans must resort to performing any menial task in order to come up with that sort of limited income - daily.  Their lack of both advanced education and marketable job skills doom them to an exceedingly difficult lifetime of toil and possible abuse.  Of course, poor Jakartans are no different than other poor people living anywhere else on the planet Earth.

Yet, soon you will be empowered to build something in virtual reality that truly represents your own style - from unique clothing, accessories, and more.  You can visit Mars - virtually.  It really makes you wonder exactly who might benefit the most from using this technology to alter their own social presence. 

Alcohol, drugs, and denial can allow all of us to escape our own realities, being paramount among other change agents already easily available. Perhaps the greater challenge that technology should focus on is creating the means to improve our everyday reality instead of simply escaping it, thus allowing millions of people to leave their poverty-stricken reality behind to simply join the truly fortunate rest of us.


Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. I suppose we all try and get a different perspective every once in awhile: movies, reading books, taking vacations, putting ourselves in different situations, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone - even the idea of virtual reality which seems like a video game of sorts - are some of the benign ways to have a different, temporary reality. For those who can pursue a different perspective, it’s about having options, which is indeed a luxury when compared to those who don’t have as many options to change their reality, even temporarily. It does make you think. Thanks for the post.

This Journey We Call Life said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. While I am grateful that I personally have options, I have visited places around the world where you can smell a river from a block away. Also, the cell phone is seemingly ubiquitous, while fully functioning toilets are few and far between. The step-by-step progress of a functioning society may need to be re-examined; perhaps governments can become greater partners in creating a more equitable world?

Adam J.