Ever since the dawn of the 20th century, fictional dystopian futures have become a staple mark in both the U.S. and world culture. New ones get published every year with various levels of success. People often get horrified or enchanted with their depiction of a future with bleak hope, causing people to vow it will never happen if they have anything to say about it or pushing others to fantasize about living in such a world.
One thing that has been a constant throughout these sad predictions is that every once in a while, they are successful predicting a nugget or two. However, never before has the actual reality of a fictional dystopian future ever been fully fulfilled to the same extent as a novel. Ready Player One and Feed are two dystopian novels that center around technological advancements that change the nature of the world in its entirety, and the scary thing is that they both have strong legitimate chances of becoming true.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline features a world where a vast virtual world (OASIS) became the escape for humanity, allowing anyone to be anyone without any restrictions of the real world. Here, all one had to do was put on the headset, and they were sucked right into the world where they were what they wished to be. People wanted this escape, especially since the real world had been ravaged by the effects of climate change, pollution, overpopulation, famine, and other terrible circumstances. The OASIS was so popular that businesses started conducting business operations within the game. The in-game currency was easily transferred to actual U.S. dollars, and the in-game currency was even outperforming the USD. People had careers in the OASIS in which they were hired on by real corporations and were being paid legitimate wages.
VR Chat is a game created by Graham Gaylor and Jesse Joudrey. In this game, anyone can log on and become whatever they want while interacting in a world filled with thousands of other players. While the game does not have in-game currency (yet), Second Life does use currency that runs hand-in-hand with real money. Yes, there are games where someone can have a career inside of a game (and someone even became a millionaire off of it). One may say that all is fine and dandy, but no virtual currency could ever be seen as more valuable than real USD or hard cash. I point to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in response.
How close are we to the world of Ready Player One? “I think that we are about 7 to 10 years away from deploying the technology enjoyed in the Oasis as described in the story and shown in the film. By then we will certainly have full haptic feedback, 64K resolution displaying at 120 FPS, and 8G bandwidth at consumer-friendly price-points. With that kind of firepower, we will be very close to launching worlds as expansive and immersive as the Oasis in Ready Player One.” That is a quote from Joel Breton, the vice president of virtual reality at HTC Vive (the leader of virtual reality). It is coming at a faster rate than anyone can imagine.
Feed by M.T. Anderson depicts a world that is so hooked up to the internet that everyone shares the same cultural background simply because everything worth sharing is shared directly into everyone’s head via computer chips (which act as HUDs). This means that no matter the age nor place, anyone with a chip in their head is linked up to the same cultural norms as everyone else. Feed also predicts that because individuals have text messaging in their heads, people will begin to abbreviate to the most extreme, and language will become much more minimal and abstract. Anderson thought that this would allow parents and children to share the same slang and to speak very similarly. If everyone is constantly updated on the trends and communication has the same standard across the board, then why would 50-year-olds not speak the same and have similar interests as 20-year-old?
Well, the brain chips are coming, and the man behind that push is Elon Musk. Neuralink is Musk’s brainchild company, but his focus is on merging human intelligence with artificial intelligence. Musk has already shown a video claiming that a monkey with the chip was playing a video game with his mind. Musk is positive that, later in 2021, they “might be able to do initial human trials later this year.”
Do not doubt how real these dystopian worlds are and how close they are to becoming a reality. Elements of each already creep around in the world today, and with each passing day, more people escape to virtual reality. As we creep closer and closer into these worlds, one must ask how much of these games will be our future.
Media by Joshua Heller.