Art Carden  

Stateless Reality 2.0 as a Substitute for Tyranny in Physical Reality

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Changing technology means that more and more of our interactions with one another will take place through online platforms and games like Facebook and Minecraft. We're just now scratching the surface of what virtual lives will look like, but it's becoming increasingly clear that widespread internet access, powerful computers, and virtually limitless server space are creating a new reality. Indeed, I don't want to call it "virtual" reality because it's more than just a game. Reality 2.0, perhaps? Or the Matrix?

I hope the ability to "go Galt" at the margin by seceding from physical reality (at the margin) and joining Reality 2.0 (again, at the margin) provides a check against state encroachment. Governments would do well to consider that the internet is going to more than a place where people can go to buy drugs or avoid taxes. While we'll probably always need physical food, clothing, and shelter, the internet is quite literally becoming an exit option: a place where people can go and live.

This is, I believe, part of Jeffrey Tucker's vision with his creation of Liberty.Me, described as a "city in the cloud."




COMMENTS (6 to date)
Tom West writes:

As long as there are a meaningful plethora of well-stocked realities to choose from, I expect minimal government intrusion. If you don't like a particular reality, you can choose another one.

However, the "meaningful" is important. The Internet is subject to powerful network effects, and as such, there's a strong tendency for there to be one winner and a bunch of also-rans which aren't really choices for most people, except in the theoretical sense.

If, as I suspect, one "Reality 2.0" dominates, there will be powerful pressure for the same sort of regulations that one sees in the real world, for much the same sort of reasons.

NZ writes:

I was recently at a software industry conference where the keynote talk was in the same vein of individualist futurist techno-boosterism as this blog entry.

It fills me with disgust and dread. My reflex when I hear this kind of stuff is to want to pack up my wife and child and go live off the grid in a cabin in the woods.

The thing is, I know I'm not the only one who reacts this way. In fact, my reaction is only a rather intense expression of a healthy sentiment that's very common.

If you ever find yourself in line at Starbucks, when you look around you'll see that every single other person in line is looking at their iPhones, absorbed in social media or some such thing.

Tap any one of them on the shoulder and ask them "Do you really like being this way, bent over a screen, living in a virtual world all the time when the real world is all around you?" 9 out of 10 of them will say no, and then start giving excuses for why they have to look at their phones in this particular instance. You can see and hear that they want to quit. It's obvious. They want to live in the real world.

But people like the keynote speaker at my conference, or like Art Carden in this blog post, or like most of the elites of Silicon Valley, are busy coming up with reasons not to live in the real world. They want you to plug permanently into Reality 2.0.

At the end of the day I feel optimistic though, because someone--maybe me, maybe someone else--will eventually capitalize on this latent demand for living squarely in reality 1.0. Instead of creating more virtual online narcissistic multiplayer crap--more reasons to stay "plugged in"--they'll create things that make it easier to unplug.

Hazel Meade writes:

The problem with living your life in virtual reality, in my opinion, is that it usually robs it of meaning.
For starters, by definition things done in virtual reality have much less of an impact of physical reality. Yes, you can win freinds and influence people, but unless you influence them to do things that matter in physical reality, you aren't really doing anything but moving bits around. And yes, you can also win fame and tell stories and so forth. But most of what we think of as "virtual" space happens in games, and the games are designed to give you an easy sense of accomplishment, for your entertainment. The accomplishments that you make in these spaces tend to be highly subjective and ephemeral. There are people who have commanded thousands of players in epic space battles in Eve Online, but nobody is going to remember that in 20 years, except perhaps a handful of dedicated gamers.

Similarly, most of the accomplishments people make online, despite being immortalized in the internet archives, are really ephemeral. You could make a viral video, or write a really great blog post, and then be forgotton tomorrow. Things just don't LAST in virtual reality. They are recorded forever, but nobody really cares for longer than it takes for it to scroll off the front page.

Christophe Biocca writes:

NZ:

If you ever find yourself in line at Starbucks, when you look around you'll see that every single other person in line is looking at their iPhones, absorbed in social media or some such thing.

They're using their phones while waiting in line at a Starbucks. Break it down to its components:
  1. They're getting coffee because their meatspace job requires them to get up way too early and commute from where they can afford rent to where the employer set up shop.
  2. They're going to a Starbucks because the coffee they like can't come to them.
  3. They're waiting in line because Starbucks doesn't have the ability to perfectly predict and adapt to demand.
  4. They're using their smartphones because waiting in line is boring.

I'm betting the problem here is more readily addressed by:

  1. Telecommuting
  2. Drone delivery
  3. Automated hi-speed robo-starbucks

Than it would be by not using your cellphone on break.

Now that doesn't preclude the possibility that some people actually want to live with 1990's level of online interaction (None). Modern day Amish, if you will. But why do you assume that lifestyle was ideal in the first place? At least the actual Amish can point to low-tech farming being a pretty much universal occupation for most of human history.

If you're going to break with tradition, but not continue following modern technology, where are you drawing the new limit, and why?

Tom West writes:

I suspect that we're seeing a clash between the desirability of interaction between strangers.

I suspect that Christophe's ideal is one where there is no interaction with other people except when explicitly desired.

For those who are slightly more gregarious, a more or less empty world with flickers of explicitly requested interaction might be a very sorry thing altogether.

NZ writes:

@Christophe Biocca:

Let's pretend that waiting in line is so excruciatingly boring that we must escape to Reality 2.0. (Who knows how our ancestors survived having to wait in line without a gadget to stare at!) But apparently everything else in life must be just as boring, since you frequently see people absorbed in their cell phones even after they are out of line and are sitting at a table across from their friends. Or while they're hiking around in the glory of the Grand Canyon. Or while they're with their kids. Etc.

Between...

  1. leaving your phone in your pocket
  2. and
  3. telecommuting (have you ever tried it? It's tough), drone delivery, and automated hi-speed robo-Starbucks

...you say that #2 is the more straightforward option. You're either not thinking clearly or you're extremely cynical.

If you're going to break with tradition, but not continue following modern technology, where are you drawing the new limit, and why?
While it depends a lot upon the individual's normal level of engagement with the real world and also their willpower (to resist the narcissism/quick stimulation available online) I don't mean to make it sound like these individual traits are distributed evenly, or evenly randomly. They aren't. Most people evidently have very low willpower when it comes to resisting the quick gratification waiting for them in their pocket. I'd guess that basically, we're not evolutionarily equipped for it. So, it'd be better to provide more reasons (i.e. lower the barriers) to stay in Reality 1.0, and remove reasons (i.e. raise the barriers) to moving to Reality 2.0.

@Tom West:

Let's also not forget that online interactions and realworld interactions are not interchangeable. We behave in a completely different way online; it actually takes practice and effort for most of us to make our online style of communication more closely resemble our realworld one--though for many people I suspect this difference is precisely the appeal.

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