It’s quite a time to be a geek. And times are about to get even weirder.
I recently visited San Francisco with my wife. I hadn’t been to the city for about five years, so I was interested to see the effect that the avalanche of Silicon Valley money has had on the city.
Turned out that as far as class divides go, the city hasn’t quite reached an Eloi and Morlocks situation. Nor did I find San Francisco to be a floating playground for the wealthy powered by the tears and sweat of the earthbound poor folk far below.
But you know, it could get there someday. All thanks to the ascendancy of the geek class — nouveau geek, if you will.
By now you’ve seen last week’s ridiculous Time magazine cover: Palmer Luckey, father of the Oculus Rift (and barely old enough to drink alcohol), pirouetting awkwardly on someone’s idea of a virtual beach. The whole image seems to symbolize everything wrong with the kings of Silicon Valley. Young bucks producing useless technological toys, like five different apps for laundry services, and profiting obscenely from them.
And yet — however mockable the concept — virtual reality is different. In fact, it’s going to change everything.
Yes, it’s going to be an amazing gaming platform. I’m practically shitting myself just thinking of the possibilities for games. But you have to think beyond the game stuff. Imagine, instead, job training. Imagine a flight simulator — for any and every job.
Doctors could perfect existing procedures on virtual patients . . . and try out new ones. Historians couldreconstruct whole lost cities based on aggregated data, and then walk through them. Cops could drill through countless interactions with virtual citizens until they learned to control their trigger fingers.
And on the humanities side . . . people with limited (or zero) mobility could visit environments they’d otherwise never be able to reach. We could achieve empathy for others in different cultures by stepping into their worlds via immersive journalism.
All careers, all bodies of knowledge, would benefit from virtual reality both as a tool to teach what’s known, and to push the boundaries into the unknown. As you can see from some of the above links, crude versions of these VR applications are already in place.
These are the kinds of dreams that fascinated me when I was creating the future (alternate) world of Player Choice. And now the technology is moving along so quickly that some of my speculations in the book may seem quaint ten years from now. (Damn you, sci-fi!)
So, don’t get distracted by silly app detours and empty “disruptivation” in the technological now. We are in fact hurtling into the future, and little douchebags like Mr. Luckey are the ones piloting the starship.
And if most of us can’t afford the rent in San Francisco, I guess we can always strap on a pair of goggles and pretend we’re there.
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