A World in Virtual Reality

A rather contrarian view I have is that the world will be better in virtual reality. I say will because I believe that, on an infinite time horizon, we eventually get to full-immersion VR (unless we screw up the environment before then). I have had several discussions around this topic before, so I’d like to formalize my thoughts a bit and try writing them out. 

I think…in 2018…it is so hard for us to imagine “a life in VR” that many of us immediately reject the idea.

“Don’t you think human to human contact is sooo important?”

“I value seeing someone’s face.”

These are the common responses, and I think they definitely do have merit. 

I first wonder…

How would you explain today to the people of fifty years ago?

“Uhh…so we sit on these devices and type out words that make things and then we have these super computer things in our pockets where we play games and take these things called snapchats and send them to our friends.”

Even just fifty years ago, the average person would think that you are crazy?! Now the average person scrolls newsfeeds for several hours a day. Things change! Imagine doing the same exercise with a group of people from 100…500..1000 years ago? It would be really hard to sell your story. 

In case, I think we should have an open mind about the future because a) it is really hard to predict and b) we often struggle to understand the context of the future.

With an open mind, I think, perhaps naively, we should always optimize for “the best for society.” Everyone has their own worldview, their own bias, and their own personal preferences. When I think about “best for society,” I try my best to remove myself from that equation. It is hard, but I actively try.

In fact, I would not want to live in VR all the time. But I think it would be better for the world if we all did. Here is why…and perhaps this is controversial (as people have vehemently disagreed with me about this before): 

The world would be fundamentally fairer in virtual reality. 

Today, we are limited by where we are born, who we are born to, what we look like, what we sound like, etc. I think those are all inefficiencies that block talent and ambition.

VR solves that. Anyone has the potential to do anything. It is the true meritocracy! 

Anyone – from anywhere – can go to Harvard. Anyone can learn anything. 

I think the internet has brought us a lot closer to an even playing field, but of course we still have a really long way to go to get to equal opportunity.

Now I think “success” will look a lot different in the future. I, personally, am rooting for a renaissance period and perhaps VR will unlock that.

Of course, I worry about the negatives. I worry about who owns VR. Who governs it? What do we do there? What are we rewarded for? 

Those are all important questions definitely worth studying. 

I have thoughts – for another essay. 

Also published on Medium.