Virtual dystopia, part 2

The government of the People’s Republic of China recently cracked down on the various internet back-channels that people had been using to get around governmental blocking of many web sites. Until quite recently, the government had looked the other way as people went about their business — sharing Google docs, watching Western TV shows, participating in chat rooms around the world.

But no longer, it seems. If your business in China had been depending on access to a shared Google doc, you may just be out of luck. Fortunately, this black-out only affects your on-line existence.

But in the hypothetical VR future we’ve been discussing, everything is on-line. Looking out at the world through your own eyes will require accessing the Cloud. Of course you are going to get a huge power-up from this access, and young people born into a world that gives such power to individuals will be unable to imagine having it any other way.

But it will also mean that a government that is trying to protect us from ourselves can simply make some things invisible. Even people can become invisible. If your actions or opinions make you too inconvenient, you might simply be “disappeared” — quite literally, nobody will be able to see you.

Entire buildings could similarly be disappeared from view.

Of course being invisible could also be a form of power. The government operative who wishes to pass by unnoticed can simply choose to go “off the grid”. That individual will be able to enter a room with perfect stealth — nobody will be aware of his or her presence.

Again, I’m not saying that these things will happen. I’m just saying that eventually they will become technologically feasible, which means we should probably be thinking about these issues now, rather than waiting until they are already upon us.

One thought on “Virtual dystopia, part 2”

  1. One of the disappointing things about living in The Future is how slowly transportation technology has evolved vs. information tech. A 747 airliner from 1970 looks a lot like…a 747
    airliner made this year. And yeah, a luxury sedan from 1970 might seem pretty clunky next to a Tesla Model S, but that’s nothing compared to the difference between a PDP-8 and an iPhone 6.

    So perhaps VR becomes transportation, or at least the component we consider “travel”. Tour guides of the future will lead groups of telepresence drones around the world’s monuments, leaving them free to roam the grounds when the tour is over. Going to hang out with far-flung friends means putting on the helmet, clicking on the map (and probably entering a credit card number). The quality of the experience will follow the info-tech progress curve, vs. the drastically slower evolution of transportation.

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