Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees of Solitude

I was having a conversation with colleagues today about a topic that comes up quite often when Virtual Reality is discussed: Will VR connect us, or will it isolate us?

I think it’s an ill-formed question, because the underlying technology of Virtual Reality can be used in so many diverse ways. VR can be used to create experiences that put you on an uninhabited planet, but also to create experiences that thrust you into a sociable crowd of other VR users. Just like the printing/publishing technology that came before it, the medium is insufficient to define the message.

Speaking of which … That conversation today reminded me of a panel I was on last year. The topic was Virtual Reality, and its potential impact on society (for better or worse).

At one point somebody expressed concern that if people were to spend a lot of time in VR, they might become disconnected from reality. Experiencing completely imaginary realities within a VR headset might become a form of addiction. If so, that might grow into an epidemic that society would need to deal with.

A bit later in the conversation, panelists were talking about their cultural inspirations. One panelist described with enthusiasm how only that last weekend he had read through all of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ classic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.

When I heard this, I jumped in and said: “How awful. Spending an entire weekend immersed in a completely imaginary reality. Maybe we should do an intervention!”

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