Ask Ceil – Reality Bytes

Anna Bashmakova and Oculus Rift

Dear Ceil,

Will Virtual Reality lead mankind into a Facebook-fueled dystopian hell?

Nervous in Nashua

Dear Nervous,

Perhaps you speak of the Oculus Rift, that fascinatingly chunky device that is not unlike its older cousin, the View-Master.


 Kid on left: utlra cool. Kids on right: total simps.

The difference is, of course, the View-Master makes a satisfying ka-thunk sound, and the Oculus Rift is a sensory explosion of sound and light. And it also straps to your head. Which is super high-tech.

The Oculus was recently acquired by Facebook after the Oculus partners took a sobering three days to consider the $2 Billion offer. (I imagine that was all the time they could reasonably spend hi-fiving each other.)

But after selling to Facebook–aka (let’s face it) “Beelzebub”–everyone took another look at those strappy little alternate universes and thought, “Look! A cute little interface meant to commandeer our brains!”

fb logo oculus

 “Apparently, you’re not on Facebook enough. Here, put this on.”

The problem here is that Facebook fits so many familiar evil stereotypes:

  1. They are addictive. As the liaison to your friends and family, they are irresistible.
  2. We are helpless to withstand their whims. Every time they change their look or function, we have to go along for the ride.
  3. They have made themselves the hub for all human information. All news, all personal updates, all pictures of your dogs, your food, and your children can all be found there.
  4. It doesn’t present all that information reliably. This is probably the worst flaw of Facebook: it only shows us what it wants us to see.

The fear is, when paired with Oculus, it will feel like un-edited reality. Our little hominid brains don’t usually assume our sensory input is incorrect. (Unless you’ve read a lot of existential philosophy, or done a bunch of acid.)

Here’s why I’m not scared of being eventually oppressed by Overlord Zuckerberg: My husband is annoyed with my habitual computer use now, and I can actually see and hear the stuff that’s going on around me. I can’t imagine the level of invective if I actually closed off my senses. Spouses and parents everywhere will be buying these things, and then throwing them out the very next week.

(We only have to worry if people buy one for each family member. In that case, we’ll find whole families starved to death. Sitting on their couches. In front of uneaten bowls of chips.)

Also, if we really consider the true impact of the Oculus Rift–if we have the courage to be honest with ourselves–we’ll realize that this thing is going to be used 98.3% of the time for porn, and that most development will stop right there. That, and possibly for killing imaginary orcs. Seriously large, totally realistic orcs.

Rule #34, people.

So, I’m not worried. Not really.

Ceil Kessler is a writer who is currently fending off attractive offers from corporate America, and promises of reliable income and generous 401K matches, all of which she refuses in the name of art and her love of the muses. No, I’m just kidding. I refuse all that because I am part of the sandwich generation, though I suspect I’d be a much bigger fan of the cheesecake generation, or perhaps the lasagna generation. (Mmm. Lasagna.)

 Ceil occasionally writes in her blog, renovates investment properties, and  inspires people to write short fiction. You can find all her other writings and such in her writing repository. Other than that, the minute this ground thaws, she’s planting something.

Photo by Sergey Galyonkin, via Flickr


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