I recently realised I had been talking about the following idea for a couple of years but I actually had not written it down anywhere. Please note, I am no scientist, this is merely a brain dump and what I think are the benefits if this next step becomes our new reality…
With great interest I’ve been watching Virtual Reality (VR) move from the 80s/90s arcade entertainment environment many of us first encountered it in, to now a small device we can use in our living rooms – or even with our smart phone. Due to the cost of a new PC (or Playstation 4) I have not yet took the plunge into a VR purchase but I have used the Oculus Rift, and admittedly it did blow my mind.
As soon as I realised that the Oculus Rift was becoming a viable virtual reality product for homes across the globe it had me thinking about what the next step for immersing ourselves in virtual worlds would be, or more precisely; what sharing the real world digitally with each other would look like.
The combination of VR and 360º video recording is great but we are still just a viewer, rather than experiencing the event itself.
So, what is the next step?
In short, more immersion and reading brain signals.
Due to the development of nano-technology and wearable devices which are moving towards reading our emotions, it will be a bold move away from a screen which is placed merely centimetres away from our eyes.
We are moving at greater speed towards what is essentially technology pulled straight out of The Matrix. As soon as science cracks being able to read the electrical signals of the cerebrum and being able to input those same signals back into a different brain then we have taken a step to hack all our senses.
How many years early am I with developing this concept I do not know, but I bet there’s a lab working on this exact scenario right now and has been for quite some time.
VR has its limits and even though there are many companies trying to make it as immersive as they can, such as introducing smells or motion platforms, it will not compete with actually partaking in an environment or an event yourself. The only way I can see we break free from these limits is by dumping hardware add-ons and scientists plug straight into our brains and start reading and transmitting the necessary electrical signals.
If I’m correct, once environmental factors are perceived by our sensory inputs we are merely transporting an electrical signal to our brain… Maybe I have this all wrong, so please leave a comment with an explanation and the source. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no scientist but I’m willing to be educated by one.
It will be from here we leap forwards to experiences which are as real as the reality we take for granted when we open our eyes each morning.
It is worth mentioning that Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla and Space X) has stated that he is working on a ‘neural lace’ which will be able to read the brain in some way. He has worked on this so to keep pace with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future. His concern is that AI will overtake us because of our inability to output our thoughts from our brain which is limited by how fast we can type on a keyboard (hurry up Elon!!) or dictate to speech recognition software.
Elon hopes the neural lace will enable us to speed up communication. I’m much more interested in knowing if the neural lace could capture and record the 5 senses and even detect emotions in the future.
A World Changing View
This is where I’m really excited about this technology being developed if it ever does. If we can start recording and playing sensory events between each other the world as we know it right now will lose its shit!
Here is a couple of examples of how I think this technology will change our perception of how we treat each other as human beings overnight.
The Refugee Experience
A refugee running away from Western bombs will be able to record their experience. The moment their house is riddled with shrapnel and a roof upstairs collapses. You feel the fear for their life and the smell of burning. You see the dust and you feel the plaster from the ceiling hitting your body.
They leave in a hurry and make their way outside and there is a lifeless body outside with concrete rubble next to it. You can smell gas and see a house on fire across the road. The person whose experience you are viewing starts crying, you feel the emotions wash over you as if you were crying yourself as if in a dream. The person who uploaded this experience has just realised that the lifeless body is their wife.
You forward this experience on to your friend who earlier that day was saying he does not want to give refugees a chance to live in our country. Maybe he’ll change his mind once he lives this experience through the eyes of the refugee who has managed to upload their experience.
The Bully Experience
This could work in a number of environments such as a school or in the workplace. Replaying the experience of the victim back to the bully may help some bullies realise how damaging their actions are – unless of course they are getting a kick from it. The point to remember here is, when you take over all sensory inputs then I don’t think the viewer will be able to get any pleasure whilst in the experience. They will feel as the victim did, the pain, the emotional conflict and viewing themselves as someone else views them.
Those two examples are the tip of the iceberg because you and I both know that uploading our emotions to a social network such as Facebook will be where the big changes will take place.
Being able to view other people’s experiences could also cause more damage than good too. If people want to upload their hatred of other people, spreading disinformation and perpetuating propaganda, then we could see an increase in hateful content against other minorities – but let us not kid ourselves that we don’t already live in a digital world which already does that.
A World Flooded with Emotions
This is what I would hope is the result from such a leap in communication. A world flooded with emotions. No walls. No division.
If we can ever get to this point in humanity I envision there being so many more benefits to society. Much more compassion between each other in the home, in education and in the workplace.
I also see us becoming more connected to each other. Something which social media promised but the reality is very different for many people. I believe when your emotions are then communicated to your friends and family there will be a much greater pull to make that connection to each other, rather than scrolling past after hitting like and commenting “Oh how sad. You’ll be alright, chin up!”
It would be great to see men who are isolated becoming more connected and that over 30s suicide rate dropping.
There is now an increased understanding that drug addiction is often caused by loneliness, or at the very least it does not help an addict who is trying to avoid reuse. The Huffington Post article by Johann Hari is very interesting, or you can watch his TED talk on the same subject. Maybe we can finally understand the pain an addict is going through and decrease drug dependency.
Year 2050 Says Hello to Emotion Reality (ER)?
As much as I love social networks and the friends that they have given me, including my girlfriend, I do feel that they are lacking the ability for us to fully convey our emotions. An emoticon and a ‘feeling excited’ tag on Facebook just does not cut it some days.
We have become immersed in experiences and recording them but yet we still can’t get across just how fucking awesome our day at the race track was, or how utterly sad we are that our loved one has passed away.
The next step after VR is opening ourselves fully to the people we want to share our raw emotions with. Making that connection with other people on a much more deeper and meaningful level.
Photo credit: wonderhowto.com