So, after having finally upgraded my Samsung Phone, I got a free Gear VR as a Pre-order Bonus. Yes! Virtual Reality in the palm of my hand. As a true geek, I was unreasonably excited for this.
Who hasn't dreamed of donning a headset and physically entering Cyberspace? It's a Cyberpunk dream. I got the package yesterday, and quickly set it up. And then I was terrified. not because the content was scary... but because it was too good. I, for the first time, understood what a Luddite probably felt.
In order to understand my terror, you must understand something about me. I have a fairly addictive personality. If I like something, I will pursue the experience avidly, to the exclusion of all else. Food, water, who needs that?
The Gear VR, like any other VR headset, slips over your eyes, taking over your field of vision. Headphones blot out the sounds of the outside world. There is no understating how divorcing this is from reality. Within seconds you are on a new experiential plane. And if you move your head around, you can look around at your surroundings.
It's easy to get lost, and quickly too.
This picture doesn't do the interface justice. It's one thing to see it on a screen, but to see it literally floating in mid-air in front of you...
Now, the background of the VR environs were moderately low-resolution, and things like the koi pond in the virtual house you were in did not having moving water, but it didn't matter. The sheer awe of being in another place, another world, was instant and overwhelming.
You know how when you've been in a movie theatre for a few hours watching a really engrossing film that it sometimes feels like you're stepping back out into another world afterwards?
Imagine that sensation times a thousand.
I could hear my cat mewling next to me, asking for attention, but I couldn't see him, focused as I was at looking around my environs. It was all so far away, the outside. And in here, in the device, was this new world. This new, exciting, low-fi world straight out of Johnny Mnemonic and the Hackers movie.
As I reveled in this new sensation, fear quickly mounted. I knew what was happening to me.
I was already becoming hooked.
I am an introvert. For most of my youth, as an only child, I was alone. Books were my only companions, and I got lost in them as easily and completely as one would a movie. Without social circles, or friends to take up my time, there was only the printed page. Then came the internet, and things like Prodigy and IRC, and all of a sudden I was making connections with the world. I made friends on different continents and came somewhat out of my shell. Even today I stay up till ungodly hours chatting away on Twitter, Discord and IRC.
I don't really deal with the outside world. My computer is my gateway to humanity, and preserving and nurturing what connections I have with the rest of the human race.
Then, this thing came before me.
I was sitting at my computer desk when I slipped it on, and the computer went away. People were messaging me, but I didn't care. I was cut off from the sanctuary that was already cut off from the world. My world had contracted to the virtual sphere. I wanted to get lost in the raw, visceral 3D experiences on offer. I could play with paper dinosaurs, or sit next to a xenomorph as it burst out of a hapless victim, or even find a virtual comedy club.
But Christ, I barely get out enough as it is, and it;s a pain to get me out of my office. Now, with this on, I wouldn't even want to move.
Now I know what you're saying. It's not the technology's fault, it's mine for being a weak human being, like Lister in the Red Dwarf series when he gets sucked into "Better than Life."
And you are one hundred percent correct. I'm not even going to argue. I'm the only one to blame for becoming a slack-jawed idiot when I first donned the headset.
I should be stronger. And I am self-aware enough that I think I can be. I can force myself to limit myself. But... could younger me have done so?
Could a more depressed, younger version of myself, starved for contact pre-IRC ever resist the siren song?
I don't know. And I worry about others like a younger me who might be sorely tempted to just withdraw completely from the world in the face of this new delight, atrophying ever more as the virtual offers an experience unmatched by the physical.
The Virtual Home in the Oculus App is fairly large, and architecturally looks better than the place I'm in-- even in its cheaply modeled state. Someone once said in the future people won't need large apartments, because they'll just strap on a headset that gives them any environment they want. I can see that in a few generations, (and bear in mind with advances in tech a "generation" may be 18 months or less) this technology could provide ever more impressive--and seductive--results.
And this is why I feel like a Luddite. Like one of those backwards people I usually mock for denigrating science and progress because of their own small, petty fears. I can now understand totally why someone would think it might be acceptable to try and legislate these kinds of transcendent experiences out of the reach of people.
I don't agree with it-- I think that society needs to help us stay mentally strong, educated and balanced-enough to responsibility use our technology, and that experiences should be open to all--but I can sympathise a bit more.
I am afraid of this thing, and of withdrawing back into a shell I worked very hard to get out of, and am still getting out of every day. I'm afraid of what I could easily let myself fall into.
And I hate that I am afraid.
Having successfully invaded both America and Canada from her home base in Windsor, Paisley has become horribly corrupted by the world. She hates active voice and wishes to god Twitter had an edit button. Dedicated to "creating the greatest 'Ship of them all", she ponders horribly terrible, idiotic things for your amusement.