Could reality get too dull for us?


We spend an increasing amount of time in front of screens.

Some are fixed – our TVs, computer monitors. And some are with us all the time – our mobile phones.

A future where our screens can be in front of us all the time is not too far away.

Cher Tan, in an article on placenessness – a world where we can have the same coffee anywhere in the world – draws our attention to Keiichi Matsuda’s film Hyper Reality, a vision of this kind of future.

In this new world, we layer experiences on top of reality.

We start with questions – and questions these days for most people are synonymous with Google.

The thing is that many of the important questions we have, like who am I? and where am I going? are answered quite literally by Google – with name, rank and serial number, and a point on a street map.

It answers the question but misses the point.

Then there is the constant backdrop of what we do with our time.

Many of us play games – and we can do this all the time – on the bus, while walking, during work…

There is also useful stuff – like instructions on where things are, when to stay out of the road, where the nearest emergency centre might be.

When something is wrong, we can speak to someone.

Or something anyway.

Lifelike chatbots can have a conversation with us and help us with any problem we have.

Until they stop working and the system needs to be restarted.

In this world we’re surrounded by information, from how much things cost to how much money we have left.

Although money might be an old fashioned thing by then – we might be much more focused on points, how many we have, how much we can get with them, whether they are safe.

In Hyper Reality, the biggest feeling is one of sensory overload.

It’s like having the lights and action of Times Square superimposed on the daily activities of life – getting on the bus, going shopping.

And, when the lights go out for a second, reality seems rather underwhelming.

Probably much like the feeling we have when we’re stuck on a train without a book and our mobile phone battery runs out.

We want the lights and action back on again.

It’s a relief when the system starts up and we have the screens up and running.

The thing is – in this world we could go days without having to speak to anyone real.

We could be totally connected and yet be completely alone – we need the virtual world because reality is just too crushingly dull.

Could this be a possible future for many?

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