VR… ‘das opium des volkes’? Adam Greenfield on Oculus

Nice blogpost by Adam a short-while ago reflecting on VR as a means of keeping the precariat/proletariat sated with simulation:

As VR’s leading developers straight-up admit in the piece, its function is to camouflage the inequities and insults of an unjust world, by offering the masses high-fidelity simulations of the things their betters get to experience for real. Here’s the money quote, no pun intended: “[S]ome fraction of the desirable experiences of the wealthy can be synthesized and replicated for a much broader range of people.” (That’s John Carmack speaking, for future reference.)


The idea that all we can do is accede to a world of permanent, vertiginous inequity – inequity so entrenched and so unchallengeable that the best thing we can do with our technology is use it as a palliative and a pacifier

All reminiscent of William Gibson’s rendering of the “Sim/Stim” industry in the Neuromancer trilogy… for example, this passage from the 23rd chapter of Count Zero (the 2nd book):

The interior of the JAL shuttle vanished in a burst of Aegean blue, and she watched the words TALLY ISHAM’S TOP PEOPLE expand across the cloudless sky in elegant sans-serif capitals.

Tally Isham had been a constant in the stim industry for as long as Marly remembered, an ageless Golden Girl who’d
come in on the first wave of the new medium. Now Marly
found herself locked into Tally’s tanned, lithe, tremendously comfortable sensorium. Tally Isham glowed, breathed deeply
and easily, her elegant bones riding in the embrace of a musculature that seemed never to have known tension. Ac- cessing her stim recordings was like falling into a bath of
perfect health, feeling the spring in the star’s high arches and
the jut of her breasts against the silky white Egyptian cotton
of her simple blouse. She was leaning against a pocked white balustrade above the tiny harbor of a Greek island town, a cascade of flowering trees falling away below her down a
hillside built from whitewashed stone and narrow, twisting
stairs A boat sounded in the harbor

“The tourists are hurrying back to their cruise ship now,” Tally said, and smiled; when she smiled, Marly could feel the smoothness of the star’s white teeth, taste the freshness of her mouth, and the stone of the balustrade was pleasantly rough against her bare forearms.

I continue to be surprised by the return to and rehabilitation of the Modernist vision of VR… perhaps I’m not cynical enough?!

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