The Virtual Reality Backlash. Coming to a scream near you, soon.
Won’t you please think of the children?
Every new mass-market technology leads to unmetered panic among conservative factions.
Take the Luddites, for example.
(Real people from Bulwell do not look like this)
In mid-November 1811, half a dozen men — with faces blackened to hide their identities, and carrying “swords, firelocks, and other offensive weapons” — marched into the house of master-weaver Edward Hollingsworth, in the village of Bulwell (very near where I was born, by the way). They destroyed equipment designed to automate factory processes. A week later, more men came back and burned a house to the ground. Within weeks, attacks spread to other towns. When panicked industrialists tried moving their equipment to a new location to hide them, the attackers would find the carts and destroy them en route.
The machine-breakers would usually disguise their identities and attack the machines with massive metal sledgehammers. The hammers were made by Enoch Taylor, a local blacksmith, who ironically was one of the producers of the equipment which was making textiles labourers redundant.
Before an attack, they would pen a letter to manufacturers, warning them to stop using their “obnoxious frames” or face destruction.
They were soon breaking 175 machines per month. Within months they had destroyed probably 800, worth £25,000 — the equivalent of $1.97 million, today.
“It seemed to many people in the South like the whole of the North was sort of going up in flames. In terms of industrial history, it was a small civil war.”
In Victorian times, there was a backlash against the telegram, an early communication innovation. The fear was that women would be sending saucy telegrams to secret lovers or “nefarious suitors”.
2017 has also seen the rise of many conservative factions. A President was voted into power in the United States promising to return jobs back home and put pressure on, or even prevent foreign talent entering the country.
History teaches us that objections to new technology have been violent and very often backed by mass-media. So what kind of backlash and scare stories can we expect now that VR is taking hold of consumers all over the world?
VR as a drug
The combined federal drug control budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 was $31.07 billion, up from $23.8 billion in 2013. Meanwhile Microsoft has been developing VR which can “make you hallucinate” in the same way as LSD. What happens next?
VR induced psychosis
What if the virtual worlds unlimited and immersive experiences deliver more alluring places to ‘live’ than the real world? Surely spending too much time in an artificial environment will lead to regulation and moral outrage at the fear of people becoming unable to operate in real-world situations?
(I cannot unsee some of the pics I encountered to find this clean one. Credit: VRstatus)
VR as birth control
If all your sex is virtual, why would you procreate in the sweaty and gritty reality? More than 80% of our beloved internet is already porn. Pornography is already proven to have a ‘neutering’ effect on users, causing sexual incompetence. Will VR flings wreck marriages?
VR disconnecting our reality
The first time I tried “Job Simulator” I didn’t want to leave. In China there are many special centres set up to avert 2D internet addiction especially for gamers who spend to much time in MMO’s.
I’m expecting all kinds of moral panic and outrage to set in as VR and MR accelerate and progress. What can you do as an early adopter to help to ensure that this happens less?
Take responsibility for creating content for good
Question what you read about VR
Highlight VR for doing good (Eg in the treatment of PTSD)
Find ways to fold charitable models into the industry (maybe as they do with the “Humble Bundle” initiative in gaming which has raised $92m to date)
The backlash will only really start when VR hits the mainstream. I have a sense that we won't have long to wait... what do you think?