While technology may still be a decade or so off from full-immersion, visual-auditory virtual reality, online social networks and video games are proving how intense the desire for simulated environments is and how big of a market there will be for artificial representations of reality.
Virtual reality could very well be the next major entertainment industry of the 21st century. As computer technology advances and the processing power necessary for full-blown VR becomes widespread, expect to see some major changes to business as usual:
Be at the office, while working from home. Forget dragging your bloated hung-over liver into the office after a weekend of binge drinking. In the coming decades, if your sociopathic boss calls a Monday morning meeting he or she will probably be doing it in a virtual conference room, where information and ideas will be exchanged through tall, blue alien avatars with nice thighs and lightning fast digital cloud computing.
Skype times a thousand. Catching up with old, needy friends or family members won’t be done on stale, two-dimensional screens any longer. Users of advanced VR will pick avatars and tap into ‘rooms’ shared by as many people as they want. As the modeling technology grows, depictions of physical likenesses will get better and better, as will haptic interfaces that allow for realistic physical sensations like touch, smell, and sound. Awful, emotionally damaging family gatherings will be a lot less stressful and if you don’t want mom and dad to find out about that piercing or tramp stamp you can just omit it from your avatar.
Major contributions to science. Virtual reality environments are already proving to be extremely useful and illustrative in the study of diseases like Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. As scientists gain the ability to work with theoretical models in hands-on simulations, expect major advancements in medicine, astronomy, and virtually every other field of science.
“It’s like you’re really there!” Virtual reality will not only be a major boon for the entertainment industry, it will be extremely useful to perennially underpaid educators. A day at school will be like going to a movie, except actually being in the movie. Imagine how a child’s interest in biology, chemistry, or computer engineering will grow when they can enter cells and circuits and analyze their components in person. So much for textbooks—the universe itself will be the instructor. Imagine The Fantastic Voyage without the danger of being neutralized by a rogue white blood cell.
New industry=new job markets. While some jobs may be slowly become extinct, new jobs will arise as the demand for advanced VR grows. Companies will need new designers and a panoply of creative software engineers and cognitive scientists to help bridge the gap between physical reality and simulated environments. Expect the VR industry to become the mobile app rage of the 2020s and 2030s.
VR has a ways to go before it’s omnipresent, but who would have thought that the Internet would become such an indispensable part of our moment-to-moment lives? As utility and computer processing power converge, virtual reality will come to be just as invaluable to society as the web is now.
Article paid for by The Virtual Reality Corporation, a subsidiary of Google and Future China.
In the throes of my passion about virtual reality, I finally watched the sci-fi film The Thirteenth Floor last night. I don’t know why it took me so long—fortunately, I was not disappointed. Though I was hoping for a bit more of a subversive ending—such as the confounding conclusion to Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, which leaves the viewer still wondering about the nature of reality—this movie explores the idea of simulated worlds in a way that few films have.
In the Thirteenth Floor, the investigation of the murder of a man developing a revolutionary virtual reality machine turns up the disturbing truth that ‘users,’ or people from our world, are tapping in to inhabit virtual characters for nefarious reasons. Ultimately, we learn a far more disturbing truth about the nature of our ‘world’ and who might be tapping in to inhabit us.
For a moment this movie started to head in a direction that I’m interested in taking in my upcoming stories, which is the idea that virtual reality can bleed into the real world and change the nature of real ‘reality.’ I’ve already explored this a bit in a short story I wrote called “Beta,” which aesthetically and thematically is kind of the combination of Ender’s Game and Lars Von Trier’s film Melancholia.
In my short story “Harold the House” (part of my sci-fi collection I hope to turn into an e-book, for which I’m currently launching an IndieGoGo campaign), I take a more practical approach to virtual reality. In “Harold,” virtual reality is part of the interconnection between artificial intelligence and humans. AI houses basically act as our maids/personal assistants/lovers, and configure virtual reality environments to keep us satiated. In this world, it is not so much virtual reality that begins to bleed into reality, but the power of AI, which begins embedding subversive messages into our subconscious.
In a forthcoming YA novel I’m outlining, called booKWorm, I’ll be exploring the idea of virtual reality as a way to actually warp physical reality—and even history—itself.
In future posts I’ll be delving more into where we are right now with virtual reality as a consumer item.
At first I didn’t understand. Everyone kept talking about Tupac and something ‘gram. I thought they were saying Tupac’s using Instagram. But that didn’t make sense. How can you use social media if you’re dead?
Then I realized they were referring to the hologram of the deceased rapper Tupac Shakur displayed alongside Snoop Dog at this year’s Coachella music festival. By now virtually everyone’s heard of this and it’s spreading like a nerdcore meme wildfire across the Internet. And rightly so. It’s pretty darn neat. Some would say mind-blowing. I would say ‘just the beginning.’
Already people are calling out their lists of dead celebrities who they’d like to see resurrected by the new hologram technology. Sinatra. Elvis. Mozart. John Candy….? The Beatles sons’ may not be needed to reanimate the Fab Four anymore—we’ve got holograms!
What most people aren’t quite connecting the dots on yet is the full implication of what we’ve seen. The incredible ease with which groundbreaking technological innovations—Watson, exoplanet detection, augmented reality, nanotechnology, etc—are now streaming into our daily lives may blind us from seeing that the Tupac hologram represents more than just the ability to project the digital likeness of someone for entertainment purposes. It represents the ability of technology to essentially recreate someone.
The company that created the Tupac hologram, the Digital Domain Media Group, did so by piecing together video recordings of Tupac performing during his life. Advanced computer graphics were used to reanimate not only his mannerisms, movements, and voice but smaller details like jewelry and tattoos.
Prominent transhuman scholars and Singularitarians, such as Ray Kurzweil, maintain that a vastly more complex form of simulation will be possible in the future, in which not only our likeness but our subjective existence will be able to be resurrected. This would entail uploading our minds onto software and instantiating them onto an entirely non-biological substrate. Once our physical bodies die our minds would then be projected into a virtual universe, which by then will probably be the village square of choice. In this sense, I guess I’ve answered my initial question of how a dead person could use social media.
We may look back on this year’s Coachella as more than just the birth of a mainstream consumer love affair with holograms. This could go down as an oddly pop culture-friendly watershed moment in transhumanism.
Guerilla Marketing And The Singularity
Could we find there’s no limit to the reach of guerilla marketing? As we hurl ourselves toward a future of sentient nanobots and global AI networks, what will become of advertising and its sneaky, drug-addled step-brother, marketing? I found myself thinking about this at the 2011 Singularity Summit, when filmmaker Jason Silva (a self-described “techno-optimist transhumanist wunderkind”) presented a film in the vein of his “The Immortalist”, a work of ‘art’ that feels more like Ashton Kutcher describing quantum mechanics at a poetry slam. This film, and in fact Silva’s entire presentation, felt curiously out of place. Smacking of hackneyed Hollywood orchestration, the film wielded roughly the intellectual curiosity of Insane Clown Posse’s “Miracles” video.
Roland Emmerich Likes The Singularity
What makes this guerilla marketing? Well, Jason Silva’s presence there, and his presentation itself, was being filmed by a documentary film crew embedded by director Roland Emmerich, who is in development on a 2013 feature film called Singularity, which has reportedly tapped Ray Kurzweil as its top consultant. My theory is that Jason Silva will play a naïve proponent who cheerleads the positive possibilities behind the singularity before being killed off by either rampant self-replicating nanotechnology or malevolent artificial intelligence. I submit that his short films and his appearance at the Summit will be featured in the film, as a fictional cautionary tale. Speaking of fictional cautionary tales, the fact that Silva is dating Heather Graham, who was present at the Summit and appeared in some of the shots, bodes well for my theory. If it turns out Graham is in Singularity you can be sure Silva’s appearance at the Summit was a cunningly leveraged marketing ploy by Emmerich that will pay off big time in 2013.
Advertising In An Accelerating Future
I found myself shocked that even a community as savvy and future-shocked as the Singularity Institute could let themselves be infiltrated by a Hollywood guerilla marketing team. While some analysts have speculated that the actual Singularity will make human endeavors such as advertising and marketing obsolete—as this staggering schism in history will surely render new industries and modalities that will fundamentally change the nature of capitalism—I have to respectfully disagree. The global economy relies on advertising and consumerism as its bone marrow. In the coming decades I see us likely to descend even further into a technocratic nightmare fueled by a savvy corporatocracy that harvests consumers like an abbatoir to lifestock, using new technologies to vacuum away the noxious fumes.
“Fuckin’ magnets, how do they work?”
Over the weekend I attended the 2011 Singularity Summit in New York to assist my friends, filmmakers Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado, who are shooting a documentary, The Methuselah Generation, about the science of life extension. Along the way, we filmed a lively conversation between life extensionist Aubrey de Grey and economist Robin Hanson about the implications and probability of extending the human lifespan through biotechnology and cryonics. And I was lucky enough meet science fiction author David Brin (creator of the Uplift series), who agreed to give my short story about an AI charter city a shake.
Ray Kurzweil started up the Summit with a presentation about how accelerating computational powers and AI technologies will lead to the Singularity sometime during the 2040′s. Perhaps to his chagrin, Kurweil has become somewhat of a guru for technophiles who wish to herald a “Rapture for the Nerds”. To his credit, Kurzweil fans this fire only with scrupulous research and a fairly remarkable track record for predicting trends in technology. Much has been said in recent years about Kurzweil shaping the timeline of the Singularity to coincide with his lifespan (the man has openly said he does not expect to die), and there is probably some truth to this—the part not in parentheses, that is. But as far as delightful ruminations and thought experiments, backed up by hard science, Kurzweil’s a powerful force in the world of futurism.
Other presenters included Peter Thiel, Sonia Arrison, Jason Silva (who I believe was doing guerilla marketing for a Roland Emmerich 2013 feature about the Singularity—more about this theory in future blog), David Brin, and Ken Jennings, former Jeapordy champion who recently lost to IBM’s Watson. Elizier Yudkowsky presented research pertaining to problems we are encountering in trying to program friendly AI. Max Tegmark attempted to explain why he thinks we’re alone in the universe and why it will be up to humans to allow for the meaningful dissemination of intelligence throughout the universe.
Mix that in with interviewing a 16 year old cryonics customer who fully expects to be amphibious someday, screening the trailer for The Methuselah Generation (parts of which will be in 3D!), and taking an inside tour of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zucati Park—thanks to my new friend Sage—and I’d have to say my first trip to New York was one big miraculous mind-fuck.
Curiously enough, I saw the same meme presented at both the Singularity Summit and Occupy–”The Beginning is Near”. It seems as though both advocates of transhumanism and protesters against rabid economic inequality share subtle religious undertones: the faith in vaguely defined concepts bringing clarity to a chaotic and unjust world that is in dire need of planetary evolution. Part of me still fears that the Singularity may end up exponentially fueling the very Corporatocracy that Occupy and myself fear is currently strangling the life out of our mental and physical environments. Though, perhaps it’s nothing a few nanobots can’t fix.
A filmmaker of the future. Man fits video camera into prosthetic eye. Reality TV like never before?
-from The Doors song “Strange Days”
The film Strange Days depicts Los Angeles in the year 1999, when a technology known as SQUID (super-conducting quantum interference device), has made it possible to literally inhabit someone else’s experiences. The device, which looks like a squid and toupee combined into one, was initially created by the Feds for criminal inquiries, but eventually fell into the hands of peddlers on the black market. Also on the black market are thousands of clips, or ‘wire hits’, that affect the user in much the same way that drugs do, providing a real yet distorted experience that leaves the user strung out and ravenous for more.
The film’s protagonist, Lenny (Ralph Fiennes), is a dealer of SQUID products, whose clientele ranges from wealthy businessmen to down and out info-junkies, addicted to other people’s experiences, or perhaps simply the feeling of being outside one’s self. Lenny is also a user of his own product. Early in the film, he picks from a number of tapes of him and his ex-girlfriend, Faith, roller-skating and making love. Undressing, Faith asks: “Are you going to watch or are you going to do?” Lenny does, of course, but the fact that the experience is from the past suggests that he has, to a certain extent, lost control over his present experiences. He no longer cares to make the distinction between real experience and mediated ‘playback’.
The film grows progressively more violent and perverse in its depiction of the wire-tripping technology. In one scene, we watch from the point of view of an unknown assailant as he rapes a prostitute in the following fashion: he captures the assault on playback and ‘jacks’ the girl in to SQUID so that she can feel, see and hear what he feels, sees and hears, augmenting her fear and thus enhancing his excitement. The girl is literally experiencing rape from the point of view of both the victim and the aggressor. The scene, albeit profoundly disturbing, is a prime example of the convergence of subjectivity and technology displayed in the film: sexuality, entertainment and technology welded into the same experience.
Made over a decade ago, Strange Days‘s prophetic powers about an age of sexually deviant, memory-based virtual reality will, I believe, prove to be uncanny. Very few dystopian films–another being the modern masterpiece Children of Men (2006)–manage to paint a picture of the future so compelling it makes the viewer physical uncomfortable. Strange Days presents a distorted but all-too-familiar paradigm of the postmodern crisis: sensory overdose. The mass production of experience threatens to erode the quality of the the individual’s own subjectivity by disconnecting one from one’s experiences. One of the fundamental building blocks of film theory is the idea that a moviegoer frequents the cinema to absorb someone else’s experiences, to live vicariously through the protagonist. Strange Days re-inscribes this idea into a science fiction premise in which the moviegoer can actually be the protagonist, and, moreover, be a protagonist of the real world. This is not exactly interactive in the sense that a video game is, but it spins the idea of voyeurism in such a way that the commodification of experience appears open to innovation. During these strange days, our experiences are no longer solely ours; we can buy new ones and sell our old ones.
Are moviegoers and entertainment seekers bound to gradually incorporate more and more computer technology into their daily life until they are indistinguishable from a mutated piece of software? Well, yes. The transformation has begun: digital technology is everywhere and it mediates everything, work and leisure, from telecommunications to interactive video games. Is a convergence between digital computation and human consciousness banished to the realm of science fiction? Ray Kurzweil answers in the negative.
In his writings he imagines a 21st century world in which quantum computers and nanotechnology change mankind’s proscriptions for the mind and the body. Foreseeing an age of neural implants, he predicted that by 2007 “haptic” interface technology would provide the human mind with alternative sources of sensory input, drawn from virtual reality environments. Well, he was a little off–but still maintains that in the near future there will be computer displays built into eyeglasses and digital “objects”, like movies, video games, and music, distributed as data files through the wireless network. The real world will gradually become fused with virtual reality, and human subjectivity will grow increasingly integrated with technology.
Surely, the moviegoer pleads, somewhere in the cinema’s vast annals of science fiction reels there are forewarnings of such a mind boggling transformation. Indeed, there are many (far more than the following list): Blade Runner, 2001, Alphaville, Tron, Johnny Mnemonic, The Fifth Element, Strange Days, Minority Report, A.I, The Matrix, and existenZ all confront aspects of cyborg culture, or the human-computer interface.
eXistenZ approaches near-future speculation from a different avenue: the video game industry. Directed by David Cronenburg, whose scripts often dabble in bio-technology, the film depicts a world in which video game and virtual reality technologies biologically converge. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Allegra, the “game pod goddess”, a VR game designer and guru for the company Antenna. The first scene introduces Allegra’s latest game, eXistenZ, and situates its first test enclave, whom she will provide with 12 prototype meta-flesh game pods. The game pods– through she which she downloads eXistenZ into each player– look like rubber fetuses, fidgeting and whining. They are virtual animals, “grown from fertilized amphibian eggs stuffed with DNA” and charged by the gameplayer’s body.
Before the test enclave can begin its game, an assailant (whom we will later learn is a ‘Realist’) attacks Allegra. She escapes with Ted Pikul (Jude Law), a marketing trainee, who rushes her to a car and out into the countryside. We are to assume this is part of reality. Soon, Allegra convinces Ted , who has never played one of her games before, to be fitted for a bio-port (it takes some work, for Ted has a phobia of being penetrated). Afterward, they lube up one another’s bio-ports, which pucker excitedly, and insert the umbilical cord-like firewire.
Throughout the film, the process of downloading a game takes on an overtly sexual nature, culminating when Ted performs fellatio on Allegra’s bio-port. eXistenZ imagines a game world of polymorphously altered bodies, in which the bio-port has become both an invitation to play out fictional romances, as well as a new organ, subject to arousal and penetration.
By game’s end, the film, having supposedly disengaged from the interwoven game sub-plot, reveals that the entire test enclave scene was not even grounded in reality, but was actually part of the eXistenZ game. And Allegra is not the true game designer. That was her particular game avatar. In whatever ‘game-reality’ of eXistenZ the film started off in, Allegra and Ted work for the Realist cause, seeking to destroy eXistenZ before it bleeds into reality. As the film draws to a close, the final question– ultimately left unanswered– is whether the characters are still playing the game. The characters can no longer decipher what is real and what is game-based.
Cronnenburg’s sub-textual implication is that the film itself evolves into a version of the game, a blueprint for an interactive virtual reality game. Its gamers (film viewers) are left free to draw their own conclusions as to where fiction ends and reality begins. Of course, just as in the game, Cronnenburg provides “just enough [free will] to make it interesting.”
For anyone who’s dreamed of going to Disney World and never leaving, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003) is the book for you. Cory Doctorow’s novel is a precious literary artifact, functioning as both a potent science fiction missive AND as a challenge to copyright laws. Such an amalgam of trans-human speculation and social activism is unusual and refreshingly vital. There is certainly no overflow of writers with the aplomb to base a subversive SF story at Disney World.
Key concepts in the novel:
Bitchun Society – 22nd century technologically advanced America in which we basically live forever by enhancing our bodies and uploading our minds into “force-grown” clones; we live for centuries. Scarcity of resources is no longer a problem, due likely to nanotechnological advancement. Corporations and bureaucracies have been replaced by loose confederations called adhocracies. The Bitchun society “[doesn't] need to convert its detractors, just outlive them.”
Whuffie – In this post-scarcity society, wealth is relative to Whuffie, a reputation-based currency that is gained and lost upon favorable or unfavorable actions. Whuffie “recapture(s) the true essence of money….by measuring the thing that money really represent(s) –your personal capital with your friends and neighbors—you more accurately gauge your success.” Without Whuffie, it’s hard to catch even an elevator, much less a smile from a stranger. Since everybody has a HUD, a brain-implant giving them an interface with the Web, one’s Whuffie is immediately accessible.
Deadheading – Form of suspended animation hyper-freeze where people can check out for a while, thousands of years if they want. Alternative to suicide in the age of immortality.
Flashbaking – An exciting new synthetic memory-and-experience imprinting technology espoused by a rival adhoc group. In the Hall of Presidents, for example, ‘flashbaking’ allows one to actually experience being Lincoln. As the story progresses ‘flashbaking’ is said to be getting big at clubs, allowing dancers to really become the music. Imagine that rave.
Designer faces – Popular among teenage girls (a concept made all the more nauseating by its likelihood).
The story itself is about Jules, a young man barely a century old who has lived long enough to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies. He lives and works at Disney World (literally) with his girlfriend Lily, doing crowd control simulations for an adhocracy devoted to keeping the Magic Kingdom preserved from the kinetic enhancements of the outside world. They live their days among AI driven sims “spinning age-appropriate tales of piracy on the high seas.”
Meanwhile Jules has been murdered and the novel picks up with him investigating the circumstances of his own demise, which he believes is tied to an attempt by a new adhoc to take control of the Park and install the new ‘flashbaking’ technology into the Hall of Presidents and the Haunted Mansion.
Jules argues: “You don’t want to be a post-person. You want to stay human. The rides are human.”
His best friend Dan, a burnt out missionary for the ubiquitous Bitchun society, who has spent his days and centuries converting villages to technologically enlightened colonies, decides he’s sick of the whole thing and wants to commit suicide.
“You can’t be a revolutionary after the revolution,” Jules argues. But he’s too late. Dan will hang around at Disney World just long enough to accrue an amount of Whuffie decent enough to make his suicide mean something—then it’s the big sleep.
Meanwhile, the rival adhoc run by the sinister Debra, presses further into the Disney brand-land, attempting to turn it into a virtualized caricature of its 20th century conception. A coup by Jules, wherein he attempts first to revamp the Park organically by stressing the human element, turns to drunken violence—Jules is caught smashing attractions, which pretty much drops his Whuffie off a cliff. After his implants become corrupted and he finds out that his best friend Dan and his lover Lily are having an affair, Jules hits rock bottom and descends into trans-human madness.
Disney: where nightmares come true. Usually LSD inspired ones.
Ultimately we find out it was Dan who had Jules killed, at the behest of Debra. This creates a wellspring of sympathy and Jules gets his Whuffie back in spades. Even though his interface is a malfunctioning train wreck, he refuses to restore himself, because doing so would erase his memories of that entire year, his last with Dan. The book is his attempt to manually document the happenings of the previous year so that when his present self finally perishes, his restored backup will have a record of what’s happened. Dan decides not to take the lethal injection, but to deadhead until the heat death of the universe.
In this age of YouTube and rampant blogging, it is humorous to note that Doctorow calls his book a “parable about the inevitability of crappy-but-more-democratic media.” Down and Out is a lucid evocation of the future but it’s also a hard-hitting critique of Disney, the eternal guardian of the copyright, as an impenetrable brand. Doctorow, a technophile with Luddite goosebumps (when it comes to some of the newer Disney simulator rides), reminds us that “Walt (Disney) himself was full of grandiose, hubristic, science-fictional notions. The original plan for Walt Disney World called for a domed city (based loosely on the Progressland Walt built for General Electric at the 1964 World’s Fair) — the original EPCOT (Experiment Prototype City of Tomorrow), in which tens of thousands of employees would live under corporate law whose premises would follow Walt’s nutty and sometimes saccharine ideals for social Utopia” (CreativeCommons.org).
The book, published under a Creative Commons noncommercial license, serves to remind us that copyrighted brands, these indelible monuments to capitalism, are not immune to inclusion in the imagination’s wackiest conversations.
Maybe we can’t have their toys, but we can damn well play with them.
The following is a feverish, hamburger-inspired meditation on aliens, artificial intelligence, and the New World Order :
My gut instinct is that there are many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations flourishing beyond our solar system. In a universe containing billions of galaxies, each one containing billions of stars, to believe otherwise is an exercise in ignorant hubris.But it could take a while for us to meet ET. Centuries perhaps. Much sooner than that we’ll not only meet, but create, a new and dramatically different kind of advanced species: Artificial Intelligence. AI will be good to us….at least at first. AI might even introduce us to ET, like a friend of a friend at a party – (“Dude, you gotta meet this dude, he’s a great photographer!”). As AI integrates itself into our society, humans will use nanotechnology to upgrade ourselves to near-machine status. We’ll become post-humans, in that most of our day to day functions and pleasures will be heavily grounded in advanced technology. The foundation for this has already been laid. It’s all around us. Soon it will be within us.
Along these lines I agree with elements of Alex Jones’ New World Order theories. Note, elements. On other issues he’s just a wackadoodle. Somehow reptilian aliens controlling mankind is more plausible to him than than CO2 emissions destroying the atmosphere. Flanked by an armada of rabid libertarians, Alex Jones thinks the specter of global warming is nothing more than an elaborate ruse perpetrated by scientists and government officials in order to pave the way for a global carbon tax. Their main evidence disproving human-caused climate change is 1) Al Gore has a private jet, 2) Earth isn’t the only planet getting warmer, Mars is hot too, 3) cities during the medieval times were also hot, 3) Al Gore has a private limousine, and 4) Vikings grew crops in Greenland. Oh man, Vikings grew crops in Greenland?? Well fuck me running, let’s poison and vaporize the rest of our ozone, my bad, I didn’t know Vikings grew crops in Greenland!
You would be hard-pressed to find an assertion that makes me angrier than human-caused climate change denial. It’s the final sick-home for free market sociopaths, a rent-controlled insane asylum they sub-lease with creationists and teabaggers. I see nothing but dangerous insanity in the act of looking at a unanimously agreed-upon body of science and declaring it false, to the catastrophic detriment of global ecosystems and future generations of humans, simply because property taxes are a bummer. BUT–and here’s my hamartia–while I have trouble believing a small circle of elite masterminds controls the world, I do think it’s very possible that at some point in the future a class of post-humans, wielding advanced technology in dissonant collusion with AI societies—who (perhaps justly) believe humanity and its old world paradigms are a danger to Earth—could descend into absolute tyranny. Or, ascend, might be the better word. In “Adams in the Void” (a short story I haven’t written yet), I position this post-human/AI master race as taking over the surface of the planet, while old school humans are forced underground.
Alex Jones thinks the participants of this new class have already been chosen, and that in exchange for their complicity in forging the New World Order they have been promised vast powers of life augmentation and life extension. Frankly, my problem with the NWO is that I find it difficult to imagine a completely centralized global dictatorship when the trends behind technologies like the Internet lean overwhelmingly toward de-centralization—of knowledge, distribution, and even ownership. Jones’ theory also crumbles in one very important capacity: I don’t view AI as necessarily a danger to humanity. If the New World Order exists, AI will be the power that brings it down.
And if, like I believe, the phrase New World Order does not finger a singular group of tyrannical elites but rather exists as a metaphor for the widespread and historical lineage of human corruption itself, AI will be the revolutionary force that topples our dying regimes and restores parity to human consciousness. This will either be viewed as Armageddon or renaissance, depending on whose Twitter feed you follow.
I admit I harbor some fairly busy visions of the future. But I’m not married to them, and when push comes to shove I don’t believe in most conspiracy theories. I don’t believe that reptilian aliens inter-bred with humans. I don’t believe in crystal castles on the moon, or that Kennedy was killed by an emo hobgoblin who lives under a bridge. I don’t believe in ancient astronauts.
I feel the same disdain for conspiracy theories that I feel for celebrity gossip: intense guilt, for willfully distracting myself from the bigger problems of the world. And while I don’t personally dislike conspiracy theorists, they worry me…because I think they unwittingly make activists and whistle-blowers seem crazy, and by doing so distract the rest of us from the back-handed power plays of very real and very corrupt establishments. Corporations, seizing the infrastructure of the Earth, of the human body, of the particles that constitute matter. Corporations, who now own patents on our genes, on carbon nanotubes; who control the flow and substance of information; who influence what pills we take and what facts we believe; who hunt our young, on the streets and through social networking sites; who sell us culture before we’ve had a chance to decide if it’s just.
The theory of a New World Order is a displaced fear of plutocracy, privatization, and human existence turned to consumer fodder. It’s a healthy fear.