Do We Really Need Reality?
I have just been given a cocktail by an exquisite waitress who’s barely legal, but with lots of cleavage. Behind me is the NYC skyline, stuck in sunset. I am lighting a cigar, wearing a suit, maybe clicking my fingers to some soft jazz. Who am I?
I have just stepped out of my car. I am in a killer pink frock and it doesn’t clash with the red carpet. The photographers’ flash doesn’t make me blink, and my platinum curls beam out like a halo as I sashay to collect my Oscar. At the end of the night I’ll go home to my house where the maids, who all look like my least favourite sister, will unstrap my stilettos…
I am taunt, tanned and tall and I’m about to hurtle over this waterfall. I’ll feel the water and gasp for air, but when I click a button, it’s no longer there.
This is not a riddle. It’s a fast forward.
But first; Pause. Think about it, consumerism has reached a point of almost hilarious un-necessity. You want marshmallows with your nan’s face on them? Boomf’s your uncle! A wife who looks like a wife but is actually a remote-control doll, that you can design down to the birthmarks and even have sex with? Go get it tiger! Would you like your fridge to call you and announce pragmatically that you have no more milk or to watch a film and feel like you’re are a soldier, gunning down civilians just because you’ve put on a pair of 3D glasses? Hello, Brave New World. First you might do it just on the weekends, a dirty treat like a Greggs pasty. You could do it in groups and pretend the lot of you are One Direction instead of balding 30-somethings. Guilty pleasures will surely thrive! They’ll come… alive.
This century is marked by technological takeover; but more than technology it is marked by illusion. Forget lying politicians, we’re busy lying to ourselves. We use Instagram filters and ‘likes’ online as measures of popularity. We try to keep up with the Jones’ by buying designer brands we can’t afford. We are bullied by consumerism into feeling inadequate, and we consume constantly in a bid to right this, and finally feel adequate. Many of us use the technological tools repeatedly offered to us like magic wands; “I don’t like my nose in this picture, I’ll Photoshop it”, for instance. But does this function on a bigger level? Do we use technology not only to get away from ourselves, but to get away from life overall?
Of course there are many ways to experience things without really experiencing them. Bare with me… for instance; if you cannot afford to travel, perhaps you might live vicariously through travel shows. If you consider yourself too old for romantic liaisons, you may well enjoy hearing the tales of your sexually adventurous grandchild. If you have anger management problems and frequently wish you could brutally behead those who barge you on the tube, likely it will help soothe your tattered nerves when you imagine their faces instead of your punchbag when practising boxing. In vicarious living we employ our imagination, a powerful tool that can seemingly put us in the shoes of any man or woman. In daydreaming, we can imagine ourselves as anyone, anywhere. Everything is ours to build. But imagination is not completely immersive. It’s not ‘real’. You do not feel the sun on your skin or the champagne glass in your hand if you’re just imagining it. So how about… virtual simulation? I’m going to use this term loosely, and ask you to employ the previously mentioned powers of imagination.
‘Virtual simulation’ is a vague idea of engaging your senses and of tricking your body into feeling something that isn’t really there. Ideas like Google Glass and co. are already trickling in. Games like Second Life are already being used to create a different world to live in. What if it all takes over and we don’t have to live in the real world anymore?
What if I could change my mind any minute – and the NYC skyline becomes London. Or sunrise in Paris. What if it felt really real? If you could be living your dream every day, taste the perfect medium steak and feel the beautiful cashmere jumper, experience the black ski run unscathed… One wonders… would you ever switch off? Haven’t people been trying to find a way of escaping reality since time immemorial? The Victorians had laudanum, The Beatles had acid and everyone who ever happened in history had alcohol. We’ve always been seeking something to make life more interesting, to pass time till we reach the end. We don’t want our own little run of the mill life. Not this one, this commute-home-and-back, pie-and-mash, rain-and-wellies, 1-holiday-a-year life. That’s no fun!
Perhaps we all need to chill out and consider technology not as a threat – but as the next natural step in evolution. Solipsism is a whole school of philosophy which functions on the ideas that the existence of an external world is uncertain, only the existence of your own self is for sure. So who knows, maybe we don’t need the outside world. Maybe reality is getting in the way of our hopes and dreams. After all, the one thing stopping us from achieving everything we’ve ever wanted is the world around us, the people around us. Yes! The real enemy is reality! We have proved throughout history that we don’t really want it! So the dream could come true guys, we might loose it…
Currently, people are still touting the idea of ‘experiencing life’. You know, really going out there and drinking in the world! Putting down your phone and throwing yourself beaming into the London drizzle! As we move forward – these ideals may dissipate. We may soon feel no obligation to be part of the ‘real world’, especially if the technology to falsify our world gets better and better. Headsets. Silicon skin. Genetically modified food. Augmented reality… Can you tell the difference? Right now you can. But will you tomorrow? And if you can’t tell the difference, then what is the difference?
Remember; chance cannot be manufactured. So how will you stop yourself from getting bored in a predictable world with a safety net?
But don’t listen to me, I’m just a luddite.