Skynet, Oculus, Zuckerberg, and the end of Human Interaction as we know it.
I got a little scared when I saw pictures of Mark Zuckerberg today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The gentle smile across his face isn’t markedly different than the aloof, college-like grin he has been flashing for the past 10 years. But there is a distinct air of excitement in his eyes that is hard to miss. Excitement about a future where physical human interaction is as rare as a written thank you letter.
Excitement about a future where physical human interaction is as rare as a written thank you letter.
This look of excitement was no doubt buoyed by the thousands of people sitting behind him, in a trance-like stupor, feasting on some sort of virtual reality landscape, unaware that one of the richest and most powerful technology executives in the world was walking proudly in their midst, savoring a future of society, built upon Facebook’s social platform, serving up ads in a virtual reality landscape, while millions sit in offices motioning with their hands, talking with virtual clients/strangers/friends, and training their brains to believe that fiction is reality and that normal human interaction isn’t necessary to build relationships.
Now if you have read Ready Player One, a dystopian novel, penned by Ernest Cline in 2011 and soon to be produced by Steven Spielberg, you know why I got scared. Ready Player One documents a changed world in 2044, with some qualities like the one that Zuckerberg is envisioning, including a virtual society (OASIS) replete with it’s own currency, and an evil company (IOI — Innovative Online Industries) behind the scenes trying to take over the world.
Is this Facebook? Naah. Mark Zuckerberg has incredibly positive and public intentions, is trying to connect the world to make it a better place, and embodies many of the characteristics we all admire, altruism, humility, etc. He even seems to have nailed fatherhood pretty quickly, and built a company that is now the best place to work — globally.
But Facebook will be betting VERY big here. The Virtual/Augmented reality industry is in its infancy today — but projected to be $150 Billion by 2020. And we all are going to have to get used to donning that headset as VR infiltrates our homes, offices, and ultimately our lives. The businesses that build and own the infrastructure for VR will have a significantly stronger control over that environment than the arguably 2-dimensional, heavily decentralized 2016 internet.
I catch myself at work sometimes, head down, flashing on my phone between my various newsfeeds, digesting micro-content on the fly. This turns into a multitasking evening event, while watching TV, eating, and redigesting some of the same content. This is just the beginning of our escapism from the real world.
I ease my headset off and watch my colleagues bantering back and forth, all of them seeing. But none of them seeing.
10 Years from now, on February 22, 2026, I expect to be sitting in a conference room, with my team, all of us wearing sleek, VR goggles with Facebook’s patented invisibility feature, enabling us to toggle back and forth as our goggles fade-to-clear on our faces, logged into the Facebook USA construct. About halfway through the meeting, I, realize nobody has logged on outside of the actual room we are in, and as I ease my headset off and watch my colleagues bantering back and forth, all of them seeing. But none of them seeing.
And I run out of the room screaming.
Let’s take this slow, Zuck.