Kristen —
Hayley Carter

Thanks for your response! If I had to speculate about what the future of hyperreality looks like, I would start by pointing out that most Americans already live lives that are divorced from reality, alienated from the means of production (thanks, Marx) and reality itself by the amount of entertainment always readily available to take us to different, more preferable places than reality (TV, videogames, the Internet, movies, etc., etc., etc.)

Most Americans are appalling at geography for a reason — knowledge of world outside their country or even their immediate bubble is not necessary to their experience of reality even today. In the future, I see the rise of VR and a higher volume of personalized entertainment as well as the replacement of most human labor by robots or automation of some sort creating a society in which people don’t have to work and therefore spend all of their free time on whatever entertainments that call to them personally. (This is all assuming climate change, resource shortages, or wars over resources don’t deadlock this process.) People could literally pick and choose what is real to them rather than facing what is really happening in the world. And frankly, I doubt that reality is ever going to be more appealing than hyperreality. Why learn about the human rights abuses your government is committing half a world away that you feel powerless to prevent when you have to update your followers on your virtual pet’s Halloween costume or there’s a new level of your favorite game waiting for you?

I think of our state of hyperreality as a version of the 1920s that has lasted for seventy years — we won the war, we’re all rich and young, and nothing could possibly ever bring an end to this wonderful cycle of production and consumption in which we find ourselves. To break us out of our hyperreality, I think it would require extreme and sudden dearth, possibly on the magnitude of the Great Depression, or some other collapse within the system of production that would force us to become suddenly and gravely aware of reality as most people on Earth experience it.

This isn’t a solution I hope for, of course. I hope there is a way forward that allows people to interact with reality in a healthy way without having to suffer a tragic fall from hyperreality to do so. I hope, but I cannot see a way for it to happen.

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