Thursday, August 16, 2018

Paying For Things That Don't Really Exist

            More and more people are purchasing and using goods that don’t really exist.  That is, they don’t really exist in the external world of mass, matter and substance, where most of us actually live.  They do exist in the vacuumized worlds of screen reality and virtual reality.  There are virtual currencies like bitcoin that many people like because they sidestep the participation of banks and credit card companies, which can slow down the process of the transfer of money and add fees for their participation in the processing.  In addition, there are emojis , which have become an integral part of computer screen reality communication.  And more and more, there are the virtual figures that are used in the virtual reality games.  For example, players in these games can earn virtual currency in order to buy virtual weapons in order to win in virtual conflicts.  Or they can jump ahead in the development of their offensive forces and purchase virtual weapons from other players.  They can also use real money to purchase these virtual weapons as well as virtual houses, virtual neighborhoods or even whole virtual kingdoms.  And, at some point, after purchasing these entities, players can turn around and sell them to other players, thus making a profit.  There are players who make good real money dealing in these virtual game products.  Good virtual weapons can go for tens of thousands of dollars.  Whole virtual kingdoms can go for hundreds of millions of dollars.  Definitely serious money.
            So what is the significance of so many players endowing the gravity of real existence to these vacuumized phenomena, to the extent that they are willing to shell out such large sums of money to obtain them?  Perhaps, simply the enormous quantities of free-floating manufactured figures in the external world have created an enormous overstimulating tension pocket of abrasive friction.  It becomes hard to delineate the boundaries of all these free-floating figures.  It is mentally exhausting.  And eventually all these figures begin to blur together into one enormous mass of clutter such that it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate through it.  And then one yearns for wide open spaces where the figures that are present are not the kind of figures that one can bump into.  One withdraws into an experiential vacuum over which one has some control in order to avoid the overstimulation of a cluttered external world.

            In the history of humanity, people tried to rise above the enveloping aspects of nature through the figures of tools that eventually evolved into machines and all these implements created technological environments where people were protect from being swallowed up and undifferentiated by organic environments.  These environments were filled with ungrounded, uprooted free-floating figures that provided a kind of mirroring for people and gave them well-defined boundaries for their sense of self through the abundance of defined discrete stimuli these figures provided.  Unfortunately, the increasing self-definition from defined discrete stimuli came at the cost of losing self-coherence as the flowing blendable continual stimuli of nature became scarcer and scarcer.

            As has been stated, we have gotten to the point where there is an overabundance of free floating figures which is pushing people to escape into controlled experiential vacuums that are filled with infinite continuous stimuli that intermingle with the defined discrete stimuli that together form the foundation of the vacuumized figures.  These vacuumized figures fill the screen reality of movies, television, video games, computers, tablets and smartphones.  And increasingly, virtual reality, in particular, is occupying a larger and larger space in the lives of people in modern technological society.  The question is should we just look at this dispassionately as one more experiential phase through which people are passing as their societies and cultures continue to evolve?  The problem is that in a virtual reality, there are no organic surfaces upon which to make and preserve organic imprints, and so, to have meaningful life narratives and prepare for death with a personal surrogate immortality.  And as for rich vibrant experiences, it seems to me that this is why so many of the experiences that people have in virtual reality revolve around modern video games where people are shocked into feeling alive by all the intense role-playing in which they are involved.  There are plenty of shocking adventurous narratives in virtual reality games.  But the worlds which are created here are not worlds in which the players actually live.  They are worlds which players can share with others when the players actually dwell in their communities.

            And yet in at least one way, there is a blurring of the boundaries that separate virtual reality worlds from the world of external world reality, and this is when players use real money to buy virtual weapons or virtual real estate.  In using real money to buy virtual entities, players are treating virtual entities in certain ways as if they were real entities.  Real non-vacuumized entities that have mass, matter and substance.  This blurring together of external world reality and virtual reality is very dangerous.  There is a sense in which not only people mirror us, but also things as well.  I know that up until now, the only non-organic entities that I have discussed with regard to mirroring us have been complex machines, computers and robots.  But, in truth, everything has a certain degree of impact on us, even as we perceive things and interest with them.  And to the extent that we start purchasing virtual entities with real money, this treating of these entities as real external world things leads to putting these virtual entities as on the same plane with us and we become vacuumized, particularly as we use an avatar to interact with these virtual entities.  And to the extent we become vacuumized, immersing ourselves in the world of virtual reality, it will become more and more difficult for us to properly function in the external world reality where we belong even with all the clutter.  Virtual reality will make us more and more numb and cause us to lose control over both our external world reality as well as ourselves.

            Just as our fear of being swallowed up by nature and of being hit by the partial figure forces found in nature like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme cold, extreme heat, wild animals and diseases, lead to trying to rise above nature by creating a technological environment filled with free floating figures that we create and control, so now we forever are trying to escape the clutter of too many figures. By moving into a world with no mass, matter and substance, a world with vacuumized figures and vacuumized living environments.  This virtual reality world which lacks the restraints of gravity and solidness, seemingly allows us to do anything our imagination would allow.  But the virtual reality world is created by devices and takes place in our minds.  Take off the device and we are back in the real world.  The world of external world reality which exists independent of our technological devices.  Destroy the devices and all the supposed imprints we have made and preserved vanish as well on the experiential surfaces on which the imprints are made.

            If we become our avatars, we become incapable of carrying on the human race as we know it.  Gaming is an addiction and living in first video games and then virtual reality games becomes such a strong addiction that players frequently wear adult diapers, so that they don’t have to take time away from the game in going to the bathroom.  Is this kind of life situation the kind we want the future generations of humans to immerse themselves in?  And what does it say about the sanity of people who would purchase virtual weapons and virtual real estate in order to win in role-playing games in virtual reality?  Is there so much mental and physical clutter from all the data and things floating in our modern technological living environments that there is no longer any room for new organic imprints?  If so, the human race is in big trouble.
(c) 2018 Laurence Mesirow

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