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The Windtunnels of Your Mind

There has been some chit chat of late regarding Virtual Reality and I don’t mean the place where the politicians live.

It’s part of the whole AI revolution, or invasion or rebellion, delete as appocalyptically applicable. There are some who dislike anything technological and eschew the idea of possessing a mobile phone and others who are more religious in their approach to a distrust of technology. I personally think that VR  or ‘Virtual Reality’ is a very very dangerous place.

Because let’s face it, who is going to want to live in RR or Real Reality? If we could all spend our days on the equivalent of the Holodeck on the Starship Enterprise then why wouldn’t we? We already have a generation of young people, the Millenials as they are termed, in true Sci-Fi form, who have opposable thumbs with extra bendiness in them from all the texting and Pokemon chasing. If you think about it last years trend/fad/go to meme for Pokemon Go brought the RR and the Game into synchronous unity. You no longer had to train Charmander in your bedroom, you could hunt him down in the park. Wasn’t it great that all these pasty faced Millenials finally got out of their swivelly computer chairs and breathed some fresh air? No. It wasn’t. Leave them alone.

ForceThere is nothing wrong with ‘gaming’, the modern sort, the sort that requires Gigabytes instead of a cravat and a baize table. My kids have grown up in the computer age and they are reasonable enough people (don’t go too far!). Admittedly we did occasionally drag them up Snowdon and made them bicycle around the Isle of Wight once in a high wind but they have also had their measure of the cerebral pleasures. Our house is lined with books including a much loved copy of ‘Not Now Bernard’. There was a small Scrabble war and  a Perudo skirmish or three alongside the old favourites, playing cards.  We have never, as parents, seen anything wrong with computers and their games.

They aid concentration. They are meditation, focus. Relaxation. Strategy. They do far more for your cognitive ability than Hopscotch ever did. Alongside all that mullarkey, a computer game is a place to escape to and, as G K Chesterton once said, we find out that here we can kill the dragons. Or the spacebats. Or the Joker. Insert your favourite adversary here. You can go into battle. You can even be killed and resurrected. You can experience fear at a distance.

We’ve always escaped into Virtual Reality. It’s called imagination. We made marks on cave walls to show the Virtual Reality of ‘what I did on the buffalo hunt’. We’ve scribbled on parchment and inked in pictures. The bookshelves of the world are filled with a myriad of Virtual Realities and we all love to go there. When I am struggling I know it is time to head out to the Ramtops and my satnav tells me the way there is on the second to the bottom shelf on the left a bit. A book cover is a door.

That’s why it might be dangerous to be plugged into the VR machine. I haven’t ever tried it but I would like to. When my son played Assassin’s Creed I wasn’t so much interested in the gameplay as the opportunity it afforded to wander the landscape. It was a beautiful place to be.  It is your imagination writ large. Immersive technology. You are Here. And There. You can be the ghost in the machine.

In the current world of doomladen climate change, lunatic and powercrazed politicians, racism, sexism and economic failure it isn’t always enough to just open your door and head to the park. After all there might be someone in the park with a bloodthirsty dog that just took a crap on the litter strewn lawn by the drained boating lake. Your town might not be a sought after area. Instead, won’t it be tempting to pull on the headset and plug in your eyeballs and head out to Shangri-La?

 
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‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge

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