None of this is real?

19 Jun

This slideshow from the New York Times shows people who play games next to the digital avatars that they use to play them. It’s interesting to see who looks like their avatar, and who doesn’t. It’s also interesting to see how much variety there is among the people in this slideshow, and how long each of them spend inside a digital world. Up to seventy hours a week spent in a digital world!! That’s almost half of the total hours in a week.
player and avatar
It brings to mind a key discussion from The Matrix (which is here transcribed from my memory and is thus probably not word-for-word correct. But close enough):

Neo: Right now, we’re inside a computer program? None of this is real?
Morpheus: What is real? If real is just what you can touch, taste, smell, see, and hear, then real is simply electronic impulses translated by your brain.

Perhaps Morpheus is right… what makes the “real world” more real than, say, the world of Second Life? Sure the technology isn’t quite there yet for all five of our senses to enjoy Second Life, but it’s probably only a matter of time. And why not? What then when a Second Digital Life is more appealing than a “real” one?
Afterall in a digital world like Second Life there is total freedom. Inside this digital new reality you, or your avatar, can look like, act like, and do whatever you want (which already includes sex and violence, even without total sensual immersion). In a digital world there is no fear of death, since you can always just play again. This creates a form of immortality and freedom so far unavailable in the “real world.”
Is the “real world” all it’s cracked up to be? If it isn’t, or doesn’t become so really soon, I suspect there will be a larger and larger migration into digital ones.

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