As I write this in November 2022, Meta (Facebook) has just laid off about 11,000 employees. I feel sorry for the people, but it got me thinking about virtual reality vs “real reality” I don’t know about you, but I greatly prefer real reality.
Have you noticed that many of the largest tech companies (Meta, Microsoft, Google, etc) want to move us to a world where we experience life through virtual reality goggles. We would sit in our chair and “experience” any place or time, we can do things that would be illegal or impossible in the real world. And generally is seems to be perfectly safe.
In the virtual world we don’t have to worry much about the consequences of our actions. Game over. Restart. We don’t die or go to jail. What’s not to like?
Contrast that with the real world. Things take time and money and most of us have to work to earn a living. We are “stuck” in the era we are born in. Our society has lots of laws and restrictions we have to live with. We get hot and cold and wet. We get sick and break bones. People can be cruel. Marriages break up. We die.
Wow, the virtual world sounds pretty good, doesn’t it. 🙂
It’s about the experience
To me, one of the differences is a safe, manufactured, managed experience vs what life brings us and what we can find in the world. The real world is real. The virtual world is fake. Even when the technology gets to the point where the virtual world looks real (it’s a long way from it now), it is still fake.
Deep down inside, you know fake experiences are fake. Unless you live your life with only fake experiences.
Let me chance making you upset with me. I don’t have much use for Disney World or other similar entertainment vendors. It may be fun to take the kids or grand kids there, if they’re under about 8, just to watch their excitement as they are entertained. But otherwise, I can’t escape the knowledge that it is all fake. It is all a manufactured experience made by a large corporation. That leaves me completely unsatisfied. Except for a good roller coaster. 🙂
When you know the pirates on the river cruise aren’t able to attack you, it looses any terror. When you figure out the rocket ship you’re flying isn’t going to crash no matter how badly you “fly” it, there is little incentive. Even that good roller coaster that thrills for a couple of minutes, in reality, has no lasting hold for us. It will not fly off the track or crash into something or drown you when it seems to plunge into the lake. Shallow experiences. It is just shaking us around in a safe and controlled way.
This quote captures an essence of the notion of “being there” in real life:
It’s not a game. No one is directing it or controlling it. No ads are being served up to us. It is the wild, unpredictable, real world. I agree with Alister’s description of the experience being key. The experience triggers our interests and creativity. We may not even know why we are drawn to an image at the time. We will figure it out later. Right then it is our subconscious speaking to us. But the experience has to be real to be meaningful.
If there is no risk, there is no reward.
When we are experiencing the actual world, we are not necessarily safe. If I am in the mountains taking pictures, I could get lost; I could make a misstep and break my leg; i could slip and fall off a cliff; a bear could attack me. Or if I am in the city shooting images, I am even more at risk.
The fact that there is danger involved heightens the experience. People these days seem to believe that anything unsafe is bad and should be avoided. The reality is that life is unsafe. We don’t know what is going to happen 5 minutes from now.
Putting our self in situations that can be uncomfortable or even a little dangerous can be good for us. We become more self reliant and able to think and handle situations. It gets the blood pumping and sharpens our senses. A little real danger is far more exciting than a lot of fake danger.
To me, the dangers of being a couch potato and spending our lives anesthetized in entertainment outweigh the dangers of exposing ourselves to the real world. Entertainment is a dangerous drug.
Don’t be stupid
Oh, I can’t say that can I? It would imply that some people do not use good judgment. But as I talk about risk and experience, let me balance that with the counsel to do it realistically. You have to appraise the level of the risk and your capability. I’m not saying you should put yourself in danger.
For instance, when I talk about going out in very cold conditions and snow, I dress appropriately. I have the equipment. And a good 4-wheel drive to get around. And a lot of experience. Getting a good picture is not worth killing myself.
Don’t put yourself in any situation that you can’t handle or that is not worth the potential cost. Get training on identifying and countering the types of threats you could face. Most of all, be aware of yourself and what’s going on around you. Situational awareness applies even out in the woods. Be realistic and make sure you are physically and mentally capable of what you are doing.
Live a real life
My art involves outdoor photography. I do all of my shooting outside. As such, I have to get out in it. Weather almost doesn’t matter. Today, as I write this, it was 22F and snowing and with enough wind to make it pretty chilly. I was out walking nearly 5 miles in it. It was a nice day. The experience was more memorable than the images I got.
It is not always pleasant. That is not my goal. Life isn’t always pleasant. Where I live we have temperatures from 110F to -20F. We can have winds over 60 mph. There is snow and blizzards and thunderstorms, even tornadoes and wildfires. Being out in those things makes you take a moment and say “Wow!”. It is real life.
I feel real and alive and in the moment when I am out experiencing the world live. I am a player, not a spectator. Despite the limitations of my opportunities and capabilities, I want to experience life for myself. I am not content to let a corporation or a game developer or a movie maker package an experience for me, to feed me the same program they give to 1,000,000 other people.
Look at the image with this article. Look closely in the top right. That woman is living a real life experience at the moment.
Live life to make art
Artists are often pictured as counter-culture, wild, living on the edge. To some extent, that is true. We don’t have to look different or dress different, but we should be different. Our art is about bringing experiences to people. As such, we have to experience things ourselves. That is a source of inspiration for us. Our passion from what we experience needs to be felt by our viewers.
Do we have to suffer to make art? Is danger required? Of course not. Monet painted many of his great works in his back yard. The issue to me is are we actually living a life that fuels our creativity and vision? We have to have real experiences, not fake, packaged, safe entertainment.
I don’t think I can generate passion for my viewers playing a flight simulation wearing a virtual reality helmet. It may be enjoyable, but it is a fake experience. I don’t want to show fake experience to my viewers. We don’t have to hang out over a cliff to live life. But get out. Be real. Live your own life, not something someone else packages and sells you. Take risks where necessary. Be yourself.