Recently I went off to see the Spielberg movie Ready Player One. Some time in the future, not so long from now, humans are condemned to a harsh, ugly world where they eke out an uncertain and unsatisfying existence. With little to inspire them in the real world many escape to the virtual reality gaming world of Oasis. It is wondrous to behold and the special effects of the movie are fantastic. You can go anywhere, be anyone and do anything in this alternative universe. I enjoyed the first hour of the movie but the second hour dragged on a bit. Were the heroes ever going to find the three keys and the golden egg and reap their reward? The compulsory battle scenes seemed to go for ages. But the movie did make me think about virtual reality and the good life. For many people the good life means having enough money to live a comfortable life and enjoy a few treats such as travel or other indulgences.
It is very hard to escape the consumerist treadmill on which our economy seems to be based and so most of us accumulate a lot of possessions over a lifetime. We also tend to throw away a lot of our possessions and replace them with bigger and better things. When we travel or follow other pursuits we often use a lot of resources and have a negative impact on the environment. The impact on the Nepalese environment and culture of hundreds of determined souls slogging up the slopes of Mount Everest springs to mind. Not to mention being so obsessed with getting to the top of the world’s highest mountain that you are prepared to ignore people dying on the side of the track.
There is a danger that our seemingly unlimited need to be the best, own the best, have the best life possible might be at the expense of other people and the environment, for example, the sweatshops in Asia where many workers are paid a pittance to provide us with beautiful but cheap clothes and shoes. But maybe we could live much more modestly than most of us do now and share wealth more fairly around the world but still live the good life through the use of superb virtual reality places like Oasis.
Every time we felt like a treat instead of buying it, or travelling to it, we could experience it in alternative world. We could travel to wherever we wished, climb whatever mountains we desired, enjoy beautiful houses, gardens, cars and clothes to our hearts content whilst firmly anchored in our modest real abode. We could watch concerts, walk in the bush, visit imaginary universes, without adding to the enormous burden that our rampant consumerism is placing on the environment. All in moderation of course, because the greatest danger of such virtual reality is that we might never want to leave it.