Being a Realist at the dawn of VR
- Edwin McRae
As a kid, I used to dream of finding a secret portal to Narnia somewhere on the farm. I explored every inch of that sheep farm, roaming for hours and days over those two craggy limestone hills, investigating every cave, every secluded forest grotto, peering into every pond in the hope I'd see a centaur or faun peering back at me.
I didn't realise it until I read William Gibson's Neuromancer when I was fifteen, but I was dreaming of virtual worlds. Now we have them, on our screens, within the internet, and soon we'll have them in 'full immersion' through Virtual Reality.
But now that I've found the shimmering portal tucked away within the secret limestone cave, I'm not sure I want to step through. Why?
When I was a tweeny and then a teen, I didn't feel like I fitted into the world at the time. I felt awkward, out-of-sync with everything and everyone around me. I'd later discover that these were the early symptoms of Chronic Depression, something I've battled with ever since. I found reality overwhelming and daunting back then, so of course I wanted to escape.
Now...I actually really like reality. Not everything about it, but enough to know that I'd like to stay and do what I can to make reality even better. To step through that portal now feels like I'd be turning my back on reality, ignoring it. And if I do that, I'm worried about what's going to happen to it in my absence.
Will I still like it, if and when I ever come back?