I have no idea why Aldus Huxley titled his futuristic novel, Brave New World. I feel anything but brave just thinking about tomorrow. Technology keeps tearing ahead of us while our brains scramble to cope. I’ve barely become acquainted with the world of illusion, which includes fantasy, magic, 3-D and virtual reality. Now I’m being challenged to don a headset to transform my plain vanilla life into a 3-D one of my making. I’ve seen this kind of science fiction on Star Trek, where Captain Kirk plays space games in a virtual world room. Now that future is upon us, and pundits predict the new capability will blow old technologies like PC’s, laptops and smart phones out of the water. “Disruption on a vast scale” is how writer Kevin Kelly describes it. (“Hyper Vision,” by Kevin Kelly, Wired, May 2016 pg. 83.)
“Mixed reality,” is our ability to “create the illusion of solid objects anywhere you want.” (Ibid, pg. 85.) Not only can I create these illusions for myself, but I can share them with others. As the author boasts, one day soon, a friend in Barcelona will be able to drop a virtual rose into my virtual vase in Portland, Oregon. (Ibid pg. 86)
The advantages to this new technology are many. Teleconferencing will be commonplace, and a surgeon in London will have the ability to guide a doctor isolated at the South Pole through a delicate surgery on a patient. Israelis and Palestinians might “sit” down together in a secure, virtual space to hammer out a peace treaty. All good.
But there’s always a downside. First, while we talk about “The Cloud,” we know it’s a metaphor. In reality, the network is a tangle of hardware that spans the globe. Mixed reality will require more hardware to accommodates this super highway, even as the tools we use to manipulate it may grow smaller. We mustn’t become complacent or overconfident that we control anything, however. Our creations can be monitored by governments and commercial interests, just as our other communications already are. In fact, mixed reality is likely increase opportunities for surveillance. To protect our privacy, we will need more regulations, written by lawgivers who are always behind the curve when it comes to technology. Needless to say, mixed media will be a superhighway which rogues will also travel. In the future, our homes may no longer be our castles but gateways to an enhanced potential for good or ill.