“Terms and Conditions”
by Charlotte M-G
Issue 2: Game | 1,072 words
You may have heard the term ‘life is a game.’ Now, the phrase has never rung truer. Through our lives, we create our characters, unlock achievements, get rewarded when we follow rules, and face repercussions when we don’t. We’re all aiming to raise our ranks on the scoreboard before our time runs out, only, we don’t have any clue where this scoreboard is or what our final goal is. We have become so wrapped up in discovering the mystery of what the highest player gets that we don’t see the danger that’s looming right in front of us. Whilst we gawk at the things we can achieve through technology, many of us overlook the idea that we’re becoming pawns in a simulated reality.
With the recent advancements of technology, especially compared to what was available 20 years ago, our lives seem to be edging towards transforming into digitalized games. You can now own a device that will fully immerse you in a virtual simulation in your very own living room. In 2013, with the help of crowdfunding, Palmer Luckey created a virtual reality headset prototype, now known as Oculus Rift. After Luckey’s company Oculus was purchased in 2014 by Facebook (a company already proven to be exploitative and dangerous, see Cambridge Analytica), the Oculus Rift virtual reality system quickly gained a lot of acclaim alongside its competitors, the PlayStation VR and HTC Vive. Instead of just sitting on the couch, with the simple click of a button, you can now sit on Mars or take part in a high-speed police chase. It seems that with these advancements that we’re making so quickly, anything and everything is becoming possible.
At the moment, you’re able to get home from your dead-end job, strap on your virtual reality headset, grab hold of the controllers, and fully plunge yourself into whatever false sense of reality seems fit for that particular day and mood. Straight away, powering up that console allows you to become part of a game. We’re all used to the game of life, sure, but this is something much bigger. This is the game of technology, and we’re playing it without reading the rules. We ticked that ”terms and conditions” box without actually reading the small print.
Micheal Abrash, the chief scientist at Oculus, believes that that we will have complete eye, face, hand, and external body tracking by the year 2022. In as little as four years, we may have access to technology that allows us to completely transport ourselves into a digitalized world. Already, there are studies being conducted in making use of virtual reality technology for the sake of improving mental health and general well-being. By using virtual reality headsets, participants of the trials, which were conducted by the company Visual, have been able to escape their own reality and experience a different environment. In turn, it’s been found that those who have access to virtual simulations have a more positive outlook on life and generally feel better about themselves.
The kicker is, we’re nosediving into something that’s contradictorily proving to become a problem for our mental and physical health. The World Health Organization has officially confirmed and declared the existence of “gaming disorder,” which is defined by an extreme prioritization of gaming over other daily activities. At the moment, studies show that only a small percentage of people suffer from the disorder, but, clearly, our technology has evolved to the point where this is becoming more evidently an issue.
We, as a society and as a species, are constantly looking to see what exactly we’re capable of. It’s human nature to be afraid of what happens after we die—what’s on the other side of that GAME OVER screen. At this point, as a society, we need to really consider the fact that in a few decades, we may be able to have the choice to freeze our bodies and transfer our minds into a bank of computers before we die. We may very soon have the complete possibility to continue life in a hard drive until the time comes when our bodies can be reanimated and reintroduced into a society that may only be present hundreds of years from now.
We’re so scared of not knowing what’s at the end that we’re now actively trying to avoid it, and it seems to be working. We’ve made evident progressions of being able to cryogenically freeze corpses in the hopes that, one day, we will be able to reanimate them and bring them back. In 2014, a teenage girl who was terminally ill won a legal battle to have the right to have her corpse frozen. Her last hope was that technological advancements would grant her life again in the future. Her body is currently being stored in a lab in the United States.
We also need to consider that scientists are currently exploring the possibilities of implanting our consciousness into machines. This would allow all our thoughts, memories, and feelings to be stored digitally for however long we would like or for however long it’s going to take for science to find a way to “bring us back online,” as it were. Though, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to be returning to the world as we know it. Instead, advancements are being made so that we are able to consider being implanted into a digitized work. In turn, this means that our stream of consciousness will be transferred to a machine or a device that will, frankly, become who we are.
A relatively new startup company known as Humai aims to resurrect their first “human” in as little as 30 years. The organization focuses on transporting your thoughts, memories, and individuality into a robotic host body. By cryogenically freezing our brains, they aim to extend our life spans by transferring us into machines. This is more alarming considering how companies, such as Facebook, have already misused our personal data. This is a step further in that already dangerous direction.
We’re taking a risk and gambling by actually making our lives more of a game than they already are. It seems that we no longer want to live as humans—we would prefer to live as digital copies of ourselves, avatars of our physical beings. We still don’t know if there’s any prize at the end of the game, we don’t know if there is any scoreboard at all.
Charlotte M-G is a young freelance entertainment writer who has a love for all things media and literature. When she hasn’t got her head in a book, or she’s not glued to a video game, she’s writing thought-provoking discussion pieces that spark conversation. Along with reporting on the latest entertainment news and keeping you up to date with the latest insider knowledge, she might just make you think about subjects you’d prefer to skim over.