Christopher Caldwell has a thought provoking — some may find it even disturbing — piece in NYTimes today about how many ways to live in the virtual world may take human species to the next level. It is not only about virtual reality but also about simple low tech that we use to live in virtual world.
Abandoning your own world for a made-up one is an ever larger part of adult life. For the futurist Ray Kurzweil, this is only the beginning. According to his new book “The Singularity Is Near,” we are approaching the age of “full-immersion virtual-reality.” Thanks to innovations in genetics, nanotechnology and robotics, you’ll be able to design your own mental habitat. You’ll be able to sleep with your favorite movie star – in your head. (It is not lost on Kurzweil that you can already do that, but he insists it will be really, really realistic.) Those same technologies will help us “overcome our genetic heritage,” live longer and become smarter. We’ll learn how brains operate and devise computers that function like them. Then the barrier between our minds and our computers will disappear. The part of our memory that is literally downloaded will grow until “the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will predominate.”
But this raises questions: What will then be the point of unenhanced human beings? And what will become of our relations to one another? A willingness to run head-on at these moral-technological issues has made the French novelist Michel Houellebecq one of Europe’s best-selling writers and arguably its most important.