What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can hear, what you can smell, taste and feel, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
– Morpheus (The Matrix)
Your brain is your reality. Not reality itself. Therefore, strange as it is to think about, each individual, in a weird way, is living in a sort of virtual reality.
(Tape up those spectacles, dear LFT reader. It’s time to geek out.)
Just as Morpheus pointed out in The Matrix, everything you experience as “real” can be reduced to electrical activity in the body. Our sensory organs deliver information about the world around us in the form of electrical signals to the brain. And that’s what we experience — not the world itself.
Everything you see, hear, feel, taste and smell right now… in this moment… is only an interpretation of what’s going on externally. (Interpretation is the key word here.)
Let’s take, for example, sight. You might think your eyes are seeing these words, but that’s false. It’s actually your brain that does the seeing. That’s why the German poet Novalis called the eye a “superficial organ.”
It’s pretty mind-warping to think about, but bear with me.
As you read this letter, your eye is focusing light onto the retina. The light is then absorbed by a layer of photoreceptor cells (rods and cones), which convert it into electrochemical signals. These signals, mind you, are not an image. They are raw data.
Those images are constructed within the brain out of those signals. You don’t actually see today’s issue of LFT until these electrochemical signals reach the visual cortex all the way in the back of the brain. And by then, it has been filtered based on what you choose to focus on and, oftentimes, any strong preconceived notions you might have. (Which is why people who are “set in their ways” are impossible to convince otherwise. It’s literally all they see.)
Hold your hands up in front of your face for a moment. Though you perceive your hands as “outside” of your self, it’s a trick.
You’re actually seeing your hands from inside your brain. Look down at your body. Again, you’re seeing that beautiful protoplasmic bag of bones from the back of your brain.
Like I said, total mind-fornication.
The brain simply takes external signals and interprets them the best way it can into reality. It’s not a foolproof process, either. The brain is highly gullible and is unbelievably easy to trick.
Take, for example, the following optical illusions.
One: How many legs does this object have?
Two: Although the star might seem like it’s floating, this is a still image.
Three: Would you believe me if I told you the square labeled A below is the exact same color as B?
Well, whether you believe it or not, it’s true. Any image editing software will tell you they are both hex color value #787878.
Four: OK. This one’s pretty bizarre. Stare at the cross in the middle and, with your peripherals only, watch what happens to the faces of these celebrities.
Now, all things considered, imagine you’re able to trick your brain into believing you’ve stepped into an alien world, where literally anything is possible.
A world where you can fly, dodge bullets, fight dragons, become a dragon and spit fire, become a dragon slayer and kill your dragon self, and on.
That’s the kind of stuff that will become possible with virtual reality — and much, much more. In the future, we’ll be able to immerse ourselves in any world we can imagine. And, we’ll be able to make that world so fantastically real that it feels like the world we currently inhabit.
You’ll be able to feel, smell, taste hear and see strange and otherworldly things in the virtual world. And just like in the “real” world, it’ll all be produced by injecting electrical signals into the body.
Of course, all new and bold technologies have always had aspects to be excited about and potential worries to consider. And virtual reality, in my humble opinion, takes the Laissez Faire Today cake thus far. (Until, that is, later this week when we talk about “hacking matter.”)
That aside, if you’re an investor, or want to be an investor, there are two tech trends which are going to make a lot of average Americans unbelievably wealthy. One is virtual reality. And the other is the blockchain.
We’ll talk in more detail about the investment implications of virtual reality in tomorrow’s episode. First, though, we want to talk about what’s going to happen when the blockchain and virtual reality get hitched — and why it could be magnificent for the liberty movement.
Today, we’ve invited author and blockchain guru Simon de la Rouviere to talk about why the blockchain and virtual reality are far from strange bedfellows. In fact, he says, they’re a perfect match.
The big idea to explore today is this: If an optical illusion can trick our brains into believing a star is moving when it’s static, can VR trick the Statist’s brain into loving liberty?
By Simon de la Rouviere
I’ve had the privilege recently to discuss with amazingly smart people about the combo between cryptocurrency/blockchain + VR. The more I think about it, the more I’m sure that once VR hits the mainstream, the blockchain will almost suddenly thrive much more in VR than in real life.
With the Oculus Rift (and other upcoming VR devices), it has come of age. When immersion is this “real,” it reaches new territory.
As I’ve previously said, once virtual reality feels so much like real life, we’ll start looking at it differently than a normal game.It’s status as a reality becomes a 1st-class citizen next to real life. In other words, experiences in virtual reality won’t be seen as “lesser” experiences to real life.
The worlds that exist in virtual reality are currently all either “local”, single-player experiences, or worlds run, recorded and maintained by a 3rd-party (such as the Elite Dangerous MMO).
Centralized virtual worlds will for some time proliferate… but, the same problem will rear its head as with centralized systems today. You have to trust the maintainers. What if a game developer (for greed), decides to change a virtual reality? An experience that was so meaningful to you, is altered. What if the game developer goes bust and the virtual reality needs to be shut down? As you can see, over time a desire will exist to create a decentralized virtual world for people to engage with.
The distinction between games (as it is now) vs virtual worlds, is that we will demand decentralized alternatives, because it will be so important to us. For the same reason that we demand decentralized finance (it’s a huge part of our lives), the same reason people will demand decentralized VR worlds.
Different variations will come to exist over time… until technology (& science) has reached a point where completely decentralized virtual worlds will exist. There’ll be worlds with centralized maintenance, but decentralized commerce (through using Bitcoin as its currency and a service like OpenBazaar as its marketplace).
Then, there’ll be worlds where all interaction is mediated through smart contracts. BitNation is striving to create smart contracts for all types of governance (not discriminating on any type of law). In other words, these smart contracts will be “backed by math”, and voluntary. It’s a way of saying: “Look, I’d rather use this smart contract for registering my land, than a nation state.”
It’s audacious, and it is something that will happen: creating an alternative (that obviously won’t initially be recognised by any nation state). The great thing about ALL blockchain tech is… it just immediately works in VR as well (given sufficient changes to UX).
In the real world, we have a lot of services already that works well enough, eg Ebay or nation states (law). But these things can’t be ported to VR as easily. It’s a bizarre strategy for Ebay to want to be the main “marketplace” in Eve Online. It doesn’t fit: for several reasons. Because 1) Eve Online’s universe doesn’t fit the “real world”, 2) Why would I give a cut to them for that?, 3) Why would CPP make a marketplace with extra fees IN the game? and 4) Various legal issues that could arise.
In a virtual world, its reality is first-class, so paying for something with Bitcoin in the real world won’t be weird in VR. It’s not escapism, it’s just another “place” in reality. So plugging in blockchain tech into VR worlds will work really well, because they exist. If a new VR world is designed and people in that world needs to trade with each other, why reinvent all the wheels? Just use Bitcoin + OpenBazaar.
No one entity will have eventually have any jurisdiction over it (not even nation states). It is infinite. And it is limitless. It is anti-fragile (all the buzzwords!). This means that we are going to experiment with all the variations of it. Different laws. Different currencies. Different smart contracts, etc. Virtual worlds can die (and are allowed to die). With VR + Blockchain tech, it *can* become a survival of the fittest reality. We can experiment, and we can actually “live” in those realities since porting over value to the real world (to buy food) will be easy. Value will only be ported over if constraints are properly in place so that the system can’t be exploited (but that’s just a system/tech design issue).
What this means is actually quite crazy. We can architect worlds for a lot of things. We can do scenario planning for example. Simulate a VR Mars colony and ONLY use smart contracts for a new governance model. Ask real people to “live” there as a full-time job and see what happens. (Hey Elon Musk, try this. ;).
Furthermore… as the puzzle pieces fall in place. If we can create a more free. A more fair. A more equal virtual world, what would that say about our current reality?
If you can “earn your keep” in bitcoin in a virtual world, governed by incorruptible smart contracts, and it is a world you want to live in and cooperate in more than the real world, what would that do to us? I suspect we will most definitely see a new surge of people demanding exactly that reality into the real world. Down with corrupt governments. Down with archaic governance. Down with intolerance. Down with all the bull****.
And so. Once both VR & blockchain come of age, it will proliferate in VR worlds… and then ripple over into the reality at a breakneck pace.
The possible effects will create a new freer, open, global world, and rapidly so. If not, and our most wonderful realities will end up (only) being virtual, we are a [expletive deleted] sad bunch.
Simon de la Rouviere
Author, The Blockchain: Mapping the Decentralized Future