I was in the theatres again recently, watching shows. I love theatre, especially musicals (Ed: is it okay for Chris to say this?). I wondered why theatre is so special and then realised it’s that shared experience. A bunch of people on stage doing stuff, and a crowd of people sharing what they’re doing.
It then made me realise that this is a crucial foundation of the networked economy. It’s our ability to share and network in real-time. A good example is that I now track and trace commentary on twitter of live TV that I’m watching. It feels like you are having that shared experience, but now at home.
The thing is that the shared experience at home is not the same. Not at all. It’s 2-dimensional. You don’t have the taste or smell of the physical shared experience.
This also came home to me as I attended a few conferences and meetings in reality. The NLP kicked in. Seeing people in reality is sooo much better. You get to see the whites of their eyes and the way they are thinking. You have off-meeting chats, drinks and networking. You don’t get that on Zoom.
And I guess there’s the rub of all we talk about, in terms of the metaverse and virtually augmented realities. Is it 2D or 4D? Real-life is all dimensional (bear in mind we have six senses) but the networked economy is currently 2D (eyes and ears only). Can we get to a true virtual world? Can we augment reality with smells, tastes and touch?
Asking this question shows that we are still in early days of technology. A bit like stepping up the ladder of artificial intelligence, we are way off computers reaching the singularity where they are more intelligent than humans. With robotics, most robots still look like toys. We are in early days.
Give it another century and sure, we probably will have developed 5D networked and shared experience with robots that appear to be human … but we’re not there yet.
And the really important thing to remember is the shared experience. As humans, we are social. In the dystopian view of the world, we can end up living with machines in our own singularity. What that means is that we end up on capsules like the blue pill Matrix. It’s a Black Mirror future. It’s a Terminator future.
I don’t believe in that future.
I do believe in a future where machines augment reality, but it will always be to make our lives better, not worse. As we progress to 5D augmented realities in a metaverse, we will find ourselves sharing experiences across the world of the networked economy to make life better; to make relationships more accessible, open and global; to enable friends to connect across borders, across countries, across religions, across ethnicities.
In other words, the network will breakdown prejudice and create far more inclusion and diversity. It will do this in real-time, but it still won’t be the same as sitting together and hugging.
… or will it?