Living online in “The Matrix”: Problem or solution?

In my very first blog post, I asked the question: “Will technology of the future be so advanced it will be seamless with reality? Will this be a problem or a solution for society?”

1. Tomorrow, there may be no such thing as excessive gaming

Everyday, when I am talking to patients in the gaming clinic, I remind myself; tomorrow people may not seek professional help for excessive gaming. My research into gaming problems may not be relevant to society in the future because excessive gaming or even living on the Internet may be accepted as normal. Living on the Internet might even be a solution.

2. When computer games become seamless computer worlds

This famous movie scene from The Matrix can provide a lot of information on what it might be like in the future.

In this clip, Cypher is aware that his “steak doesn’t exist.” He is in a simulated virtual world, the Matrix. He implies that he is sick of the harsh reality of the real world and that he preferred his former life in The Matrix.

Like Cypher, children fully understand that the online world is not real, but for them, the real world can seem impossible. Many children find today’s world so impossible to live in, they escape online.

Riding a virtual rollercoaster is much more fun than algebra. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U31xJjEe0aQ

Patients often tell me, “I hate the Singaporean education system.” I can totally understand why they feel this way. The Singaporean education system is grueling and competitive. Even after graduating from University you might not be guaranteed work, let alone a job you enjoy. How overwhelming must that be for a young person today?

Tip 1: Is your child’s busy school schedule burning them out? Do they have other options to de-stress from the pressures of being a student other than online?

Do you spend time playing with your child? Try playing outside, playing a card game or a board game together and with other children. Make play in the real world relevant for them. Also, when you play with your child they are more likely to share what might be troubling them.

Lastly, Cypher requests that he have wealth and status in The Matrix. Power and status is a common motivating factor for some children who play online games. For many kids, achieving a level 50 enchantment in Minecraft is their only source of self esteem. Online, you can become powerful relatively quickly, without risk of failure. Much like Agent Smith, online games also offer “whatever you want.”

Tip 2: Pay attention to how your child is interacting with their online world. How your child is playing and what they enjoy online may tell us what they are lacking in their real world. Make the real world relevant for them. Teach them how to appreciate mastering a real life skill in real time, something that they care about and can use in their day to day lives.

2. Virtual Reality is coming sooner than you think

In addition to the highly anticipated Oculus Rift (now owned by Facebook), I recently discovered ‘High Fidelity’ by Philip Rosedale (the creator of Secondlife). Rosedale defines virtual reality as: “A sensory experience in which the results of our actions are consistent with our past experiences.”

Here is a presentation of the technology he is developing:

Tip 3: Stay up to date with the latest technology and media. If something new comes out and your child is begging you to buy it for them, do your research. Check out review websites aimed at parents like commonsensemedia.org. You can check out their website here.

3. In the future, online virtual reality may solve future problems

Consider this, in the future we have solved all of the problems of today (really try to think outside the box). There is a cure for cancer and human life expectancy is now 150 years. We will have an abundance of artificial food grown in labs. All mundane jobs are now done by robots. All our current world problems are solved.

This will create new problems. The world will be overpopulated, overcrowded and unemployed. Physical space and a sense of purpose will be a thing of the past. By this time, virtual reality is seamless with the real world. Society’s view regarding the online world will change.

Want to get away from your crowded High Density Building? Go online. Want to see what forests looked like? Go online. Want to relive fond memories of the year 2015? Go online. In the future, living online in a virtual reality world might not be considered a problem but rather a solution. 

More research into the virtual world of online gaming and its effects is required. Although our perceptions towards this may change in the future, many children of today experience gaming related problems. Philip Rosedale gives his balanced insight into how virtual worlds and information overload can be dysfunctional:

“we want to consume information and we are easily overloaded by it to the point of being dysfunctional. I think virtual worlds as we immerse ourselves in them are going to be the same kind of problem, they are going to be overwhelming. So whether we all learn to stop every hour and meditate for 5 mins or sleep more or whatever… if we don’t pay attention to it, it will make us kind of senseless because there is just so much to take in.

Excuse me you should really stop playing, I’m worried you may have information overload. Oh and its my turn. Source: Forbes.com

Tip 4: Pay attention to how much your child is playing. When was the last time your child took a break? Could they be suffering from information overload? Is their experience of the online virtual world causing them to by dysfunctional in the real world?

Sources

The Matrix 1999 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (US, Canada, Bahamas and Bermuda); © 1999 Village Roadshow Films Limited.

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/105474603322955950?journalCode=pres#.VV6G57mqqko

 

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