Good news. Leaving the house may soon be a thing of the past.
American electronic music producer Marshmello performed live on stage last weekend. It was huge. The sound was perfect. The audience was dressed to kill and ready to dance. Millions attended - but no one was actually there. The live show occurred online within the game Fortnite. Marshmello and his audience appearing as avatars in real time. Everyone at show - wasn't.
"I'm so alone nothing feels like home" blasting out to no one and everyone. It felt like the future. A lonely future. Everyone at home. Together but alone.
Leaving your house to go to an event is a hassle. You have to find a park. It's often cold. You have to put your pants back on. But going to a concert as an online avatar is easy. You are already there. No cues, no bag checks and no port-a-loos.
Is it time to do the same thing with live sports? This season's Super Rugby has seen its fair share of empty seats. They'd get bigger winter crowds if they played in the afternoon. It's warmer, your kids could stay awake. But games are scheduled for TV audiences not those in attendance. If it stays that way stadiums will eventually become nothing but giant tv studios. Existing only to film the games.
Of course, things look better on TV with cheering, flag-waving supporters in the shot. So why not add the crowd digitally? Like canned laughter on a sitcom. Render a bunch of CGI super fans on to the empty seats. The atmosphere at the ground won't exist. But home in front of your TV it will be amazing.
A few years after that things will get interesting. When the crowds don't exist any more, people might just start going along to the games again. Virtually. It's not too hard to imagine a live action version of the Marshmello concert. With a VR headset, you could attend the game. You could even interact with the other avatars around you. Be a part of excitement. Nice and warm, metres from your fridge, no need for parking. You're still home. Currently, there's virtually no one there. In the future people will be there - virtually.
Once we have the stadiums sorted. There are lots of other ways to stay at home and go out. Nothing beats the atmosphere of a busy restaurant. So send your avatar. Get food delivered to your home, put your VR gear on and enjoy the company of other humans who also aren't there. Give it a few years and you'll be able to hologram those co-dinners into your house.
Dating apps have made connecting with interested people easier. But you still have to meet them. Which means dressing up, going out and revealing what you look like. No problem. Send an avatar on your date. No need for fancy clothes and good looks Just render up maximum digital attractiveness. Take your partner back to your luxury beach abode. The one that doesn't exist. There, a hi-tech full emersion sensual feedback loop will sort both sides of the equation out.
Experiences will be clunky at first. But the interface will improve over time and eventually disappear. Consider how much video games have improved over the last 20 years. At this rate, it won't be long before real and artificial become indistinguishable. Your biological algorithms which have been naturally selected for over 3.8 billion completely gamed by digital stimulus. Eventually, you won't even know it's happening.
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Give it another 50 years and we'll be able to take the person at home out of the situation. Cut out the middle man and the house. Get rid of the physical completely. Get rid of the 'you'. Simulate ourselves. Upload your personality.
Of course, that might have already happened. You may already be a bunch of zeros and ones in some system somewhere. Forget about online Mashmello concerts. Forget about at home or out. Can you be sure you are anywhere to start with? That you actually exist in physical space? How would you know? Not being real would feel and look exactly the same. It does seem a bit odd that we are living in the most beautiful country in the world at the best time in history. It's just the kind of zone someone might select or have selected for them if it could be selected in a computer simulation.
Terrifying paranoid thoughts to be sharing on a Monday morning. I should probably get out of the house more.