Entrepreneur and futurist Elon Musk weighed in recently with some interesting thoughts on the meaning of virtual reality and its potential implications.
In a recent Vanity Fair article Musk calls the technology “transformative “, but warns that it could lead to less physical engagement and that a future could emerge that is filled with billions of simulations, each indistinguishable from “true” reality.
Musk, who has been known to randomly ask during Board meetings and cocktail parties, “are we living in a simulation?”, seems focused on the impact that a simulated reality could have on the “real” version, and our ability to interpret it. Elon has spoken before on his fascination with simulations and their increasing pervasiveness on human life.
We should contrast these insights with where we are today. In the near term, the focus of the development community is on “bite size” VR for implementations like Google Cardboard, and on highly entertaining and fantasy-like immersive experiences on an Oculus Rift.
To reach the future Musk envisions, with billions of simulations and entire virtual worlds, we would need not only an exponential increase in the amount of content produced by the developer community, but a slight change in direction for VR from where we are today, which is a purely short form entertainment and mostly animation based focus. Whether or not we end up with “billions of simulations”, it will be fun seeing everything the developer community builds and creates.