Neal Stephenson is a prolific author in the science fiction genre. His best known work is probably the 1992 release Snow Crash — a novel that outlined the “metaverse.” Stephenson used this word to describe the complex, organic-computerized society that he presents in his book. Today, metaverse is being used as a buzzword for the rapidly converging worlds of online computing, social technology, and virtual/augmented reality devices.
Stephenson’s forward thinking has recently landed him a job as a futurist at enigmatic AR company, Magic Leap. He was also on hand at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco to answer questions about his new book, Sevneves, and a reality that is inching ever more closely to the fantasy he crafted in 1992. His thoughts on virtual reality itself are particularly interesting:
“[A world where everyone wears headsets regularly] is where I think we’re eventually going to end up,” Stephenson said in response to a moderator question. “A changeover is going to occur.”
When asked how quickly he believed VR technology would rise to this level of sophistication, Stephenson’s responded with a metaphor from the film world saying, “if you watch movies or TV filmed in a ’90s environment people honestly don’t look much different…you can easily forget its set 20 years ago until they pick up a giant cell phone or computer monitor the size of car.”
Stephenson theorizes that this sort of retroactive shock at outdated technology will be similarly felt by future VR users when they see reminders of the bulky, wired headsets of today.
In a final note, Stephenson addressed the potential social strangulation that technology — especially technology like VR/AR — could have on society:
“From where I’m sitting, I’m seeing a thousand little white Apples,” Stephenson said addressing an audience of journalists and note-taking enthusiasts. “You can argue that there’s a social impact that’s not so great, in that people can be so fixated on their phone or their laptop that they’re not looking up … I would hope we find our way that we kind of get both, that we continue to get access to all the cool information that’s available on the Internet but maybe do so in a more social way, a more shared way and kind of get back in the habit of looking at each other.”
Photos credits: TechCrunch