Here’s where we are headed. Can you honestly say we are not?
• Plug yourself into the apparatus and now you’ve got a trip that is 1,000x more potent that heroin. Pure, absolute euphoria and bliss. Put in a catheter and feeding tube and maybe get up for a hot shower and change of clothes every couple of days. I took some leftover hydrocodone last time I was sick, and I slept in pure ecstasy from that. Could I resist the Ultimate Trip? Probably not.
• Plug yourself into the apparatus and fuck anything you want. Real people or imagined. Have orgasms 1,000x more powerful that the real thing. Men, no more need for a refractory period. All your desires are fulfilled. Would I want to bother with real relationships if I could have this? Probably not.
• Plug yourself into the apparatus and be anything you want. Live as a hardboiled detective back in the 40s. Investigate the Black Dahlia murder and solve the case. Don’t just read about Hogwarts–matriculate! Be friends with Harry. Be Harry–or Voldemort! Whatever you can imagine can happen. Or if your imagination fails you, no worry: the Matrix can supply endless scenarios to keep you engaged. Could I resist such a temptation? Probably not.
It all begins with a question: What is a good life? A worthwhile life? Perhaps it consists in doing work. Reading “quality” books and watching “quality” movies. Raising kids. That kind of thing.
There is talk of the Singularity, the fruit of artificial intelligence, that could obviate humanity. But what if we were already far along that road and saw that fact somewhat but not quite? The road away from the good life, the “quality” life. I think that’s the case. Let me explain.
It comes down to the individual personality and how tempted the person is to tune out. Way back in time, that wasn’t an option. Survival was the thing. You pretty much had to live the good/quality life. You had to work a lot, and leisure time consisted primarily of interacting with other human beings. And there was sleep. No drugs, no easy forms of entertainment like TV.
But then alcohol is invented. The first of many drugs. And drugs allow us to tune out. Many have accepted that invitation. In the introduction of the book, 19th-Century British Minor Poets, W.H. Auden quotes Sydney Smith about life in London in the year 1800:
We want to trip. We want to tune out. Drugs like heroin have made such a “lifestyle” even more potent.
But then we’ve also had the drugs of novels, movies, TV, video games. For some reason, reading about or viewing fictional lives is more entertaining than living our own. Think about it–it’s strange, isn’t it?
Probably most people do their jobs and live for these moments of entertainment or tripping out. Only a very small percentage of people have lives so interesting that they are caught up in life! and need very little entertaining or tuning out. Give them any other way deeper into that ease, that pleasure, that entertainment, and who will resist? Would you?
I probably would not.