Friday, January 23, 2015

Have you ever just wanted to escape the constraints of your own life? Have you ever wished that instead you could live in a world where your fantasies can become a reality of sorts? Well that is the world in which Ready Player One is set. It's really only a few years away from the present given our trajectory. This virtual world, the Oasis, is a 24 hour dive into those fantasies. Here you can be anything and everything you ever wanted to be. Just plug yourself in and you're ready to go! Sounds amazing, doesn't it? I know you are nodding.

But let's take a moment and think about what a fully immersive dream world might do to the real world. I'm not the only person who would prefer my dreams to what is currently my life. So let's say that an entire society makes this call. Then the country. Then the world. Who is left to encounter reality?

So the real world deteriorates as people only really care about how much electricity and bandwidth they have. And that enables some to rise up and take control of that reality now that no one is looking. So then everything, real and virtual, slowly gets enveloped as you lose more and more control over everything that was once important- the internet, human interaction, the economy, leadership. While no one was paying attention the world got taken over by tyrants who believe they can do whatever they want, because hey, that's the whole point of the OASIS, right?

They slowly make the virtual populace dependent upon them in order to achieve those dreams and fantasies. And before you know it your life is no longer your own. And you don't notice because you're still dreaming.

I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't want to experience the OASIS. But having your economic future dependent upon how much the tyrants want you to pay for those now necessary items to your new life is very shaky ground. They could pull the rug out from under you at any time, for any reason that they want.

So when a teenager becomes enemy number one due to a contest that would hand off total control of the OASIS to the winner, things get ugly. Your dream world turned into a nightmare. You have to hide your real self so you aren't found and exterminated before you can finish the quest. Nothing is certain anymore and the game keeps changing.

But this story is not all dark. It is also a story of hope, that in every point of darkness a light will emerge to bring things back to center. In Ready Player One, it was one boy in whose hands the future, both virtual and real, lies. He is the one to stand up to the tyrant and tell them that there is someone who will fight to save control of our dreams and realities. And that beacon of hope inspires countless numbers to wake up, look around, and realize that what is being taken away is precious. So they join the fight.

This book is amazing because of the many layers it has. On the surface it is just a video game. Then you dig deeper and find the criticism for where our own society is headed. To that all I can say is not to give up your dreams to someone else, even if it seems easier. Take control of your life. That is the only way you can really live.