Your Future Reality Is Virtual

Big Think: How will next-gen virtual reality change our lives? 

Ray Kurzweil: Well, start from today: we have virtual worlds like Second Life. It’s flat, it’s on the little screen over here, it’s kind of cartoon-like. Despite that fact that it’s not very realistic yet, we see harbingers of everything we do in real life from runs on banks to virtual romances to virtual concerts and all kinds of activities that we do in real life. In fact from people who have been on Second Life just for the past years, they’ve seen a substantial increase in the realism of that virtual world.

The next step is we’re going to put it in our eyeglasses, it’ll beam images right to our retina and put us in a three dimensional full immersion visual auditory environment, so rather than being here it’ll be three dimensional and all of three dimensional out there we'll be in this three dimensional environment and will be able to walk around and we’ll be able to look at ourselves but we wouldn’t necessarily have the same body that we have in real reality. It’ll become more and more realistic, go out 10 years it’s going to be just about as realistic as real reality, still not within the nervous system.

Go out 20 years, 25 years, these nanobots, these blood cell size devices will be going in our bodies keeping us healthy from inside. We’ll have some go inside our brains to the capillaries not invasively, they would be interacting with our biological neurons so it’ll extends our memory, our decision making faculties, put our brains on the internet, and they'll also enable us to enter virtual reality environment from within the nervous system.

So, if I want to go in the virtual reality environment, the nanobots will shut down the signals coming from I realize in my real skin and create the signals that will be appropriate for the virtual environment and then it will feel like I’m in that environment and I’ll have a virtual body and those environment. It could be the same body I have in real reality, it could be a different body, a couple could become each other, experience relationship from the others' perspective, teacher could design a student to become Ben Franklin in the virtual Constitutional Congress, not just dress up as him but become that character.

And these virtual environments would be like websites, you’ll have millions to choose from and some will be recreations of beautiful earthly environments like the Taj Mahal or the Mediterranean Beach. Some of the fantastic imaginary environments that couldn’t exist on earth. And these are not just sort of places to play although we’ll do that as well but these would be places to interact with other people and it will be an extension of real reality just as Second Life is today and for some people it’s a game, for some people it’s quite serious, it’s a place to be and this place to be, a virtual reality, will become more and more realistic, more and more full immersion, more and more detailed, and more and more imaginative.

In 10 years we'll have three dimensional virtual realities that will seem just like real reality, beamed straight from eyeglasses into our retinas.

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