Furthest Right

Virtual Reality vs. Reality Reality

Virtual Reality emerges as a game changing technology. It has been a staple of Science Fiction since at least the 1980s. William Gibson brought it to the library, and The Wachowskis projected it on a screen as a film trilogy. Our cultural oracles foretold its ascendancy. Reality begged to differ. This happens whenever we attempt to turn science fiction into real science.

Once upon a time in the 1990s, Amerika’s Army decided that they wanted to clad their infantry soldiers in suits of armor straight out of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. The body armor would stop shrapnel and most ammunition not fired from a crew-served weapon. The helmet would have a miniature cockpit that would give the soldier an enhanced visual acuity to include POVs that would be outside the typical human field of vision. The helmet would have commo links that would make that infantryman capable of calling in fires, dust-off pilots, and any other support he could possibly need to walk out of Hell alive.

They called the system Land Warrior, and according to the propaganda; one platoon of with Land Warrior could have waxed Longstreet’s Army at Gettysburg.

The US Army launched the Land Warrior programme in 1994. An engineering and manufacturing development contract was awarded to Raytheon Systems, then Hughes Aircraft Company. Plans were drafted to build an initial capability (formerly Land Warrior Block 1) and then a Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable (formerly Land Warrior Block 2).

The money lined pockets, and then reality levied The Newtonian Mechanics Tax. This occurred when the Army dropped a Test NCO in Land Warrior garb out of an airplane. The plane worked, the parachute worked, but Land Warrior added over 100 lbs. to the load a soldier jumps with from a C-130 under during an airborne operation. The equation for terminal velocity balances air resistance athwart gravitational acceleration until the acceleration equals zero. The velocity is then constant.

The Army added the mass implicit in 100 lbs. of weight because Land Warrior’s gadgets required juice. This juice had to come from batteries unless you could drop the soldiers from the airplanes tethered to nice, long extension cords. The acceleration continued to add more velocity to the rate of fall until the parachute drag provided enough air resistance to cancel gravitation. This meant that the terminal velocity of a soldier equipped with Land Warrior vastly exceeded the load carried by a paratrooper jumping equipped with standard gear.

This probably provided a fun ride until the poor laden Test NCO had to execute a parachute-landing fall. The NCO predictably failed. The paratrooper fertilized the verdure. The Test Incident Report would have made George Orwell a proud man. As of 2008, The Army was still redesigning and rebranding Land Warrior. Perhaps having the House and Senate Armed Forces Committees as your corporate Board of Directors involves never having to say you are sorry.

I tell this story as an allegory. It is an allegory for the recent rollout of Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. Like the parachute jump wearing “Ninja Turtle Gear,” Metaverse did not work very well. Perhaps we have birthed the Era of The Metasexual.

Formerly-known-as-Facebook megacorporation Meta’s virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds has barely made it out to the public, and users are already being sexually harassed and even assaulted, The Verge reports. “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense,” the user wrote in Facebook’s official Horizon group, as quoted by The Verge. “Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people there who supported this behavior which made me feel isolated in the Plaza.”

Meta-ne-Zuckerface was quick draw lightning with the excuse guns. They assured us all that the fixes were trivial and that we could all just access The Metaverse via a safe zone. It would all prove easy and we could all just plug right back into the Meta Matrix. A Russian expatriate named Phil Libin has heard all of these excuses somewhere before.

“I went to first grade in the Soviet Union,” Libin said. “I was subjected to a lot of Soviet propaganda, and I was told as a little kid repeatedly: ‘Communism doesn’t exist yet. We haven’t built communism yet. We’re building towards communism. But it’s not communism yet. What you see around you, this horrible, horrible place, isn’t communism. We’re building towards it. It’s going to be great when it gets here.'”

So many do not accept Zuckerberg’s Metaverse. Entire crops are being lost. I drop paraphrases from The Matrix trilogy because Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse reminds me of Land Warrior.

Only one-quarter had favorable opinions of the Meta name, compared to the 4 in 10 who had a somewhat/very unfavorable opinion of the name. Millennials are most likely to express an unfavorable opinion about Meta, while Gen Z are more generous in their opinion of the name change.

Land Warrior is aspirational technology, based on a prototype from speculative fiction, which does not face the limiting factor of a requisite business case. Such is the nature of military procurement. This leads to tragic dysfunction and rife corruption. Absent this corruption as a foil, Amerika never has a Truman Presidency. As Dwight David Eisenhower famously warned us, this is an increasingly hard problem to dodge as warfare becomes more complex and mechanized.

Yet Meta exists as a private corporation. They should stop being able to pursue glitchy, aspirational technology based on overrated and unrealistic literary fiction. The negative ROI becomes hideously apparent. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand should serve as a check and balance to the private firm in a free market economy. Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and several others enjoy the privilege of doing business in Amerika instead. They have essentially bought themselves a government.

The Metaverse will therefore enjoy the nine lives we typically associate with a bumbling, corrupt, and dishonestly unpatriotic military program. Will this mess matter? We can all just choose not to bother with this particular application. If it were just this particular pile of glitch code, then the answer would be “So what?”

Extend this without loss of generality, and this could be a problem. So why extend it and borrow someone else’s problems? You will not have to. That choice will be made for you. As Big Tech and government continue their ongoing integration, you will have more and more of your life impacted by this situation. Big Everything will form a Metaverse of its own for anyone who just coasts along plugged into the system. Cutting the cord becomes more of a priority every day.

Tags: , , ,

Share on FacebookShare on RedditTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn