Surrounded by virtual reality

WANT to run as Cathy Freeman, or sing as Savage Garden, or bowl as Shane Warne?

Then get ready for the virtual reality body suit.

The VR body suit, complete with surround sound, sends electrical signals directly to the brain informing it that the body is experiencing whatever the suit is programmed to say.

Emerging technology futurist Sue Jefferies tells us that by 2020, our preferred form of entertainment will likely be the virtual reality body suit with surround sound.

Big idea writer Jeremy Rifkin believes that in our new age of “hypercapitalism”, our chief economic activity will not be industrial production but rather the selling or buying of access to cultural experiences.

In his recent book, The Age of Access: The New Culture of Hypercapitalism Where All of Life is a Paid-For Experience, Rifkin writes that our long term shift from industrial production to cultural production means that cutting edge commerce in the future will be the marketing of a “vast array of cultural experiences rather than of just traditional industrial based goods and services”.

A fundamental shift is occurring from the age-old model of buying and owning goods and services to a new form of commerce where consumers buy “access to experiences”, the commercial-isation of cultural participation.

The old industrial power structures such as the Big Three auto makers, General Electric, the oil biggies, Boeing, and others, are giving way to a new generation of companies such as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, Microsoft, and AOL, which offer less tangible products.

As access to the Internet and to entertainment sources becomes more important to the haves and more out of reach for the have-nots, our post modern world is becoming more immediate, temporary, and “sold back” to us.

It may be time, as we approach a truly consumer driven economy, to rethink what aspects of our lives we want programmed for us, as in virtual, and which we want to create for ourselves: to put the real back in reality.

n Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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