A vision for the future

This is one of nearly a thousand foresight statements shared by people from around the world. To return to the Voices of the People home page, click here. To do a refined search of the Voices of the People statements, click here. To submit your ideas to this online archive, look to the upper right corner of this page, click on "Share Your Prediction" and fill in the pop-up form.

Name: Chris Palmer

From: California

Bio: film industry consultant and 25 year computer user

Area of Expertise: Advocate/Voice of the People

Topic: Controversial Issues

Headline: The death of one-on-one relations

Nutshell: Advances in technology combined with the pathos of most individuals will lead to most people only relating through the internet or not really relating at all.

Vision: I think that many people, driven by lack of social skills, the decline of non-technological entertainment, and increasing personal isolationism will become virtual hermits.

The decline of social skills has many causes - breakdown of parent to child education in polite behavior, the collapse of order in schools followed with the stifling of political correctness. The PC epidemic has led many to say nothing for fear of ostracism for saying the wrong thing.

At some point, many people decide that interacting with anyone is simply more trouble than it is worth. In times past, the only option for such people was literal hermitage or the sterotypical recluse hiding behind the drawn curtains.

But today's technology, and that of the near future, allows synthetic interaction - one can interact only with chosen companions, without the traditional constrictions of physical appearance, mores or inhibitions. Or better yet, interact with non-human characters as we choose to create or modify them.

I see a future where entertainment is unique to the user. Stories and films that follow our chosen storyline. Virtual friends (and lovers) of our own creation. With more highly-developed virtual reality technology, this physical interaction will seem as real as that we have traditionally experienced - and without the difficulties that real people can produce.

As with alcohol, drugs or other escapist tools, this future may well lead to many millions who almost never interact with actual human beings.

Each major entertainment technology of the past 25 years has been largely driven by one thing - pornography. The VCR, early satellite TV, and the internet all were brought into common use largely because of the demand for sexual entertainment. Soon the technolgy for truly interactive cybersex, with physical sensations from the virtual partner will further wall off a large segment of society.

These developments have a more positive side. Imagine being able to experience the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and even the textures of rainforests, deserts, and cities of the world.

Date Submitted: 11/11/2004

A project of the Elon University School of Communications and the Pew Internet and American Life Project
All rights reserved. Contact us at predictions@elon.edu