Recently , while preparing a lecture for one of the classes I teach, I had an epiphany. Yes, the clouds separated. That beam of light came down, and was so strong it sunburned that bald-spot on top of my head! (Just kidding about the beam of light folks. Unfortunately, not the bald spot.) But the source for my epiphany was as unlikely a source as even I could imagine. I’m still surprised: Central Bank Digital Currency: CBDC.
There is a lot to say about Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), electronic money (CBDC), and simulation in general. Anyone wonder where this could all lead us? So, let’s just agree to stipulate that anything that is not real or “actual,” is simulation. It’s not real folks, not actually happening. You can stop your plane crash in midair to grab a snack in these pretend worlds. Your FarmVille animals can live without attention. Can’t do that in “actuality.” Your avatar can’t take out the trash or feed the baby. But somehow, more and more people seem to be retreating to these imagined “safe spaces.” Sit on your phone all day? Facebook and Tik Toc much? Remember “Let your fingers do the walking.”? Just the tip of the iceberg. Pretend is just so much more inviting.
Think about cashless stores for instance. Reminds me of an old animated credit card commercial when some poor guy came into a donut shop, paid cash, while everyone else was tapping their card. He shut the entire operation down. Recently, at an Aldi Store in the UK, a man tried to buy some groceries with cash… He didn’t have the app on his phone, got himself arrested I believe. Seems that Whole Foods has introduced a “palm-print” recognition system (Amazon) to shop there. We need third-party verification to buy eggs?
I am old enough to remember, not all that long ago, finger prints were considered private… “personal property” and only required for official forms like passports or when you were being booked by the police. Last time I checked, we were being finger-printed to enter Sea World. No ID to vote though. Maybe there’s more to the Virtual Escape Room than “meets the eye.”
Now we read pages and pages of “privacy rights” but seem to actually have none or at least less. Digital currency (Central Bank Digital Currency: CBDC) will eliminate good ol’ fashioned money all together. Tell me, what are the ramifications of this for yard sales, farmers’ markets, little kids selling lemonade… donating and the like? Oh yeah, kids selling lemonade without a permit is already against the law. Sorry, I forgot.
How will all of this affect the value (functionality) of the gold or silver rounds you have been collecting up? In China, I believe your “money” expires if you don’t use it in the allotted time. Keep the economy rolling. Seems that shopping… life in general is getting so complex, so abstract, almost unreal. We can shop at virtual stores, pay with virtual money, go on virtual trips and soon, I am sure, virtual family reunions that will include family members who have long since left the planet. Just keep shoveling the virtual coal into the virtual steam engine and roll on. So, yes, simulation is winning. And we seem to be content with it.
Having been in post secondary education, I learned “simulation” was among the best forms of learning with the most retention. “Active Learning.” Learning to master a skill to later use in real life. Simulation… not an end in itself.
The difference between what is actual and what is perceived. Bob Dylan suggested (Tangled Up in Blue: 1975) that: “We always did feel the same. We just saw it from a different point of view.” Perception. Or as Alan Greenspan said: ' I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.’ Perception.
The main advantage of simulation is that there are no consequences. So people may like it even better than reality. But digital currency is one avenue that we should not go down. Sometimes it occurs to me that we (the people), other than providing the act of consumption, are the weak link in this chain. If someone would produce an automated consumption app, we could all go away. In fact, someone has invented that machine now that I think about it.
Wim Delvoye, a Belgian artist, whose inventive and often shocking and repulsive projects, topped even himself with this interactive sculptural installation: Cloaca, also known as the “poo machine.” Yes, it is a food processing machine that mimics the body’s digestive process, producing poop at the other end. People just feed it and clean up after it as well. And, it’s a machine. Can’t get sick. No more meed for those ‘eat by dates’ on food. No need for actual consumers after all. The question is whether we can power anything up with the poo machine or not. Does it consume independently, sorta perpetual motion or not?
One particular reference I want to make is to Colonel George Robert Hall, an U.S. Air Force Pilot, who was shot down over North Vietnam September 27, 1965. If you are not familiar with his story, you should be. As a Vietnam veteran pilot myself, I found it very interesting.
During his confinement at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, Colonel Hall heightened his mental visualization skills so as to develop a virtual golf course in his mind, where, many say, 90 percent of golf is played. He was in depth as he imagined himself dressing for his round of golf each day by putting on his golf socks, pants, shoes, T-shirt, then golf shirt, picking up his golf cap and bag and heading to the course. All in his mind. He visualized very aspect in his brain, using his brain… not AI, not VR-goggles. He did not need pay to play the course using any form of digital currency either.
He mentally dealt with his nerves on the first tee box and played each and every hole of his home course and Pebble Beach, without missing a single sight and sound of each stroke. He remembered writing down the score for each hole. He pictured the weather, fairways, greens, and the trees, including the rough and the speed of the greens. Virtual Reality? Simulation? The human brain at work? Yeah, that’s it.
On March 21, 1973, after seven and a half years a POW, and less than six weeks after his release from that prison, he was playing on one of the biggest stages in golf. Colonel Hall was invited to play in the 1973 Greater New Orleans P.O.W. Pro-Am Open, where he shot a 76 – his handicap. If there is any story that supports the value of simulation, “virtual” mental reality and mental perception, this is it. But life was intended to be real and his simulating that game of golf in his mind was a means, not an end. And, he did it. Not anything electronic. My concern? If we as a race begin to become lax in our mental make up, it is over.
Replacing life with fake reality is not a direction we should be heading in. Regardless of how efficient it may be. If we are shopping in virtual stores, going on virtual vacations, working in virtual environments, paying with virtual currency, what are we here for? We truly will become cogs in something turning to quote an old CSN song. Col. Hall passed away 2014.© Frank Louis
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