“You will own nothing (aside from NFTs), but you will be happy (in VR anyway)”.
There is a twisted idea floating around the richer corners of the internet – the idea of “reality privilege”.
The reality privilege idea is best summed up in this quote from Marc Andreessen:
“Your question is a great example of what I call Reality Privilege. This is a paraphrase of a concept articulated by Beau Cronin: “Consider the possibility that a visceral defense of the physical, and an accompanying dismissal of the virtual as inferior or escapist, is a result of superuser privileges.” A small percent of people live in a real-world environment that is rich, even overflowing, with glorious substance, beautiful settings, plentiful stimulation, and many fascinating people to talk to, and to work with, and to date. These are also all of the people who get to ask probing questions like yours. Everyone else, the vast majority of humanity, lacks Reality Privilege—their online world is, or will be, immeasurably richer and more fulfilling than most of the physical and social environment around them in the quote-unquote real world.
The Reality Privileged, of course, call this conclusion dystopian, and demand that we prioritize improvements in reality over improvements in virtuality. To which I say: reality has had 5,000 years to get good, and is clearly still woefully lacking for most people; I don’t think we should wait another 5,000 years to see if it eventually closes the gap. We should build—and we are building—online worlds that make life and work and love wonderful for everyone, no matter what level of reality deprivation they find themselves in.“
Essentially, it is the idea that because real life is miserable for a large percentage of humanity, and that because fixing those real problems (you know, things like poverty, hunger, inequality and environmental destruction) is hard and will take time, we should allow – indeed encourage – those hungry, miserable masses to escape into wonderful virtual fantasy worlds where everyone can live like the rich (the ones popularising this idea) already do in the real world.
Let them eat VR cake.
In a way, they are right – who are we to deny others the opportunity to temper their suffering, however temporarily, with a form of comforting escape?
However, it’s not as innocent as that. It’s also a way to sweep the ugliness of reality away with rose-tinted diminished reality spectacles. It gives us an excuse to avert our eyes from all that is ugly. It even somewhat denies that things are getting better and can and should get better still.
Much like UBI , “VR cake eating” is a wonderful excuse that allows the wealthy to remain wealthy, maintain their positions, and retain and consolidate their ownership over real resources while also appeasing their own guilt and placating the masses with virtual opiates and imaginary confectionary.
Now that is reality privilege; suggesting that the riches of the real world belong to the few, and that the rest of us should be happy with an illusion…