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Many Now Reside in Their Illusions

For decades television, and recently the internet and social media, have taken a strong foothold on people's minds, shaping perceptions, opinions, and effectively distracting people from reality. In 1961, Newton Minow, head of the Federal Communications Commission, gave a speech before TV-industry leaders. Television had become “a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” He stated that they were turning TV into “a vast wasteland.”

Major tech companies, from Microsoft to Google and Facebook's Meta, have invested vast amounts in recent years in augmented and virtual reality. "Their approaches vary, but their goal is the same: to transform entertainment from something we choose, channel by channel or stream by stream, into something we inhabit. In the metaverse, the promise goes, we will finally be able to do what science fiction foretold: live within our illusions." Why just surf the net when we can live there?

Various science fiction writers such as George Orwell (1984), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) have predicted people will simply give in to the deluge of compelling entertainment. "We will become so distracted and dazed by our fictions that we’ll lose our sense of what is real. We will make our escapes so comprehensive that we cannot free ourselves from them. The result will be a populace that forgets how to think, how to empathize with one another, even how to govern and be governed."

As one columnist recently observed, “It’s a place where people form communities and alliances, nurture friendships and sexual relationships, yell and flirt, cheer and pray.” It’s “a place people don’t just visit but inhabit.”

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