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Thursday, November 2, 2023

AI And Virtual Reality - Government Rush To Regulate When The Genie Is Already Out Of The Bottle

There is nothing surprising about a love of virtual reality.  Who would prefer stale bread, brick and mortar, bad upholstery, and a gimp - the everyday stuff of a short, brutal, dogged, and unpleasant life - to a sumptuous meal at the table of Louis XIV followed by a stroll in the formal gardens with la Duchesse de Nantes, young, buxom, witty, and thoroughly delightful?  Or riding to hounds on the country estate of the Baron de Chantilly?

America is a fake news country, a nation of glitz, glamour, Hollywood, and vaudeville.  Reality is up for grabs, a fungible commodity, easily exchangeable or imagined.  There has always been something about the larger than life, the fantastical, and the impossibly beautiful which has always been appealing.  Virtual reality has always been in the cards – who needs or wants the drab and the ordinary? Life, said Ivan Karamazov’s devil, would be boring without me.  Who wants a life of honesty, piety, and unrelenting goodness? We all need a bit of evil and some nastiness.  I make life interesting since you are incapable of it.

Ours has always been a country of fantasy and image.  Hollywood for more than a century has turned out imaginary, romantic dramas.  Soap operas, star magazines and women’s romantic fiction, one of the most popular literary genres ever, assume a suspension of disbelief, cater to an ethos of idealism, hope, and opportunity, and shamelessly appeal to simplistic emotions.

The social media have shown that we are quite willing to accept our own versions of the truth and none other.  Truth and facts, never hot commodities in a country of snake-oil salesmen, carny barkers, evangelists, and vaudevillians, have less traction than they ever did. All of which is to say, that we are ready for a completely virtual world – not just an occasional dip into the unreal, but an embrace of it so entire that any residual claim on reality will be jettisoned.

Americans have always been free-floating, untethered from land, caste, and history.  There is no point in being mired in a Hobbesian life when aspiration cleanses the spirit and makes all things seem within reach.  Hollywood and Las Vegas are America; so virtual reality was only the next step, conclusive that reality is not all it’s cracked up to be. When the symbiosis between electronic media and human brain is complete and each of us will be able to create visions like no other, tethered to nothing, a world of our own making based on nothing more than desire and peculiarity.

In other words reality is but a convenience.  ‘Blue’ is a convention regardless how each of us see it. Trees always make noises because the laws of physics say they do, regardless of any metaphysical issues. Simply because reality is a convenience and an integral part of our daily lives, many of us are reluctant to give it up.  Those who believe in alternate universes, astral projection, and impossible physics are kooks, outliers, not to be taken seriously. Yet when virtual reality become a reality, all these theories will be acceptable.  Logic will be an option.

Why should anyone prefer the humdrum, prosaic, and entirely predictable world of hard experience when one can explore the jungles of the Amazon, dine with the Marquise de Gramont in her chateau, bed Scarlett Johansson, Marilyn Monroe, and Taylor Swift, travel to Mars, and sample concoctions of the most famous chefs that have ever lived? No one.

The new world of ChatGPT is our medium, for now the demarcation between real and fake, subjective and objective, imagined and happened has disappeared. With its marvelous ability to change anyone into anything, weave the most believable but untrue stories about them, place them in setting where they would never go, ChatGPT is revolutionary. 

Donald Trump had it right from the beginning. The truth itself is fake, the world is indeed a stage, and we are all players and nothing more.  Only the entrenched Washington elite is upset by all of this, and damned determined to do something about it.  Rather than stop and think about how life will never be the same again, or that metaphysics texts will have to be rewritten, or that a virtual, subjective, fake life was always in play, in the cards, and a done deal centuries ago, politicians can only say, ‘Shut it down!’. 

Censorship is the easiest button to push. Tautologies, always the stock in trade of progressives, are now becoming universal. ChatGPT is wrong, bad, inhuman, and destructive because it is. Government is responsible for saving ignoramuses from themselves; and to do so information must be vetted, cleansed, dressed and fitted.  Once AI is universally available, anyone can create his own version of the truth.  The image of a flirty, flaming gay pitchman for Bud Light has made its viral rounds.  With some practice home surfers can pimp out AOC and her Squad sisters to look like bag ladies or New Orleans octoroon consorts. They can be made to look ridiculous, but with enough campy truth to influence a few votes. 

The entire progressive agenda can be made to look foolish – serious gay lawyers and accountants turned into swishy gay boys; advancing women turned witchy and harridan-looking; black entrepreneurs cast as ghetto pimps and pushers. Child pornography will have no bounds, the morals of the nation will be infected, corrupted, putrefied.

Of course this is nothing but liberal hysteria. Wheat and chaff, gold and dross, real from fake will always be discerned. Even if you can fool most of the people most of the time, even the stupidest have a sense of shame; and when caught with a big bag of gumball machine trifles which they paid through the nose for, the ‘oops’ will turn into caution. People are stupid, but not that stupid.

Besides, the entire democratic enterprise is based on individual judgment and enterprise and a rise-to-the-top ethos.  Most will be left behind, holding the bag of trifles, wondering what happened; but the few who have brains, ability, and logic will quickly navigate the new virtual environment and profit.

‘Can’t let that happen’, says the Biden Administration, still befuddled by Donald Trump and his own half-virtual version of facts, and afraid that AI will tar every progressive shill and outrageous claque as clowns and buffoons.

The genie is out of the bottle, however, and there is no putting him back.  ‘Reality’ has become old-fashioned, out-of-date, and hopelessly useless as a marker.  So government is gearing up to clamp down.  This cannot stand! politicians howl when they see caricatures of themselves gone viral, lies and distortions of their policies spread by weird avatars, the world itself gone awry and completely crazy.

AI is simply the next step in the inevitable evolution of virtuality.  First there were holograms, then clumsy wraparound goggles, then hi-tech games, then the first tentative conclusions about mapping the human brain’s electronic circuitry.  If thoughts are no more than electronic waves and impulses, these can be deciphered; and once they are, communication between mind and machine will be a reality. A new, unexplored, fascinating world of individualized fantasy will replace the humdrum.  Surfing the web will seem like travel in a Model T, or rattling down the tracks pulled by a steam locomotive.

It is natural for government to want to control the future.  It always has and always will.  Censure, regulation, and limitation – all in the name of public service – are instinctive reactions of all governments.  They cannot help themselves; but each and every time they clamp down on one thing or another, the foundational entrepreneurial individualism of Americans resists, defies, and denies; and the real truth will out.

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