All posts by Alexander Vera

Ready Player One and its Utopian Educational World

ready_player_one cover

A captivating read

In case you’re unfamiliar, Ready Player One is a novel that was written by Ernest Cline and is being adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg. The story follows Wade Watts in his pursuit of finding a hidden treasure in a worldwide online virtual world called the OASIS. The OASIS is where people play games, escape their reality,  do their business transactions, and learn in school. It’s also a huge ode to video gamers and is chock full of pop culture references.

This book was so much fun for me that I read it twice (which never happens) and it’s a very fast read, too.  Quite the page turner. I remember thinking how exciting and interesting a film adaptation would be, which is why I could hardly contain my excitement when I saw the trailer for this movie for the first time in theaters.

Beyond describing the love videogamers have of completing a game and all of its fun referencing, there’s a lot that can be gleaned out of this book as thought pieces, even if the book itself never takes the time to consider the ideas.

Ready-Player-One-Oasis

A Beautiful Education System

I remember the first time I read the book, I was amazed by the educational world described in the book. In the OASIS, the government has online virtual classes where a program monitors student language and behavior, allowing the teacher to simply teach and nothing more. This means that bullying becomes a thing of the past, and enables teachers to do much more than they traditionally are able to do.

As a teacher, a virtual world free of bullying, fully immersive and with the ability to engage and inspire students in such novel ways is like a dream come true. But here’s the thing:

This could actually happen.

Why not? We’ve already seen students use ipads more and more in classrooms, and now the VR setting on anyone’s smartphone simply requires a headset to view it with, and we’ve already got visual VR which can connect to headphones to become audiovisual VR.

Imagine if teachers could use this VR system in their classrooms to take students to the surface of Mars. Or take them inside a cell to observe a mitochondria. Or take them back in time to witness the rise and fall of Ancient Rome. Imagine if teachers didn’t need to act as counselors, or disciplinarians, and could simply teach the content they love!

What are your thoughts? Do you think this will be the future of education, or is it unlikely to become a reality?

5th package explosion in Texas reminds of a black mirror episode of technology misused by humanity.

Starting March 2nd, a series of packages containing bombs have been going off in Texas. So far it has killed 2 people and injured several others, the first three bombs being packages delivered to people’s doors, the 4th being a tripwire on the sidewalk, and the 5th one going off in a fedex factory. Since writing this story, however, I’ve seen on the news that the police were able to find a suspect, and on pursuing the suspect (a 23 year old white male), he decided to blow himself up in his car.

Doesn’t this feel like made-for-television news? Its seems like there’s been a lot of that going around these days. I can’t imagine how the people of Austin Texas must have felt scared and worried to simply order something on Amazon or receive a package. It’s easy enough to hold off on ordering a package until the perpetrator is apprehended, but how about employees of companies who have to order packages as part of their business?

Package delivery is a relatively simple idea, but this fits the theme of Cyberpunk by virtue of it being a simple, harmless technology (online delivery) being misused fwith fatal consequences.

It’s not hard to extrapolate this a little further. Imagine if this happened with Amazon’s drone delivery service. Bombs sent flying via drones to your backyard or doorstep. Truly a hellish idea indeed. This reminds me of an episode I saw recently on Black Mirror, called hated by the nation. In it the bees are dying out, so a company creates a network of robot bees to pollinate the flowers artificially and thus avoid a food catastrophe. Needless to say, someone misuses the bees with similarly fatal consequences.

But it seems to me that misusing something’s original purpose in dangerous means might perhaps go back as old as time, when cavemen fought each other using innocent rocks lying on the ground. Is this really any different? Perhaps the thing that alarms us is not feeling in control, and not being used to seeing the postal service being misused in this way. Although we’ve seen Anthrax be used in mail before, so perhaps this isn’t truly so new.

What are your thoughts? Comments always appreciated below.

Facebook in trouble with sharing private data feels like a Cyberpunk Dystopian nightmare

My, aren’t these interesting times we are living in.

Politicians not only on both sides of the aisle in the US, but also in Europe (namely the UK) are asking that Facebook, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, come to explain the company’s handling of the now current scandal involving the misuse of data and information of millions of users. The company that is blamed for misusing this information, Cambridge Analytica, was purported to have worked with the Trump Administration on making psychological profiles of people using their Facebook information in order to market to them and garner votes. Talk about mind control! A multi-billion dollar tech giant being summoned to members of government to explain their involvement in alleged unethical activities is exactly the theme that is so often shown and discussed in modern day cyberpunk themes. It is reminiscent to me of the company in Robocop, pushing to get congress to agree to cybernetics and robots to be sold and used in the United States. The current state of the world definitely feels a bit surreal. I wake up, turn on the news, see these things, go to work, see the news again on the tv in our lobby, work, come home, and to relax boot up my xbox to play Deus Ex Human Revolution and again see different tech mega-corporations involved in shady dealings. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I love cyberpunk so much. In addition to being simply visually striking, mentally stimulating, and fun, it can also act as a stark warning for different paths that we as a people do not want to walk down.

You can read more about this developing story with Zuckerberg and Cambridge Analytica here:

Wake up, Neo…The Matrix has you.

Cyber Dystopia is a place where I post all the Cyberpunk Material I come across, as well as my thoughts, on the material. I welcome you to post your thoughts on the content here as well.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” — Morpheus