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Old 01-12-2018, 11:06 AM   #48
ericthered
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Default Re: New Sci Fi Setting Seeds

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
The problem with an civilization that spends 90% on its time on VR is that there is no particular reason to interact with the real world. Their computing is advanced enough to allow robots to do everything, their society is egalitarian and wealthy enough that everyone can endulge in VR, and their VR is probably good enough that sex in VR is anew adequate substitute for sex in real life. At that point, the only thing that prevents extinction would be subsidies given to couples who willingly detach from VR long enough to have real sex until the woman gets pregnant (assuming they do not just let women opt for artificial insemination while they are in VR).

In such a scenario, there is no particular reason for farms, as vatgrown nutrition is probably good enough. With subterranean settlements and buried communication and power lines, the planet might appear completely uninhabited (power plants and settlements can be located beneath the ocean floor to allow for cooling efficiencies and protection from surface threats). You could possible have the world being colonized for a few decades before the original inhabitants realize that they have been invaded.
VR has a few really good reasons to interact with the physical:

1) Their hardware is ultimately physical. They may live in minimalist pods, but their virtual environments are ultimately limited by the size and power of their computers. Convincing simulations of physical phenomenon, personal cities of NPC's, and high bandwidth communications networks (VR societies probably utterly despise lag) all depend on extremely powerful computers. Which are very resource intensive. And those resources have to be mined, manufactured, and so forth.

2) Their bodies are still physical. Yes, you can survive off of mush (and enjoy it), but that mush must still be grown. The vats need to get their energy from somewhere, and that either means some pretty nifty biotech or vast farms. The farms may not have the diversity we'd want, and possibly they grow something like bamboo or kelp, but they still are running farms. Also, if they want to upgrade their VR setup to include new senses, finer detail, and so forth, they need to keep researching biology. And they need to do it to keep improving their physical health. People will always want to live longer.

3) People want what they can't have. If something comes to you easily, you esteem it cheap. The most expensive resources in a VR society are physical ones, because they're harder to come by. Everest was climbed "Because its there".

I'm aware that the "cut off from reality in VR" is a trope, and there are decent reasons for it. One of the strongest being that many people believe that if sexual needs can be completely fulfilled virtually the society will die out within a generation. But I suspect that the population won't completely collapse, and a core of people who have kids for the sake of having kids will emerge and create a culture that reproduces. Similarly, those who remain interested in improving hardware will remain engaged in the economy and people will envy their stuff and join in.

It should be noted the folks on this planet in some ways have just embraced remotely piloted vehicles as a way to have a different body, and have used technology to make it just as satisfying as experiencing things in your biological body. Sometimes they use a virtual body, but they're comfortable with all three.

And this society is intentionally a foil to Virtual Reality Societies that try to ignore the world around them. We can certainly add stereotypical VR societies to our list. The one with a separate colony on top makes me smile.
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