(Image courtesy of Reuters)
In an age of utter fakery, when the line distinguishing what’s authentic from what’s a sham gets narrower by the nanosecond, it’s hard to know, having read it on the Internet, if we’re in the matrix or not.
Just this week the virtual news world was filled with a report about “a team of physicists who’ve provided some of the clearest evidence (evidence mind you) that our Universe could just be one big projection or hologram.”
While that earth shattering theory has been talked about by philosophers and scientists since Plato, it’s taken greater hold lately due to the fact that, on an everyday level, we seem to be living -- racing towards -- a made up world via simulations at every turn. So surely, because of this, the thinking goes, the entire Universe must all be virtual as well.
Given that at every turn we’re met by a glass screen beckoning us to enter a hypothetical hall of mirrors on a “smart device”, allowing our minds to travel untethered anywhere, we begin to believe that we are, in reality, actually transcending space time.
And because we live in a world where media cannot not be found, and we are so accustomed to it always there, always on, we reference it before we even look to the reality it’s supposed to be displaying.
Racing towards this brave new world, just this week, the startup Oculus VR raised $75 million to market its virtual-reality headset, called Oculus Rift, which users mount on their heads. Usually used just for gaming, Mark Andreessen of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz said, "We believe Oculus will not only alter the gaming landscape, but will redefine fundamental human experiences in areas like film, education, architecture, and design.”
If you currently get sidewalk rage trailing behind a person who''s slowly sauntering along in front of you glued to their iPhone, just imagine what’s in store!
Clairvoyantly, the postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard saw this phenomenon in his own crystal ball back in the early 1980s as hyperreality, using the metaphor of a map so detailed that it ends up taking the place of that which it is referencing.
Now understandably, for many who are just too busy in the “real” world, working and slaving at their jobs, all of this is nothing but post-modern, self-indulgent, self-important bunk. Which leads me to President Obama.
At the same time news was traveling at warp speed that our Universe was a fake, our world witnessed Obama’s speech in South Africa at former SA President Nelson Mandela’s funeral, which was transmitted for viewers over satellite. Obama, the ultimate post-modern President, known for his celebrity and on camera persona, where every element is staged neatly for the camera, who was whisked into office via a faux stage in a giant outdoor arena and projected onto a jumbotron at his first DNC convention at Mile High Stadium, was simulated (dangerously so) by a deranged schizophrenic who, not only faked sign language, but had a violent history to boot.
The man doing the signing, Thamsanqu Jantijie, had previously been charged with murder, attempted murder and kidnapping in 2003. He also faced rape and theft charges in 1994, housebreaking charges in 1997, and malicious damage to property charges in 1998. Like having his own virtual reality helmet on and projecting his show for the rest of us, he claimed he was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode during the ceremony, causing him to hallucinate and hear voices.
Ironically, the best (well, most entertaining) account of this Truman Show was from “The Colbert Report”, a fake news show on Comedy Central that turned the warped circus mirror of hard to believe real news back at us, depicting the absurdity in its typical mocking style.
That the actual event in South Africa really happened, that it was not some trick, and not some Saturday Night Live sketch, was for many in the Twittersphere, just too hard to believe.
Indeed we’ve become so accustomed to fake everything, that we don’t believe it when it is real. I recently taught a group of seventh graders about Nazi propaganda and they truly thought the photos and images of the crowds at Nuremberg, because they were so vast, had to be doctored in Photoshop. They didn’t just think it. They were adamant they were fake.
Years ago, before there was a movie, “The Matrix”, back when tape recorders were the it thing, Memorex ran a commercial with the line, “Is it live or is it Memorex?” The clarity of the tape was so sharp, the sound so identical to Ella Fitzgerald’s voice that it was hard to tell them apart. If the commercial ran today, it’d be the reverse. We’d first look to the tape and then judge if reality matched up with what we perceive it to be.
Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.