VIRTUAL REALITY AND THE HOLOGRAPHIC VASE
My avatar was relaxing in the virtual room that I had built with credits gained for beating the most complex and difficult online game ever devised. A labyrinth of tunnels deep inside a computer-generated asteroid converged to form my underworld home. Pock-marked with impact craters, the three kilometre wide asteroid was in Sector Fifteen of a simulated galaxy — one of thousands — built by the biggest and wealthiest company in existence. Google had built a search engine in the 90s. By 2031 it controlled most of earth’s electronic and gadgetry systems and nearly all of virtual space.
I was a loner. Only two people were allowed to visit me here. One of them was a school and gaming friend. The other was a girl that I had never physically seen but had fallen in love with. We met in a chat room dedicated to the game that I had defeated. Soon we were dating online, our avatars socializing at first but then becoming more intimate. Modern body-hugging clothing and gloves impregnated with synthetized neurons transmitted even the most tender of sensations to one’s avatar, so that making love with a virtual person felt real — indistinguishable from reality.
Education too was an online experience controlled and run by Google. Thousands of virtual schools and training centres — located in various galactic sectors — were staffed by three-dimensional representations of tutors, the men dressed in tweed suits and the women in plain skirts with white blouses. They basically looked the same, though each had their own personality and taught different subjects. Their software design prohibited them from forming a crush or having an inappropriate relationship with a student. I was one of a hundred and fifty pupils in such a computer generated school on a world called G9 in Sector Fifteen. My tutor’s name was Mr Holt. Like his colleagues, he was in his fifties and wore leather elbows pads stitched to the arms of his Jacket. The names of pupils hovered above their avatar’s heads in little elongated bubbles, which followed their movements wherever they travelled in the building. Mine was Arkanian, after the flying dragon from the planet Arkania in the Star Wars universe. My friend called himself Sandor, the mythological defender and helper of mankind. And my girlfriend’s name was Gwenevere. She was into legends.
I finished lessons about three hours ago, and so I sat gazing at the universe through electron generated cameras fixed to the surface of my asteroid. Each projected an image of space onto a wall-sized screen at the far end of the room, my material body at home and dressed in sensitizing clothing and my virtual self here in the place of my choosing. I was wearing the latest CS2000 head and face visor, which beamed ultra-high definition images directly onto the retinas of my eyes and enabled me to see the virtual world that my avatar existed in. Being was a construct of the quantum world where infinite possibilities collapsed into one reality. To me this meant that all things were possible. The virtual world of subatomic particles was my idea of heaven.
My prize possession was a neutrino generated high-density holographic vase of Chinese origin. It is of the Qianlong period, circa 1740s and stands sixteen inches high. The ovoid body is decorated with four circular cartouches each masterfully rendered — though the original is carved and enamelled with exquisitely painted fish — and topped by a beautiful primrose yellow trumpet neck. I am one of three people lucky enough to possess an electronic reproduction of this copyrighted piece owned by the Google foundation and gifted to me along with the credits. The vase sits majestically on a simulated mahogany table inlaid with replicated mother of pearl and placed in the middle of the room — since the hologram was unbreakable I had no fear of accidentally knocking it over. It had one other outstanding feature. Inside there was a powerful nanoplasmonic device. Programmed to look like a genie, the device was in fact a super-high-speed optical computer that used photons to process information. Its database contained the knowledge of every reference book, newspaper article and scientific paper ever written.
As I contemplated these things, Max — my nanoplasmonic genie — emerged from the vase and announced that Gwenevere had sent a message. “She will be here within the hour,” he said. “Is there anything I can do for you, Arkanian?”
“Thank you, Max,” I replied. “Just make sure we’re not disturbed.”
“Lockdown in progress. I’ll complete when she arrives.”
“Just give me a minute, please, Max.” I quickly took off my CS2000 head and face visor and dropped out of my virtual reality environment. Adjusting my body hugging-sensory suit — making sure that it was wrinkle-free and tight, I put my visor back on and re-entered my virtual world.
“Okay, Max. When she is here I want total privacy and with absolutely no interruptions.”
“Of course, Arkanian. I shall re-enter the vase after shutting external communications down. You and Gwenevere will have the whole asteroid to yourselves.”