Ernie Cline's Ready Player One, Cyberspace, and Society

cyberspace is every space

Consider Ernie Cline's Ready Player One (2011), my sci-fi friends. Most of the narrative takes place in the OASIS, the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. The OASIS is not all that different from the matrixes and cyberspaces of cyberpunk literature. The OASIS is a virtual reality ready world. People dial in the world over to use infinite, yet, immediate space. And the OASIS provides an escape from bromidic and squalorous reality; yes, dataspace is exciting and pretty! It's got neon colors. It's got design based on origami-like complexity that appears simplistic. It's got badass computer hackers, coders, gamers, and gender-bending, identity swappers.


In Ready Player One's sci-fi world, everything that has any value takes place fully online: education, work, even exercise. Everyone plugs in from wherever they are and they carry on with life. But the life they plug into is more like their life than the non-plugged in life.

The plugged-in nature of society is, in one respect, a vision of the world we are moving into. Every decade we get a little more plugged in. In the '80s, new technology allowed humans to stay plugged into their atmospheres of choice. The Walkman allowed individuals to sustain their desired mood anywhere they went. The VHS player allowed viewers to view and review their favorite content. In the '90s and aughts, the cell phone allowed individuals to have conversations with a cultivated community rather than settle for engaging with the people around them. In recent years, augmented reality has again changed the way we view the world. Soon enough, Gibson's Virtual Light technology will be our norm. We will only view the world through the lenses prepared for us by the rich and powerful, the lenses prepared for us by those with an agenda to have us see as they see.

In another respect, Cline's sci-fi OASIS in Ready Player One isn't about interaction through virtual reality systems, but about mindsets and social norms. Our systems, whether educational, governmental, or corporate are coming to reflect cyber systems. It's not just that we automatically think of banking or shopping online before we think of physically going to a bank or a shop. The difference between those two realities are immaterial. The same stuff is in both places, after all. 

The important element here is that real space is starting to pattern itself off cyberspace. Our culture is cyberculture. At the risk of being crass, we get off by getting on-line. The way we organize ourselves socially is more of a reflection of social networking websites than lived, social reality. The fung shui of our opinions and our priorities is constantly subject to the gravity of cyberspace. The new capital culture is showing an awareness of the data stream.

Don't mistake me. I'm not here to tell you to take off the virtual reality goggles. Leave them on. But try looking at the world of cyberspace through the unfiltered lens of reality too. One wonders, what dreams may come?

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