It was another plane of reality, where we could live inside the computer and an entire world of energy opened up before us. The world of . . . Virtual Reality!
The leaders of the business sector really do talk about using VR technology to create parallel planes of existence – technologies that bring direct physical presence to distance. Palmer Luckey genuinely refers to the imagery of fanciful science-fiction to describe what virtual reality does.
Nothing about the internet exists on any other plane of reality. The same goes for the hard drives. The data of the entire internet is all coded onto physical disks somewhere. They are massive server farms.
Reading Jussi Parikka, I was chuckling at the passages where he tries to knock some sense back into us. Let’s not think any of this is really virtual in an ontological sense. Only our presence to each other is simulated – the physical things that we run our communication through still sits around us.
Wires. Wires everywhere. Where there aren’t wires, there are wifi and cellular data projectors. But it really is mostly all wires. The wires all thread together and connect into massive cables. The massive cables all connect to massive server farms. The server farms need electricity all the time – enormous amounts of electricity.
Providing you can afford the massive power bills it takes to run and cool a server farm huge enough to verify as many cryptocurrency transactions to make this profitable, you can make thousands of dollars a day by sitting around and making sure a computer doesn’t break.
Why aren’t I doing this right now?
My burgeoning entrepreneurial career aside, I want to make one last ontological point about virtual reality and the internet. We’ve become accustomed to thinking of cyberspace as a realm apart. Parikka’s point is that cyberspace is just as massive, heavy, smoky, and grimy as the old steam engines and coal-fired boot factories are.
Its by-products poison us differently, but they still poison us. There’s just not as much smog as there was a century ago. More pollution of water and soil, as lead, barium, and all those rare earth metals leak into the ground and rivers.
Waste never truly goes away.