The idea of living in a virtual world has been explored by pop culture for decades. With movies like The Matrix, Total Recall, and Ready Player One, we’ve seen some crazy perspectives on what this world could look like. But, how would our lives realistically change if we became a mostly digital society?

A Different Kind of Business

While many jobs will always need to exist in the physical world, plenty of professions would be able to operate in a digital space. We’re already seeing companies move towards remote work, for a variety of reasons. Some of the benefits of remote work are that it:

    • Provides workers the convenience of not having to travel to an office
    •    Allows workers to take jobs that would otherwise have been too far from home
    •    Lets workers remain productive when they’re sick
    •    Removes the possibility of missing work due to a mishap (i.e. flat tire)

What we might see in a predominantly digital world is a combination of remote work today, with something like PlayStation VR. Workers could conduct zoom meetings in a virtual room where they each have their own respective avatars. This would provide all the convenience of typical remote work, while also still keeping the feel of a traditional office.

Traditional advertising would see some of the biggest change in this world. Since most people will spend their day in VR, companies would be forced to send the majority of their ads to this digital space. You can expect to see A.I tools used to precisely target these ads towards each individual. If you get freaked out when you’re recommended products that you were just talking about, then hold on to your seats.

Learning in a VR World

It’s easy to see why immersive learning would explode in a virtual world. Gamification would grow in scale as it would now be much easier to create a simulated learning experience. Students would be able to learn in ways that we’d otherwise consider impossible or even unethical.  Medical students could conduct surgeries on virtual bodies and engineers could assemble and test their bridges or spacecraft. We can already see similar examples of these today, such as with the John Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center. But, instead of training with plastic manikins, they would train with virtual bodies that look and feel incredibly realistic. Think of the money, lives, and lawsuits that will be saved from professionals only doing the physical act when it’s second nature. Medical malpractice will surely decrease, and NASA and SpaceX could save millions, if not billions, from not having to do physical test runs.

This digital age would also inevitably lead to virtual schools seeing massive growth. These won’t just be courses that you take on a computer, but fully-fledged schools that just happen to exist virtually. Students would be able to attend class and mingle with one other all within a virtual room. To help put this into perspective, try to think of Club Penguin, or some other online lobby where you control an avatar and chat with other players. You could theoretically meet the entire student body without ever leaving your room.

Do We Want This World?

You wouldn’t be blamed for asking this question. For some, everything that’s been described here sounds exciting, while for others it seems terrifying. There are elements that most people can probably get behind, such as the virtual training for students. But the idea that most of your human connection will come from avatars is definitely more polarizing. Regardless, it seems like we’re moving closer to such a world every day. But don’t get too anxious, it’s still going to be quite a while until it’s here. The best part of all this though, is that we get to craft this world ourselves. So, we don’t have to include the things that scare us. We can create a virtual world that fits what we want to see and nothing else.