In shift to virtual life, profit lacks purpose

With a steady flow of information highlighting the news industry’s woes, I couldn’t help but begin to wonder about the Internet’s transformation of the larger economic and cultural structures in which businesses, people and, oh, everything else, operate.

In the most dramatically general sense, the human race is shifting from reality to virtual reality.

This is a shift from interactions based on scarcity to interactions based on abundance. From isolation to integration. From competition to cooperation — though no one seems to want to stop competing.

Of course, a virtual reality is supported and made possible by a real one. For example, the Internet would not exist without a physical infrastructure (the pipes) to move the oceans of data. Installation of such equipment takes real time and energy. And don’t forget that you need to plug in your computer. Someone had to dig up coal, make a solar panel, raise a windmill, collect natural gas, tame some nuclear processes and so on to make sure when you press the power button, the screen of your MacBook Pro lights up.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s just conceptually play in the virtual world — a digital world of replicable, shareable and malleable data that can be represented in various formats to make the information useful.

It’s a big switch going from a real-world culture based on limited resources to a virtual-world culture based on unlimited resources.

When anyone can have whatever they want, whenever they want it, what purpose does a race to stockpile resources serve?

None.

But without a race for resources, without competition with winners and losers, what do we have left?

A race for beliefs. For experiences. For questions. For transformation. For faith. For mental states. For evolution. For purpose.

But more on all of that will have to wait until the next post in this series, when I’ll go into the prime values and currencies of the virtual world, capitalism’s attempt to replicate scarcity in digital realms and the ultimate scarce resource governing all interactions.

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