If I could choose just one piece of science fiction technology to become reality in my lifetime, it would be the holodeck from Star Trek. As a copious consumer of stories, the attraction of the holodeck lies in the interactive quality it allows. I remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child; they allowed for more re-reading than other books. I used to sit with my fingers holding pages up to five choices back. Once I found colored post-it tags and fully cataloged all possible choices for the book.
Back on topic… Why do I think holodecks would be awesome? Why don’t you? No, really, I mean that. Think about the level of training, sport, and entertainment value this would add to our society. In the show it is utilized to troubleshoot solutions to dangerous problems, train individuals on new equipment, and as a completely safe, interactive environment for children to explore without adult supervision.
I am hopeful that, at a minimum, a rudimentary version of a holodeck will be available in my lifetime. It may not be to the level of full interactivity, unlimited exploration, or sheer magnitude of the Star Trek version, but it will be fantastic. This is not just blind hope against all odds. I truly believe, based on existing technology, that within the next decade we will begin to see holodeck-style environments becoming more available to the general public.
Already we have the ability to explore a 3D world with a pair of goggles and our phones. Already we have 3D movie technology that far surpasses the red and blue cellophane glasses of my childhood. We have Pokemon Go, an interactive overlay for the real world using cellphones (although Pokemon Go is by no means the only one, it is the most well known and integrated use of this technology on the market today). Multiple prototypes have been presented for varying systems allowing for full exploration of a 3D, virtual world without the dangers of ambling about blind in the real world.
Some may feel this sort of technology would only further sink younger generations into a techno-virtual world, increase the generation gap, and magnify the anti-social effects of “too much technology.” However, we live in a world where it is no longer safe to allow our children to explore on their own. Science and psychology are beginning to discover how important solo play, world building, and exploration are to cognitive development in children and young adults. Currently, video games provide an imperfect chance for constrained exploration.
Virtual reality technology is beginning to explode, and is just the first step towards a true holodeck. As the technology improves many games will be released; it will be incumbent upon parents and caregivers to choose programs wisely. It is no different from television, computer, or video games. It is simply the next, logical step in technology. As with all technology, it can be overused and underutilized.
Don’t fear technology; harness it to improve your world.