…Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality.” Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
As we collectively go screaming forward towards the Internet of Things and our fully connected dystopia, it is no wonder that there is an increasing blurring of the lines between “reality” and “digitality”. So let me offer this primer, inspired by reports of “Jihad Cool”, and based on other recent news reports.
SWATting – a way to beat opponents in video games by making 911 calls that result in SWAT Team deployments to your opponents gaming location. OK…video games are firmly in the world of digitality. SWAT teams are part of reality. If your opponent messes up when the SWAT team arrives, they could be shot in the real world. Don’t do this…not only is it illegal and stupid, your street cred is sure to vanish if this is the only way you can win.
Cell phone sidewalk lanes – Real! The city of Chongqing, China has recently instituted them, thankfully free of light poles and bicycles. You get bonus points for the fact that you are actually out walking in the real world instead of sending your avatar out to exercise for you in some virtual world. And perhaps you’re even talking to a real person on the other end. But c’mon…it’s a beautiful day; hang up, pay attention, and smell the…well, whatever Chongqing smells like.
In-game purchases – Trick Question! Sure, spending virtual gold for the Silver Sword of Saragon is totally digital. In some games, gold is really a resource, not even the in-game currency (gems or something else play that role). And the gems cannot generally be exchanged back for actual currencies (medium of exchange) nor is their value determined by the market…all you have is the promise of some Corporate entity that they are worth something. Of course you buy those gems with a credit card (well, ok that is probably more digital than real), linked to a bank account whose value is…based on the promise of some Corporate entity that it is worth something (but, backed by the full faith and credit of the US Government). You can’t even buy a Silver Sword of Saragon with that stuff. So…you draw the line.
Jihad cool – Fantasy played out in the real world. First reported by Somali-American journalist Mukhtar Ibrahim, this is the fantasy of some misguided souls who build their life on the basis of selfie-aggrandizement. But, don’t confuse this fantasy with the fact that it unfolds for real. While the social media presence of ISIS is enhanced by these miscreants, there is no “reset” button…if you are shot you really die, and if you are not, you really are considered a terrorist by your country for the rest of your life.
Yes, it will become increasingly hard to tease apart our electronic lives from our meat and potatoes lives. I for one think it is worth the effort to periodically take stock and understand on which side of the line you live.