I've come to realize that the problem with artificial reality is that it isn't dirty enough.
Two things brought me to this conclusion.
First, I read an article in "Scientific American" about the "EPISIMS" program, a top notch super computer simulation of a large American city, Portland, Oregon to be precise.
The purpose of this simulation is to release simulated epidemics into the cyber-population to study the social networks through which a disease would spread.
In other words, using traffic studies and U.S. Census information, the EPISIMS people go to school, work and the store in what might be realistic patterns. They have contact with different people throughout the day as real people would and through those contacts they give the disease to other people who then give the disease to more people and so on.
It comes close, very close, to imitating real life, but it is lacking.
This electronic society lacks a dark side.
Maybe the authors of the article, who are also the authors of the program, simply failed to mention that part of the program in the article because they didn't think it would be appropriate. What I'm saying is, maybe they didn't write about the simulated prostitutes and drug users.
Do understand, I'm not trying to judge these people. But aren't those two sections of the population known for spreading disease?
In fact, considering that the makers of EPISIMS plan to use it to track the spread of avian flu through the population of Thailand, a capital of the sex-for-hire industry, they should perhaps bear this in mind. Otherwise, their efforts are doomed.
Also missing are the cyber-homeless, who are bound to have social networks that are "off the map" for regular society. Also, criminals and others who for one reason or another engage in secret activities that nonetheless bring them into contact with others.
All of that is part of real life and should be accounted for in some way.
The other thing that happened is that I watched the movie "Final Fantasy," a prime example of computer animation albeit utterly lacking in story.
Visually the human characters in the movie look very close to real. They even have pores in their skin.
But they're still not quite there. They aren't messy enough. Their motions are unnaturally uniform, their skin still like plastic despite the stubble on the men's faces.
Life is messy. Chaos underpins order. Maybe one day we'll see the creation of the kind of simulation presented in the movie "The Matrix," but clearly we're years away from that.
I guess life is too big to bottle.
Ed Brock covers public safety and municipal governments for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .