The Overlapping of Virtual and Real. (Commentaries and Response)

By Cleveland, Harlan | The Futurist, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

The Overlapping of Virtual and Real. (Commentaries and Response)


Cleveland, Harlan, The Futurist


Mike Dillard and Janet Hennard argue that computers and the information technologies they make possible enable their users to create a new kind of reality--a new kind of nation. I agree with that. But to dramatize their point, they go on to create a new category--the virtual nation. They must then defend their rhetorical child as fundamentally different from nations (a careful reading suggests they really mean states) as we have known them so far in history. There, I get off the train.

The marriage of computers and telecommunications that spawned the Internet is so pervasive and powerful in its effects that it's harder and harder to draw a meaningful line between the virtual world and the real world.

In a postmodern country like the United States, faster and more reliable computers and communication systems "enable" our currency exchanges, our Social Security system, our military prowess, our food testing, our entertainment, our medical miracles (and thus our longevity), and so on down a very long list. The virtual has already morphed into reality.

And vice versa. Virtual nations as described by Dillard and Hennard are reaching into some mighty conventional spaces: stock trade, air travel, insurance, and research. …

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