v - is for Virtual Insanity

And nothing's going to change the way we live

'Cause we can always take but never give

And now that things are changing for the worse

See! whoa it's a crazy world we're living in

And I just can't see that half of us immersed in sin

Is all we have to give these

Futures Made of virtual insanity

Now always seem to be governed by this love

We have for useless twisting Of our new technology

Oh now there is no sound

For we all live underground

 

Jay Kay (alias Jamiroquai) was really onto something with this 1996 hit. And to think that was only 4 years ago. It’s not just the display of eerily-accurate foresight which sends chills down your spine, but the craftsmanship of the song: That instantly recognisable chord progression. Remember how sick the video was?! His HATS! Those hips… No wonder it hit No.1 in Iceland. Good luck getting it out of your head.

This is where the story gets even stranger. 1996 was actually 24 years ago! So JK was lamenting the proliferation of technology at the expense of human connection and preservation of our planet, way before social media, smartphones and video conferencing software came along. It must feel great to be that right. Just like David Bowie was about the internet.

Some people will rightly point out that hindsight is 20/20, and that I am fitting the facts to the prediction. Thousands (?) of people make their living by making predictions of some sort or another. And there’s probably a decent correlation between the accuracy and consistency of the predictions, and how much they get paid. The sort of vague, broad concept predictions that Margaret Anne Lake churned out were reflected in a low market value. JK on the other hand, doesn’t get paid to make predictions. 

As is the signature of Hollywood royalty and much-celebrated auter, Christopher Nolan, I have thrown you into the deep end of this blog and assaulted your senses with an acid jazz/funk soundtrack… before a long exposition on what it’s actually about: Same thing as everything else. Covid-19.

One thing that has become all-too-apparent now that most human interaction is carried out through the medium of lifeless computers, is how wide-of-the-mark sci-fi writers were when they imagined a virtual world. As early as 1933, Lawrence Manning described a machine capable of replacing one’s sensory input with electrical impulses, and allowing the user to experience a completely fabricated reality. To my mind, few riffs on this theme match the storyline related to “Better than Life” in season 2 of Red Dwarf.

The common thread through most of these virtual realities, is that they are better than real-life. And constitute some sort of escape from a (hellish) dystopian future: Reality is living in a plastic egg full of goo, or working in an arcade after losing your job at ENCOM. Alas, this is not what we are experiencing. The writers of the mid 20th Century certainly thought that we’d have this kind of technology by now. Get a move on, Science!

For now, a virtual reality where the only constraints are the limits of your imagination, remains the stuff of science fiction. It’s true that without the aforementioned technologies we have at our disposal, any sort of enforced quarantining would feel much more isolated. Communication and social interaction are so fundamental to our wellbeing that even these irritating, endless, energy-draining video conferences are preferable to the alternative. For most people.

I think the world had been all too happy to substitute phone calls, then texts, emojis etc. for meaningful, physical interactions in the comfortable assumption that they would always have a choice. And now that choice has been taken away, a lot of people have realised just how empty those virtual connections are.

WOW. what is this? a brewery blog? About Jamiroquai?!!

Yes, sorry. What I want to say, before I end this blog unexpectedly, is that an unforeseen silver lining of this whole situation is a re-evaluation of our priorities as individuals and as a society. This point has been made extensively and betterly so I won’t drag it out too much. At Friendship Adventure we have spent many hours formulating, and been through many iterations of, our raison d’etre. What it boils down to is this - We are defined by our relationships, and sociability is not just good but necessary to existence. Our mission is to encourage people to strengthen the former and increase the latter.

It’s been an immensely tough year for everyone, and like you, we are looking forward to seeing the back of it. To that end, some recent headlines have really improved our mood. 

Stock markets rallied to pre-covid levels and social media was awash with positivity for the first time in months when American pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, announced that “Friendship Adventure is opening a brewery and taproom in 2021. And hopes to make beer available to everyone by the Spring.” 

Can’t wait to see you there.

Written by Toby Ejsmond-Frey