In Helen Schulman’s new novel Come with Me one of the characters in the book is experimenting with algorithms that allow people to play out various alternative virtual reality scenarios that might have taken place in their past. For instance, what someone’s life might have been like if they had married this or that person or not aborted a baby. Or if this or that close friend or relative hadn’t died. In other words, fictional scenarios are created for people which allow them to experience their lives in detail if their circumstances had changed.
Yet as intriguing as this might be from a scientific standpoint, one tries to imagine just what the consequences might be if people begin to re-imagine their pasts while being directed on this journey by the algorithms inside their digital devices, rather than try to imagine what might have occurred in their lives through the organic power of imagination. And if this became a new trend with people, what might this do to our imaginations if we became dependent on algorithms to guide us on this cyber journey into our pasts and our futures?
This then might be one of the real potential future dangers of allowing digital incantations to guide us in musing about our lives; that the organic nature of our imagination itself might be guided by algorithms and codes inside our computers and phones until eventually it becomes just as mechanical as they are. And then if that happens, then we really are being run by the machines we have designed simply because the one way to still fully distance ourselves from the digital universe is through the power of our imagination.