Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two predicts our physical demise and our mental liberation.
This review contains spoilers from Ernest Cline’s Ready Player Two.
A world strapped into a digital “Oasis” while the planet crumbles around them says a lot about our collective human nature to escape our problems, and motifs like this are what keep me coming back for more Ernest Cline, and to be launched back into this VR heaven where possibilities are infinite and nerds rule. What happens when a world goes fully online, and technology makes the experience more and more immersive? Cline takes us on another action-packed quest by Oasis creator Halliday, this time with even higher stakes both in the game and in real life.
With the introduction of Horizon, Meta’s first dive into creating an immersive, social VR world, the discussions and implications of how we are going to conduct ourselves virtually have already begun to emerge. What I love about science fiction is that writers (and naturally, readers) get to explore humanity’s response to everything from dystopian futures to impossible technology before they can exist in our current societies. Some authors of fiction have been accused of predicting the future from their accurate depictions of our modern, advanced world. So in picking up Ernest Cline’s futuristic VR novels, I was ready to explore what our future may hold.
Perhaps the most profound point that the book ponders is: what potentials could be unlocked and understood about humanity if we free the mind from its limiting body? The first book, Ready Player One, touched briefly on what we miss out on by being too attached to our virtual world, mainly that physical human connection is unlike anything the virtual world can offer. But at the end of Ready Player Two, that notion is tossed aside with new technology that allows you to engage all of your senses in the virtual world. At the end of the book, digital versions of our favorite characters are sent in a spaceship in search of new life, away from the Earth that is too far gone to save. The story ends on an airy note of hope and freedom, settling on the limitless possibilities of becoming untethered from their human bodies.
Transhumanism is such an interesting topic, tangled in ethics, religion, philosophy, and practically every aspect of our living as technology continues to evolve rapidly. It just makes me think: what we would lose by severing our minds from our bodies? How much does this take away from the value of living, conserving our resources for the future, and yes, dying too. Living with the knowledge that we will expire someday anchors billions of people on Earth to live differently and cherish even the small moments we have. It’s so remarkably human. If that’s taken away and our digital selves are made “immortal”, are we even human anymore?
Time will only tell how this all plays out, but this glimpse into a possible digital future intrigues just as much as it terrifies. How do you feel about it?