Wireheads: From Fringe to Forefront
Date January 1, 2042
Author Conspawn13
Internal Name wireheads_fringe

January 1st, 2042:

Wireheads: From Fringe to Forefront


From: The Virtual Revolution

When asked by Doctor Kesarian to write an article for his upcoming book "The Virtual Revolution", I admit to being floored. It isn't often that a VR personality, especially one only renowned for gaming and finance, gets asked to contribute to an academic publication. A personality who is anonymous, no less! There was no way I could turn down the offer, so here we are.

Dr. Kesarian gave me essentially unlimited choice when it came to my article, and I could think of one no better than discussing the culture that has arisen out of the Virtual Reality. We're called "wireheads". The term wirehead was originally meant to be a derogatory insult aimed at those who had chosen to have nodes surgically attached, allowing access to the VR from anywhere with a wireless signal (meaning everywhere; they have broadband out by the asteroids). Think back on some of the other derogatory terms that have arisen to label outcast social groups: Greaser. Hippie. Goth. Hipster. Cybergoth. Otaku. All of these, which once had pretty damn strong derogatory meanings, have been embraced by their respective subcultures and now have no negative meaning. Neat, huh? While I wish the same could be said of many racial slurs, we're getting there.

Wireheads. We emerged as a subculture shortly after Worldview acquired Macroscene, and the technology to remotely jack into the VR became widely available. It was met with… hesitation, to say the least. Some may remember in and around 2013 Google tried to market a piece of tech called "Google Glass" that was basically a smartphone you wore on your face? It allowed you to take pictures, record video, look up stuff, that sort of thing. It was a colossal failure and considered one of the company's worst investments. The reason why? Privacy. In that era, in the time before freedom of information and government disclosure, people were terrified of some random individual able to snap their picture. Businesses banned them en masse. They were illegal in casinos and any public work space. In the end, they simply and silently slid off the shelves as Google took them back and ate the loss.

Flash forward twenty years. The same privacy concerns just don't matter to the modern person, and seeing someone walking around jacked into the VR doesn't raise alarms in the same way it would have before the Wars. Even without the privacy concerns there was still a real backlash against the first few wireheads. At first it was for our "safety". We were being dragged too far into this "fake" reality, and abandoning our lives. Adults worried. Kids cried. Interventions were had. Tech was confiscated.

Anecdote time! The very first surgically implanted VR node was created by Ming Lao, a student of Peking University, whose parents had confiscated all of his VR gear for fear of him "losing touch with his schooling". He decided to invent a way so they couldn't control when and where he logged in, and then he made billions of dollars.

It didn't take long before it became about regulations. Was the implant safe? Was it approved by world health organizations? What were the long term health and psychological implications of having this tech screwed into your brain? The first nodes were also pretty obvious, unlike the current ones which hide behind your ear and in a few years will only resemble a freckle. Piercings, tattoos and any multitude of body mods had all become pretty common place, but have a small piece of tech sticking out of the side of your head and suddenly everyone just freaks out. There was a lot of scorn and name calling in the early days. In fact, the term wireheads came out of a VR news article condemning the new practice, saying it was going to cross all the wires in your head. Hence, the subculture of wireheads was born.

It took about five years for widespread acceptance of the implant technology. The safety concerns fell away and wireheads went from being a derogatory term to one that was now commonplace for anyone who even used the VR, even those without the implants. Soon after, with the miniaturization of the node technology, the number of us with these implants began to grow exponentially. Some companies make them a necessity (admittedly, the ones that do tend to be information tech companies, and anyone applying there usually already has the implant). The introduction of node technology has allowed even the average person to have unlimited access, anywhere in the world and beyond, to the VR, and by definition, the collected knowledge of mankind.

There's still a bit of resistance out there. As with any subculture that becomes mainstream, there will be a backlash. Sometimes in the form of satire (such as Virtual Reality Reggie, a popular meme), and sometimes in a more dangerous and violent form. In many still developing nations being identified as a wirehead can make you a target to more extreme groups who, quite simply, don't want to be identified. It's the Google Glass problem, all over again. If you can pull up information on who that baddie is down the street, he's going to take issue with it, and potentially try to yank the node from your skull.

This is not a frequent occurrence. In fact, violent acts against wireheads who have been specifically targeted for their use of the tech is fewer than 100 recorded a year.

Here we are, on the dawning day of 2042. Wireheads are everywhere. Rough estimates put around 500 million people out there wear the node technology, and every day the wealth of data and knowledge available in the VR is increasing.

When will you join us?