Horizon Workrooms promises a virtual future of teal desperation • The Register


Opinion You can say a lot about Facebook’s senseless parasitism on human society. Like the fungus that infects an ant and takes hold of its nervous system, causing it to climb to the top of a plant and burst into an explosion of spores, Facebook has thoughtlessly evolved to exploit us with maximum efficiency.

There is no morality guiding the act of hyper-categorizing people and giving them to the entity that desires them the most, but it does make money. So it will be done. As a result, democracy may falter, pitting families against themselves in a new civil culture war, but the spreadsheet looks good.

Yet Horizon Workrooms, Facebook’s big new idea for virtual reality offices, is somehow worse. It sums up a lack of imagination and self-awareness that goes beyond the laughable and mundane into the truly horrible.

Facebook’s vision is of a PowerPoint deck sunk in your eyes forever …

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot hitting a human face – forever,” Orwell said of the dystopian state of 1984. How outdated. Facebook’s vision is that of a PowerPoint deck sunk into your eyeballs forever, in a mock of an airless room, surrounded by mocks of those trapped with you. Forever.

It’s so horrible because it comes just as we designed our escape. Virtual reality allows us to conjure up any environment we wish and enter it at will – amid Jupiter’s diamond showers, or floating in Devonian seas surrounded by a thousand incredible creatures, or in hushed corridors. from the Library of Alexandria.

And while the pandemic has taken so much from us, it has given us fantastic freedom, proof that we can do good collaborative work in the unsupervised freedom of our personal spaces, without bringing the business world to its knees.

We invented divine powers over space, time and perception, and we won our escape from the confines of the collective agreement. It should be a turning point in society and the economy, a precious pivot in the human experience. And what is Facebook doing with this defining moment of new potential? He reinvents the office meeting, the absolute embodiment of all we paid in blood to leave.

It’s not even a nice office. It’s a horrible, cookie-cutter lowest common-denominator desk of swivel chairs and blond wood tables, with a big screen on one end and Nothing But Office everywhere you look. At least make it look like the Gothic Establishment from Eldon Tyrell’s office in Blade runner, with massive spaces and automatic blinds to close the city on fire, and an artificial owl. Would it hurt you to give us an artificial owl, Facebook?

Even the name is a sick, sick joke. Horizon workshops. Presumably, they will come in Horizon Workhouses. The only thing you don’t get in an office meeting room is the horizon. You might get milestones, goals, and targets, but horizons? They are to make you wonder and if, ask what is out there, dream enough to go and see. Facebook’s answer is an airless, corporate, and unmitigated office. There is no horizon. There is no way out. There will be no dreams.

And that no escape clause is significant. We have all developed ways to mitigate the appalling presenteeism of existing videoconferencing systems. The careful mute so that we can enjoy a few moments of our favorite soundscape or our personal sound creation. The angle of the camera that allows us to look away. The teapot with artisanal IPA. But strapped to our helmets, with every head impulse relayed? Our real environment carefully scrutinized? It is the crating of our intellect, the battery breeding of our soul, the office cubicle formed into a perfect seal.

Fortunately, this will not happen. Companies aren’t going to buy all of the headsets from us just to lock us in, when they can do that well enough with Teams. Facebook and Microsoft will never work together to even give it the pretext of managed, integrated and deployable IT.

Even the most stimulating of Return to Work Management will notice that spending a very long time in RV makes you nauseous, and that it is much more difficult to do any detailed work there than almost any other way.

Virtual reality hasn’t taken off because, well, it’s really not there yet, and it might never be. You can certainly toboggan on Pluto’s glaciers, but you can’t annotate a document at the same time, or maybe you can – but Facebook will never think it’s worth finding out.

What Horizon Workrooms is is therefore a warning. A glimpse of the horrific inhuman void of Facebook’s vision for the future. It’s our generation 1984except without intrigue, substance or spirit; it’s just the giant billboard stretching a thousand feet into the sky screaming These people are untrustworthy. This is by far the most real thing about it. ®

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