Please ladies and gentlemen, draw your eyes to our plight. Sometime in the future on Earth our society has not reached post-scarcity but has achieved:
- a reliable and inexpensive power source. Everyone's personal needs are covered for free when it comes to utilities
- refined AIs permeate all tasks. They are extremely effective at processing complex information and finding new models to solve the given problem but are not sentient or self-aware.
- all citizens have a brain-computer interface (BCI) (some call it direct neural link technology, but I don't like that definition; see here). The BCI is the ideal tool to interact and release the full potential of AIs. Also by right is the connection to the network. Note: they fought hard for these rights. If you don't have BCI it's like being an analphabet in the XXI century
- complex, enticing virtual reality (VR) has been built and goes on being expanded every day. The connection to it is also available to all citizens for free. Through the BCI you can taste a glass of Échezeaux, spend a night with a supermodel, fly in a Sopwith Camel, create your own worlds, live in all sorts of MMORPGs... all for very low fees (there is a lot of competition in VR, creating content is the fastest growing job position nowadays after all)
At the moment most people are still working normally and society is stable, but a concerning trend is emerging. Projections show that younger generations are spending more and more time in VR. Underachieving in their studies (with a BCI you can have all the facts you want at your fingertips, but you still need to learn how to think) and jobs. Granted, a small percentage of people will go on functioning in the real world because they are driven by their passion. Others will fare well by working inside the virtual reality: creating worlds, and trends and people.
But all projections show that the wide majority would be just stuck in virtual reality, becoming largely unproductive. Society simply can not afford this.
How can we prevent most of mankind to resort to doing the bare minimum to survive and spend the rest of their time in the virtual world?
The most obvious solution: raise the 'bare minimum' by increasing the cost of the services. But this has two most likely dangerous outcomes:
- lots of people are going to react strongly against it
- extremist political parties are going to exploit this unrest to push forward their political agenda. Some senators are already talking of 'Mankind Compact'
Please note that "strong hand" solutions (forcing them to work by the police or an army of robots or working camps like Arbeitslager) would not be viable. The work needed is not low level (that must be done by machines), but the kind that needs a human heart and mind to be done.
Please note: the question Will sufficiently advanced societies ultimately embrace living in a simulated world? is certainly related, but very different. The premise here makes it clear that in this society the real world would collapse if too many of its citizens were to live in VR.