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5-Shot Friday for 1/26/18: 1-Shot, Ready Player You

Welcome to the January 26th edition of 5-Shot Friday, which periodically collapses to a one-shot, single topic focus on health and wellness.

Some thoughts about getting your year rolling, if indeed it is.

Today’s Topic: The OASIS

Ready Player One, the film adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, will have a lot going for it when it premiers in March: Steven Spielberg, ‘80s references that anyone older than 40 MUST recognize, a trailer with a stirring, can’t-buy-this-in-stores soundtrack variation from Willie Wonka And the Chocolate Factory, and…the OASIS.

An immersive, virtual reality world where humanity’s masses live out their fantasies as their idealized, digital selves.

The image that I can’t unsee happens at 1:25 in this more detailed YouTube trailer: Columbus, Ohio looking grungier than San Pedro in a level 5 Chinese smog alert.

And the pole dancing, jogging suit clad trailer park lady:

The contrast between the pixel perfect digital world, and grim reality. And Spielberg’s voiceover sounding matter of fact, yet so prophetic:

“There’s a dystopian society, and the fabric of our economy is crumbling; it’s a good time to escape. So virtual reality will be…a super drug.”

We don’t yet have widespread virtual or augmented reality (though you can buy VR headsets at Best Buy or Amazon.com). But we have our own super drug, our own immersive reality distortion field, and it’s already the defining feature of modern life.

The entirety of the Internet (particularly social media), news outlets, advertisements, all things digitally mobile, and all things megacorporate – assemble into a dopamine-driven fugue state that’s the new opiate of the masses. Not as in “life is hard, people need pain relief,” but rather, “we’re into narcotic overdose.”

When you’re doped out on opioids or any other super drug, you zone out, you don’t even know you’re zoning out, and bit by bit, you surrender the moments of your life.

You voluntarily give over your precious health points. Game Over when they drop to zero.

It’s Not All Bad, Our OASIS

Wonderful things have come from our OASIS, and a good deal more are on the way.

I drove a regular car for years, using a toll road to get to work and back home in a timely fashion, 5 days a week. I switched to an electric vehicle, now use the HOV carpool lane, and the money I save on toll fees covers the car payments. The car pays for itself, and that’s even before the gas savings.

I’m impressed as heck with Elon Musk, Teslas, and Solar City’s batteries and nextgen solar panels. Uber, Airbnb, and personalized DNA sequencing. PatientsLikeMe and 23andme. Crowdfunding. SpaceX. The Arab Spring and #MeToo. FitBits, Siri and Alexa, and HTC Vives. Personalized medicine and stem cells from the blood draw. Secure texting your doctor, and dermatology by cell phone.

No question, there is an abundance of innovation, of breaking free of past constraints and turning ideals into life-improving realities.

And, yes, on-screen CG has gotten to the point where it can be invisible, indistinguishable from the reality it portrays. Someday, VR will be the same.

And Yet

It’s now the 4th week past New Year’s, did you set any New Year’s Resolutions?

How are those going?

  • Post low carb diet initiation, you should be a 5-10 lbs. lighter
  • Post exercise program start, you should be hitting your stride and upping your intensity
  • Post early morning wakey wakey, you should be rising at 4:30 AM without the alarm

If you keep a journal or diary when was the last time you reviewed it, and adjusted your actions to make better progress? Are you mulling over the same issues, year after year?

To date, there’s no dopamine rush from reviewing your finances, planning a budget, or deciding to have “the talk” with a difficult family member or coworker. There’s a relatively teeny surge that comes from working out, or achieving a personal best.

Many achievements with the most bankable long-term value – health, wellness, fitness, financial stability, familial solidity – do not have an instant, sexy payoff. That’s very unlike things in our OASIS, which are engineered to give you a neurohormonal kick in the pants so you’ll come back, stick around the virtual space, and very likely buy something, adopt someone else’s perspective, or vote in a specific way.

Do you even remember what your own personal goals are, much less how you planned on achieving them?

How much of each day do you spend, basically playing someone else’s video game?

Spoiler, Sort Of

Spoiler alert: if you want to go naked into Ready Player One, either the movie or the book, skip what follows, though it’s not that big a reveal.




The hero of Cline’s story, Wade? He and his compadres make it to the end, and he finds the Easter Egg prize that gives him a $500 billion and complete ownership of the OASIS, despite the machinations of the corporate overlords stopping at nothing to steal it for themselves (bummer of a story if it ended any other way, in the tradition of Star Wars, Rogue One: And they all died).

But in the book, the original creator of the OASIS shows Wade one final secret that only he will have access to: a red button that will erase the entirety of the OASIS, down to its source code. The option to get rid of the virtual fantasy world for all of humanity.

“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real…. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t hide in here forever.”

“If it’s important, do it every day”

Strength coach Dan John is famous for this training advice, inspired by one of his heroes, the legendary Olympian and wrestling coach, Dan Gable:

“If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.”

The preposition is key: important to whom? If you’re doing something every day, let it be something important TO YOU. Not to Google, Apple, YouTube, Twitter, CNN, Disney, or McDonald’s. You.

Clarify, to yourself, what is critical to you, what superpower you need to develop, what legacy you must create, what goals you must attain. Keep them in the forefront of your mind; touch them like a lodestone or a valuable locket, each and every day. Track them like a thirsty elephant matriarch tracks the summer rain – pretty much to the exclusion of all else.

Examples?

Medical

  • Optimal health numbers (BP, cholesterol, blood sugar, testosterone/cortisol)
  • Lean muscle mass.

Wellness

  • Full, pain-free range of motion
  • Energy, vim & vigor

Fitness

  • Task endurance
  • Capable strength; “Be hard to kill”

Emotional

  • Increased resilience
  • Decreased anxiety/depression

Financial

  • Eliminated credit card debt
  • Money put aside for a remodel, vacation, or gift
  • Solid retirement planning
  • An alternate income stream

Familial

  • Being fully present and engaged
  • Being an inspiring model

None of these things will create themselves, if you chase everything in the OASIS. That dazzling world of bits, bytes, and ideas is only going to get prettier, more high rez, and more all-encompassing.

Best to develop some selective, walk away skills now.

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Peter L Kim, MD

Dr. Kim,  is the Medical Director of Family Care Centers, Former Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Hoag Hospital, and a recipient of the Physicians of Excellence award from the Orange County Medical Association. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine, and has been practicing in our community for over 20 years. He is an excellent, caring, and well­qualified physician who is dedicated to providing you with superior health care. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from UCLA and received his medical training at the LAC­USC Medical Center. After completing his residency in Family Medicine, he accepted a sports medicine fellowship at San Jose Medical Center, an affiliate of Stanford University. He enjoys working with patients and families who are training or want to get back into an active lifestyle.

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