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Reese Witherspoon is completely right about our digital future. Start preparing.

A viral tweet from the actor sparked angst and interest online, and her theories about the coming world of virtual reality are on the money.


I’m not sure if you’re following the actor Reese Witherspoon on Twitter (I am not, admittedly), but I stumbled upon a viral tweet she posted Tuesday that’s worth your consideration. 

We on "The ReidOut" team are unabashed nerds who enjoy geeking out on everything from comic books to urban planning to, yes, the coming age of virtual technology. And as the resident tech geek, I’m here to tell you Witherspoon is absolutely correct about the future of tech-based life — and the signs are literally all around us. 

Going forward, as you experience the deluge of advertisements from companies promoting 5G, you can think of that technology as the infrastructure for the coming virtual world. And as Witherspoon suggested, this world — which we’ll access through a headset, glasses or even specially made contact lenses — will find us using avatars and other virtual substitutes to complete tasks and socialize. 

It’s a reality that might unsettle you (as it does me) or excite you (as it does me). 

Photo Illustration: Reese Witherspoon is completely right about our digital future
Reese Witherspoon's tweet encouraging people to start planning for their "parallel digital identity" went viral this week.Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

If you’re still in disbelief, I thought I’d share a list of virtual reality projects that prove that the world Witherspoon and I speak of is on the horizon. 

For example, virtual reality is increasingly being used by emergency services professionals to simulate situations for training, and to map out dangerous terrain — like a house on fire — before entry. Virtual and augmented reality will be deployed in the world of commerce, allowing shoppers to visit virtual stores, try on clothing, and visualize certain items in their home from the comfort of their couch. Virtual reality will impact the fitness world by allowing athletes and physical exercise enthusiasts to effectively train in any destination imaginable. Virtual reality concerts will give performers even more creative potential than in the past — just think: your favorite artist will be able to morph into a fantastical creature before your very eyes, or transport their audience to a unique virtual setting that enhances the performance. There’s similar potential in virtual classrooms, where teachers will be able to transport students to destinations discussed in lesson plans

So, yes, we should all heed Witherspoon’s suggestion to prepare for the virtual world. On a personal level, that preparation means understanding the creative potential in immersive technology and all the ways it can positively influence our world. On a national level, that preparation means creating the infrastructure for this technology to exist, which is happening, and doing what’s necessary to ensure all Americans have equal access to it. That’s still a work in progress.

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