A couple of days ago, I pointed out that Virtual Reality (plus groupware and Augmented Reality) creates a work environment that makes physical offices obsolete--including the much-touted high tech campuses.
After I wrote that, it occurred to me that once VR becomes built in to the work environment, it will also eliminate the well-documented advantage that attractive people have in terms of getting hired, getting raises, and being promoted.
In the VR world, you're represented by your avatar, which resembles whomever (or whatever) you deem appropriate. Nobody is ugly in the VR world unless (for whatever reason) they choose to be so.
Something of the sort is already happening in the ways companies hire; an increasing number of companies are adopting "blind interviewing" where the interviewees don't know the appearance or even the sex of the candidate.
In a VR world, every office has a view and everyone is beautiful. You might be working with a model-esque female who is actually the avatar of a middle-aged balding guy who lives in a van down by the river.
Conversely, your big boss might look like, and come off as, a simulacrum of Star Trek's Captain Picard but might actually be the avatar of 19-year-old high school dropout. With AI, even accents could be "standardized."
In other words, in the future what will matter is what you can accomplish rather than how you look or even who you are.
Such scenarios have been fodder for science fiction for many decades. While movies like The Matrix and Total Recall are better known, my favorite fictional depiction of VR is Jack Vance's classic novel The Eyes of the Overworld.
In that book, a population of rude fisher-folk labor to feed and eventually to become inhabitants of the "Overworld," by attaching a pair magical "cusps" to their eyes. As one graduate puts it:
"I dimly recall that I inhabit a sty and devour the coarsest of food--but the subjective reality is that I inhabit a glorious palace and dine on splendid viands among the princes and princesses who are my peers."
Since many real-world office environments are ugly or distracting (as are many real-world people, for that matter), there's little question that working in the VR workplace will be more pleasant than working in even the most luxe real-world environments.
Of course, one could argue that working in such an environment might feel bloodless, like eating Cheez-Whiz while watching the Food Channel. On the other hand, the popularity of pornography proves people can extract pleasure from artificial depictions of reality.
If there's any danger here, it's that the VR workplace might create an overly homogenous workforce where people's personalities start reflecting the blandness of their avatars rather than their individual real-world uniqueness.
In other words, with the VR office, we could create a situation where every corporate diversity goal was fully achieved, but the virtual workforce would itself appear in Virtual Reality like a convention of Young Republicans.
On the other hand, it could turn out exactly opposite and meetings in the virtual workplace might resemble a cross between a cos-play convention and a competition between a dozen Village People tribute bands.
Interesting days ahead.