'Ready Player One' Imagines a Future Built on the Blockchain

Is the Oasis our future?

In Ready Player One, the sci-fi novel turned big-budget film slated for release on March 28, author Ernest Cline imagines a future that sounds an awful lot like it’s built on the blockchain.

Set in a cyberpunk United States in 2044, most people in the Ready Player One universe spend a sizable portion of their lives plugged into a virtual reality system called the Oasis. The Oasis is part video game, part digital economy — it essentially constitutes the waking society of Cline’s imagined future.

As fantastical and outlandish as much of Ready Player One sounds, a key part of the framework that powers the Oasis is actually rooted in today’s promising technological innovations, as Reddit user reko91 pointed out in a post on Tuesday.

“If too many people were logged in at the same time, the simulation would slow to a crawl and avatars would freeze in midstride as the system struggled to keep up,” Cline writes, describing the earlier, disconnected serves. “But the Oasis utilized a new kind of fault-tolerant server array that could draw additional processing power from every computer connected to it. At the time of its initial launch, the OASIS could handle up to five million simultaneous users, with no discernible latency and no chance of a system crash.”

It seems like a pretty clear parallel. The fictitious technology powering Oasis sounds similar to the main idea behind the blockchain, which was first described in the 2008 bitcoin white paper by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. In principle, the blockchain is “fault-tolerant.” By utilizing a distributed network of connected computers, the blockchain acts as an impenetrable ledger — all transactions are stored in a shared public record that is unassailable because there is no main hub vulnerable to attack.

And the notion that Oasis could draw extra processing power from the individual components of its network? Well, that sounds exactly like how bitcoin is mined. Miners power the blockchain by dedicating processing power to authenticating transactions, and they are rewarded with the cryptocurrency.

It makes sense that Cline would imagine the blockchain playing a big role in a V.R.-dominated future. Ready Player One was published in 2011, three years after the blockchain was unveiled, and the same year that major bitcoin alternative Litecoin was established.

Still, it’s pretty cool that Cline recognized the potential of the blockchain as a game-changing technology. At the end of 2011, the blockchain network contained only 631 nodes, so it wasn’t exactly the headline it is today.

Now, we wait to see it Cline’s predictions are as canny as his observations. Check back here in 2044.