The 21st century on the contrary is based on the virtual. Crucial for development and progress is the virtual money, virtual entertainment, virtual work, virtual environment, virtual interaction. Even stronger, survival of companies, nations, cultures, even humanity depends on the pace and efficiency with which the virtuality is integrated in the society and its texture.
To understand this, we must keep in mind the crucial role of nature for society in its different shades.
First of all we have to differentiate between nature-nature and nature-culture. Nature-nature is a construction fo nature non-humanized, that is not manipulated and transformed by the human being, although certainly observed, conceptualized, idealized and even feared by the human beings. Secondly we have the nature-culture that is nature as it is constructed, transformed by the human being for the human beings needs and pleasures. This is the nature as the basic material of the 18-20 matarialism.
In the 21st century what we need is the integration of the nature-nature and the nature-culture. However, we need an integration without reductionism that is without eliminating one, by taking it up in the other. A beautiful exemple of what we do not want is a zoo, the nature-nature in a zoo is in fact an extended flowerpot. For sure they have they value and interest but it is not the wild, the nature-nature. The same is true concerning the integration of different cultures in our culture : integration doesn't mean nivellation and elimination of the differences, but rather learn to handle each other's differences and stimulate an interaction which enriches each following their own criteria and identity independant of universal metacriteria, which are always hidden culture dependant.
Concerning the integration of the nature-nature and nature-culture the "virtual nature" is a vital pivot : a mean for realizing this. Wa can easily illustrate this. When a tourist is visiting nature, immediately by doing so the "site" is changed, destructed. If howewer we do visit nature-nature in virtual reality, it is kept intact. If all of us want an apartment at the seaside, inevitably the seaside is destructed. Il we live in virtual reality at the seaside, nothing of that kind happens. If all of us work in the traditional way : that is directly or indirectly transforminf a material substrate, inevitably the environment is deeply and irreversibly destructed. If all of us or 90 % of us work virtual this doesn't happen at all.
All this means that in order to preserve nature-nature and therefore the human being, society and culture, we have to complete "nature-nature", "nature-culture", with "nature-virtuality", or "virtual nature". For after all, the material needs of the human being are in fact very restrained, if one eliminates waste. This waste happens not for the intrinsic value of the objects used, but for their symbolic of virtual effect on ourselves, the others and society. The art and necessity for survival therefore is the projection of the products of prestige from the material level on the virtual one. If we succeed - and we have no choice, it is a question of survival - we have that "nature-nature", "nature-culture", the human being, society and cultures are saved.
To illustrate this point, if we put the X milliards of humans in Belgium - a very small country - we have Xm2 por person. The material substrate necessary for this amount of people or even the n-tuple of it is restricted and easy to produce, if we eliminate all types of production of luxuries : plantations of coffee, cacao, cotton, meat, a second or third home, etc... But for sure we need to foreword the human beings and their strive for self-esteem and hierarchization, other ways to realize this by virtual products, virtual interaction, virtual... instead of the present day material symbols.
But one will without doubt put forward the question if the identity of the individual, the group, the culture, will not be lost in this "virtuality".
The answer is clearly negative. Society has in fact always been dominantly dependent on the virtuality. A social group, a political party, a nation, a democracy, is and has always been the product of transcendalism, that is the transcending of the material and the individual. In fact we can and have to argue that the naive materialism of the 18th century has endangered strongly the equilibrium of the nature-nature and the nature-culture, by the maximization of the material aspects of products and their individual property.
In the 21st century we need a much more sophisticated materialism, which is based on a virtual materialism, in order to better manage and develop life, the living, the human, the society in the world and all in harmony. Nevertheless the virtual materialism doesn't mean that anything goes. We need very careful to define the new border and limitations. In the first place we have to define limitations concerning the operation of the nature-nature, limitations on biological engineering, limitation on traditional production, limitations on the exploitation of nature-nature, and the exploitation of the nature-culture. We need very actively persue the research and exploitation of the virtual nature and the ways in which it can strengthen the development of the individual identity, the group identity and the cultural identity. The harmony between them is vital for progress, happiness, safety for the environmentn humanity, the living world.
It is evident that the virtual nature has also its dangers and drawbacks. We have to be aware of it, to be able to manage and surpass them...