Not everybody could withdraw into the comforting reality of their chosen Virtual Space, though. Some rejected it, but many who would have liked to live a life of digital leisure couldn’t afford it or couldn’t be spared.

Many of them opted for Filtered Space instead.

The procedure was simple: the same wet neural interface was installed, but rather than being networked to a public or private Virtual Space, a small flash-memory Filter was installed. Unobtrusive and wireless, it served as a mediator between the real world and what the Filtered Space user experienced.

Based on a set of surprisingly simple and user-designed heuristics, the Filter reinterpreted the stimuli of the outside world in such a way as to make actual events seem to be part of a more fantastic reality. Fantasy, science fiction, steampunk…there were dozens of Filters and even more settings within them. A simple janitorial job could be a lot more exciting on a space station, after all, or in a grim film noir cityscape.

Many people who otherwise lived in Virtual Space would hook up to Filtered Space during the rare instances when they had to move or be moved. With the proper IT support, the process could be managed seamlessly, without interrupting the magic of their virtual worlds.

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