While serving time at the Jixi labor camp in China Liu Dali and other prisoners were forced to play video games to earn virtual credits in games like World of Warcraft . Guards then sold those virtual credits for profit.
Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.
It is bad enough that some teenagers get addicted to video games. But prisoners forced to play them in order to make money? Bizarre.
Where does this lead? Virtual prisons run by humans. Sure, humanity in the Matrix lived in a prison created by the machines. But imagine governments run by humans imprisoning other humans in the Matrix.
One can imagine all sorts of twists. Imagine an extremely high quality virtual reality (VR) where prisoners can't tell they are in a virtual world. The prisoners could get tempted with illegal activities and tested to see if they'll rape, rob, or sell drugs in virtual reality.
Also, imagine implants designed to push a released prisoner back into VR whenever it looks like he is about to commit another crime.
Can prisoners serving time in VR be made economically productive? If computers exist which are powerful enough to create VR then would these computers be able to do productive tasks better than prisoners? Short of full-up VR could some prisoners do useful computer-based work by controlling construction equipment remotely?