The techno-sage and Silicon Valley insider views VR as emancipatory and liberating but what does shared lucid daydream actually entail?
I knew virtual reality for the first time the other daytime, at a exercise workshop for university speakers. When I donned the Oculus Rift- a elegant plastic headset with handheld restraints- I was presented with a table on which sat some cartoonishly made objects: a projectile, a doll auto, a light grease-gun. I picked up the gun and burnt off a few shots. I wheeled the projectile off the counter. Then the lenses in the goggles clouded up and I thrived bored.
I couldn’t see how virtual reality was supposed to help with the training courses of literature, but the techno-apparatchiks who were our navigates for the working day assured me that this was the future of pedagogy( a word they liked ).” Just dream ,” they said,” one day your students won’t exactly provide opportunities to read volumes: they’ll experience what it’s like to be in them .”
In Dawn of the New Everything , his insightful( and often maddening) memoir-cum-manifesto, Jaron Lanier argues that we are on the brink of a golden age of virtual reality.” It looks like this journal might come out at about the same experience that VR get cliche ,” he writes. But despite the best efforts of the clergymen, VR has so far failed to become ubiquitous.
In 2014 Oculus was bought, with much fanfare, by Facebook for$ 2bn, but since then it’s felt as if they don’t really know what they want to do with the technology. Google Glass( an experiment in wearable augmented actuality firstly released after 2013) too limps on, but having a camera strapped permanently to your psyche feels obtrusive, and early adopters were labelled “glassholes”. VR may well still be the future, but what becomes clear from Dawn of the New Everything is that it has been the future for a very long time, and that it is as much about exchanging images as suffering them.
Lanier is a computer scientist turned writer and techno sage-green, and is often hailed as the leader of VR. His previous two books- Who Owns the Future ( 2010) and You Are Not a Gadget ( 2013)- were bracing polemics against the dangers of what he identified as a brand-new” digital Maoism” associated with the influence of social networks, under the auspices of which algorithms become more important than people. Dawn of the New Everything lacks the directed vitality of his previous journals, fusing techno-utopian gues ventures with truncated memoir, but still enclose plenty to argue with.
Most immediately engaging are the autobiographical regions, for Lanier has led a fascinating life. His father was a Viennese dancer who was killed in a auto crash when he was nine, “his fathers” a high school teacher who” lived with Gurdjieff in Paris and Huxley in California and examined with various Hindu and Buddhist coaches “. After his mother’s death Lanier had a slightly feral live with “his fathers”, improving theremins together and living in a geodesic dome residence Lanier had designed. A appreciation of messianic assignment penetrates the descriptions of his childhood( and the book as a whole ). “Was it possible,” he withdraws fantasizing as a child,” that every place in the whole universe was wondrous, but beings precisely get worn out by the work of perception? Is that why all the other kids just sat there, professing that everything was normal ?”