"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 30, 2013


Early and current depictions* of "virtual reality" tend to portray the experience as immersive and isolating, not unlike pornography. The popular treatment of virtual reality is one which enhances the experience of self to the detriment of the self's ability to determine what is or is not reality. The standard model of self, in these treatments, is that of a single personality dominated organism which can generally determine what is or is not real, until it can't. Reality is questionable, but it is generally posited as an "out there" which can be defined as (a) participatory but also (b) not subject to significant alteration, such that the definition of "real" is substantively changed.

What is emerging as the actual popular virtual reality (outside of very narrow training regimens, especially in the military) is something altogether different. This emergent trend will probably look inevitable from some future point in history, only because it will seem both path dependent, and perhaps more importantly, more human.

By "more human," I mean, occurring within enduring narratives about ourselves.

The "enhancement overlay" trend represented by Google's Glass does not ignore something seemingly quite basic to human experience: people will aggregate. Given the opportunity to share the creation of narrative or artifice, technology will follow this path even when isolating and immersive alternatives exist (the obvious outlier again being porn, which went from the collectivity of public theaters, into the hyper-personalized experience of home porn).

What is perhaps even more significant about the "enhancement overlay" structure being built is that takes into account and is structured upon - knowingly or unknowingly, I cannot say - the already existing mode of awareness commonly called "faith."

Faith is an enhancement overlay, learned from without through training, reinforcement and the investing of symbols with purpose and value, but generated afterward from within. Faith tends to express in participatory, real world play, but it depends upon the individuals engaged in it to maintain that set of overlaps and symbolic realignments of reality into wonders, signs and meaning.

Google's Glass will very likely do the same.

And because of this, it will be subject to hacks similar to what occurs to and within faiths. Faith is routinely "hacked," wherein the existing moral strictures and symbolic structures are re-purposed towards new interpretations, which are then shared, normalized and spread.

The uses for those in power are nearly limitless.

* - the execrable but fascinatingly anvilicious "The Unincorporated Man," The "Chung Kuo" series by Wingrove (well, until the awful ending), eXistenZ, Total Recall, Strange Days, Johnny Mnemonic, Vanilla Sky  - deviations which tend to reinforce my own point include Otherland, by Tad Williams, TRON and The Matrix trilogy.

1 comment:

Rob Payne said...

From the moment we are born, the adults around us describe the world to us, or reality if you prefer. Thus, we all see the world in pretty much the same way, or at least within our own culture. The way we see the world is that it is a static background filled with solid objects and living beings, yet science tells us that solid matter is mostly empty space, and that matter is actually frozen energy. Some things can be easily predicted, while others would be a fool’s errand to attempt to predict. The world isn’t static, it is dynamic, the universe is predatory, and impersonal. That is a reality that hardly anyone believes in. Faith is a laziness of thought, or actually an absence of thought, as what we call thinking is mostly a repetition of ingrained sentences or preconceived ideas which is reinforced by faith. I suspect Google has their eyes on a military application of their new gizmo or perhaps it is just a derivative of technology the military already possesses. The advent of home computers and their relatives, I-phones, or whatever they are called, has been a paradigm shift that has connected the world of the privileged, that is to say those who can afford them (there are many that cannot) in a way that instant communication is now commonplace where it was unheard of before. Google glasses are just another iteration of these gadgets people already have, it’s a computer that you wear on your head if I understand it correctly. And at a cost of fifteen hundred dollars it seems more like a toy for the well off more than anything else, though it does come with GPS, just another way for the security state to keep track of us?