Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reality, Virtually

Douglas Rushkoff just posted a really cool talk he did at the The 56th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture at the Princeton Club in NYC.

He has a new book coming out that I can't wait to read, even though I think I already get the gist of it. He talks about the post-Renaissance notion of the individual and corporation throwing our perception of reality out of whack -- it's more than I can explain in a single blog post.

Anyway, it reminded me of a concept I wrote about recently in class. Sometimes it's fun to be a Futurist, except this technology already exists and has been tested, it's just really, really expensive right now. I'm sure by now you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Here it is: the ability around the curve in which we could use Ultra HD cameras and Fiber Optic Broadband to reproduce an image indistinguishable from reality -- literally linking two locations with some A/V wizardry to create a quasi-teleportation along the lines of science fiction. I won't go into the implications, but it is a fun thought experiment. More importantly, the technology already exists and it has been done. Right now it's just really expensive, which is why we need Library infrastructure (and your tax dollars) to make it happen. Most Libraries already have huge bandwidth as it is.

But back to the basics. Aka "lets connect these two ideas somehow so I don't sound so foolish" (hopefully). I think we've been doing this whole "virtual reality" thing all wrong. Second Life isn't the answer. For one, it's very 1990's Lawnmower Man-esque. Yeah, yeah, you can create things within the world and it has its own economy and whatnot but you're stuck interacting with the keyboard. There's some sensory-input degradation (sidenote: until these things become commercially available).

Once you recognize that the world is already a virtual one then you can see that the issue isn't about using computers to recreate it within computers but rather to link sensation and perception across time and space. Ever wish you could just push a button and you're there? Rushkoff argues exactly that, and we can see from the political process that policies enacted have an effect on our world, the natural world in some cases (environmental policy) but more often than not the socio-cultural one (aka where's my universal healthcare).

So uhh, yeah. That's what has been on my mind lately.