dawn of new everything

dawn of new.png

by Jaron Lanier




we were so close that i barely ever perceived her as a separate person. i remember playing beethoven sonatas on the piano for her and her friends, and i felt as if we were playing them together from the same body..


there was a perfect break down on phone system: anyone who picked up a phone could hear everyone else, all at once.. hundreds of voices.. hovered in the first social virtual space i had ever experienced..  the floating children were curious about one another.. they were friendly..next day.. no one spoke of what happened..

was it possible that people could suddenly *improve, if the medium that connected us was different..?..t

*get back to humanity ness.. yes.. imagine 2 convos


when i interview brilliant young people for research positions today, some of them are so tightly wound up from years of intense competition that they have difficulty relaxing enough to be creative. their lives are written in advance, unless they were born rich, because they are committed to paying back astonishing tuition debts. they’ll get to learn how to live later, after tenure, or after the startup gets sold..


one ie was 2 cybernetic frontier, by stewart brand. the first half was an interview w gregory bateson about how cybernetics would change society and the way we know the world..

these books revealed a split in the earliest days of computing culture that has never gone away. there’s a big picture way of thinking about computing and a personal one

i prefer the personal one. it’s fun. the big picture approach to computing tends to foster utopian fantasies, so it’s dangerous..


w this meager foundation, i van (sutherland) not only invented, but built out one of the main avenues of human experience in our times: interaction on a screen. the impact was spectacular. it’s often called the best computer demo of all time..


ivan’s work was hidden in plain sight. . t.he didn’t have the flamboyance of a marshall mcluhan, but he probably had more influence on the future of media than anyone else working in the 1960s

we are not being careful and we are missing it


i dreamed fantastic things that were impossible to describe. the shared world, the world out there w the other people, felt sluggish, limp, and inflexible. i longed to see what was inside the heads of other people. i wanted to show them what i explored in dreams..t.. i imagined virtual worlds that would never grow stale because people would bring surprises to each other. i felt trapped w/o this tool.. why, why  wasn’t it around already..?

2 convos that io dance.. as the day.

i was immediately obsessed w the potential for multiple people to share such a place, and to achieve a new type of consensus reality, and it seemed to me that a ‘social version’ of the virtual world would have to be called virtual reality..

‘you have to look at this .. we’ll be able to put each other in dreams using computers.. anything you can imagine.. it’s not just going to be in our heads anymore.. ‘ ..id’ then wave a picture of a cube in front of a random, poor soul, and that person would politely navigate around me. why were people so blind to the most amazing thing happening in the world..?.. t

chomsky serious things law


vr trains us to perceive better, until that latest fancy vr setup doesn’t seem to high quality anymore..


the whole point of advancing vr is to make vr always obsolete

thru vr, we learn to sense what makes physical reality real.. refines our ability to discern and enjoy physicality..

the unceasing flow of tiny learning forces – pressed finger against pliant material, sensor cell in the skin exciting a neuron that signals the brain as the pressure reflects – this flow is the blood of perception

not yet scrambled ness


vr is not about simulating reality, really, but about stimulating neural expectations..

actionable defns of vr are always about the process of approaching an ideal rather than achieving it. approach, rather than arrival, is what makes science realistic after all

footnote: science isn’t about the certainty of coming to a final conclusion, and this can make it emotionally unsatisfying.. the mind thinks thoughts, so it wants reality to be like a thought, to stake out a positions, to be platonic. but science is only about making gradual progress, holding a candle in a great darkness.. minds can get stubborn about thoughts, and expect reality to be a certain way and have that be the end of it. alas, eternal reality hasn’t been revealed to us totally and instantly


9th vr defn: he investigation of the sensorimotor loop that connects people w their world and the way s it can be tweaked thru engineering. the investigation has no end, since people change under investigation..


if immobilize head.. inactivate muscles that move the eyes. you’ve simulated putting your eyes on a tripod.. for a moment you’ll see.. then will fade to a sickly gray and then disappear

vision depends on continuous experimentation carried out by nervous system, actualized in large part thru the motion of the head and eyes. look around you and notice what happens as you move your head in the smallest increments you can manage.. notice how you see..  (if blind.. works for hearing..)

move head absolutely as little as you can, and you will still see that edges of objects at diff distances line up differently w each other in response to the motion.. this is called ‘motion parallax’ in the trade.. a huge part of 3-d perceptions..

you will also see subtle changes in the lighting and texture of many things. look at another person’s skin and you will see that you are probing into the interior of the skin as your head moves. (skin and eyes evolved together to make this work) if you are looking at another person, you will see, if you pay close attention, an unfathomable variety of tiny head motion messages bouncing back and forth between you. there is a secret visual motion language between all people..

beyond words

if you are not able to perceive these things, try going in to vr for a while and then come out and try again..

vision works by pursing and noticing changes instead of constancies, and therefore a neural expectation exists of what is about to be seen..  your nervous system acts a little like a scientific community; it is voraciously curious, constantly testing out ideas about what’s out there.. a vr system succeeds when it temporarily convinces the ‘community’ to rally behind an alt hypothesis  (if vr ever succeeds on a permanent basis, we will have entered into a new form of catastrophic political failure the more we each become familiar w successful tem vr experiences, however, the less vulnerable we become to this bleak fate)


the nervous system is holistic, so it chooses on external world at a time to believe in. a vr system’s task is to sway the nervous system over a threshold so that the brain believes tin the virtual world instead of the physical one for a while..

11 the defn: vr is the most centrally situated discipline

for me.. vr’s greatest value is as a palate cleanser..t

opp to reset/detox to not yet scrambled ness

everyone becomes used to the most basic experiences of life and our world, and we take them for granted. once your nervous system adapts to a virtual world, however, and they you come back you hae a chance to experience being born again in microcosm..the most ordinary surface, cheap wood or plain dirt, is bejeweled in infinite detail for a short while.. to look into a nother’s eyes is almost too intense..

dang.. reset to not yet scrambled ness

vr was and remains a revelation. and it’s not just the world external to you that is revealed a new.. there’ a moment that comes when you notice that even when everything changes, you are sill there, at the center, experience whatever is present..


after you transform your body enough, you start to feel a most remarkable effect. everything about you and your world can change (from being a hand or a creature or a cloud), and yet you are still there..

this experience is so simple that it is hard to convey. in everyday life we become used to the miracle of being alive. it feels ordinary. we can start to feel as though the whole world, including us, is nothing but mechanism.

mechanisms are modular. if the parts of car are replaced one by oe w parts of a helicopter, then afterward you will end up w either a helicopter or an inert meld of junk, but not w a car.

in vr you can similarly take away all elements of experience piece by piece. you take away the room and replace it w seattle, then the body and replace it.. all the pieces are gone and yet there you are, still experiencing what is left. therefore, you are diff from a car or a helicopter.

your center of experience persists even after the body changes, and the rest of the world changes. vr peels away phenom and reveals that consciousness remains and is real. vr is the tech that exposes you to yourself..t

like temp placebo.. to get rid of money.. toward eudaimoniative surplus

there’s no guarantee that a tourist in vr will notice the most important sight.. i wish i knew what threshold of elements might bring other people to appreciate the simplest and most profound quality of the vr experience..t

perhaps.. setting all people free

12 defn: vr is the tech of noticing experience itself..

as tech changes everything, we here have a chance to discover that by pushing tech as far as possible we can rediscover something in our selves that transcends tech..t

tech as it could be

vr is the most humanistic approach to info. it suggests an inner-centered conception of life, and of computing, that is almost the opposite of what has become familiar to most people and that inversion has vast implications…


vr researchers have to acknowledge the reality of inner life, for w/o it vr would be an absurd idea..

vr lets you feel your consciousness in its pure form.. there you are, the fixed point in a system where everything else can change..

vr is the tech that instead highlight the existence of your subjective experience. it proves you are real..


norbert wiener’s the human use of human beings.. penne cybernetics.. but colleagues couldn’t stand him.. so came up with alt name.. so wouldn’t be connected to him.. artificial intelligence.. but wasn’t as wiener intended..

wiener was right: ai muddies the waters.


after ww2 – behaviorism.. mind control..


behaviorism reduced to gadgetry in pop culture.. ie: tweet for an instant treat.. illusion of control but actually controlled by who’s behind box – skinner

in college, i became obsessed w the problem of how to draw the line between useful science and creepy power trips..t


the terror arose from one word in that paragraph and it is ‘measure’ (my hand would be measured, ..)


13th defn: the perfect tool for the perfect, perfectly evil skinner box.


17 – dome was done..  i was afraid i might be falling into a trap, learning to build evil machines.. i had to see the world, get perspective


(went to school in manhattan)

if each person must directs the comprehensive film of one’s own life, then there would be no time for any life. film would choke of everything else and would create a stasis , a still image. if, instead, someone else was to direct, then fascism would result.. therefore, we must not film everything. we must forget enough to be free..

oddly this argument had no takers.. while i failed to make my point, the argument ultimately comforted me more than it terrified. i felt deeply guilty about not remembering my mother better, but i had achieved clarity that strategic forgetting can sometimes be the only path to freedom


i spent time w jon cage and other musical figure of that era



cynthia, my obsession, turned out to be the daughter of the head of the physics dept at caltech. so that’s where we would haven out. she was the darling of the marvelous minds who huddled there, like richard feynman and murray gell-mann



my anxiety about earning enough money to make rent, i later realized, served as a mask to insulate me from the more fundamental terror of mortality and the icy underlying loneliness that still haunted me from when my mother died. capitalism gives us a faux death to avoid – destitution – and thus a ritual for asserting control over fragility and fate. it has its comforts..


(on public speaking from 80-92).. it was a matter of faith each time that my shy, awkward persona would get swapped out for a cherubic public speaker. this other version of me was confident and gathered eery single person in view into a hypnotic rhythm of ideas. my model was alan watts. i have no idea how i did it


my main task was to convey why the thought o vr – a crazy, extremist medium that would exist someday – made me happy. vr’s deep mission, as i told it, was to find a new type of language, or really a new dimension of communication that would *transcend language as we know it.. that might sound like the most speculative, far our plan, but the mission had a **sense of perilous urgency for me. i believed it was necessary for the survival of the species..t

*2 convos .. via idio-jargon/self-talk as data **for (blank)’s sake


i still use some of the intro ideas and images from my earliest talks (vr was unnervingly hard to explain.. so exotic that people were visibly shocked on first hearing).. after the intro, my talks dove into ideas about *early childhood, **cephalopod cognition and how humanity would destroy itself ***unless art got more and more intense into the future, indefinitely..

*not yet scrambled ness


Another example of cephalopod intelligence is the communication that takes place between the more social species of squid. Some cephalopods are capable of rapid changes in skin colour and pattern through nervous control of chromatophores. This ability almost certainly evolved primarily for camouflage, but squid use colour, patterns, and flashing to communicate with each other in various courtship rituals. Caribbean reef squid can send one message using colour patterns to a squid on their right, while they send another message to a squid on their left

***do this first.. free art ists..

transcript of one of my earliest talks:

.. if you can’t tell what is real, everything is real. everything is magic..  then a horrendous tragedy overtakes you. you finally start to distinguish what is real from what is only imagined.


the realization grows into a belief in the physical world. the physical world is the one in which your body exists and you learn to control it. in time you will walk, run, and speak.

but the realization also amounts to a severe insult. it is the most precipitous emotion possible in any possible world.  i suspect it has to do w the ‘terrible twos’ 


kid can realize a dream in 2 seconds.. adult you can imagine .. but that alone does not make it real. something is real only when it is also experienced by other people.. shared consequence – share experience of change – is what makes a world real..t

the previously available reality based option was to use tech to actually craft the creature.. before vr, making a fantastic scenario real not just for you but for others was sometimes possible, but meant time and hassle. gigantic.. wall of hassle.. life isn’t long enough

vr reality tugs at the soul because it answer the crisis of childhood..t

not yet scrambled ness


math doesn’t kill freedom.. faith in the reality of free will makes as much sense as its rejection

krishnamurti free will law

a physicist who works on theories in which the universe is emerging and unpredictable will tend to be warmhearted and funny..


(joseph) campbell has a theory i don’t really like much, that all human stories are variation s on the same shared story. kind of like how Noam chomsky says there’s a core of language..



on showing moondust (hist first game he made) to Alan Kay.. and Doug Engelbart

alan.. doug


after you spend all day coding, you dream in code; you think of the world as code. scott rosenberg wrote a book..dreaming in code.. you’d wake up and realize you were coding in your sleep, coding the events that were taking place around you in the dream. a loop for one’s heartbeat



it was great to find commonality w the other hackers, but i didn’t really fit in. most of them had diff beliefs about the basics of reality and being a person..

for me the world was not code, at least in the sense of code we could ever know how to program. and people were not just more code, and the purpose of life was not to optimize reality..t


consciousness is precisely the only ting that is still just as real if it’s an illusion. illusions rest on consciousness..

admitting that a mystery is there is what makes us humble and honest. w/o that, we couldn’t have scientific method. . our science is a genuine confrontation w mystery, and so is our art..there’s mystery all over the place, every second. reality is exactly the thing that can’t be measured, described, or replicated to perfection. consciousness is a great way to notice that. admitting it exists makes science stronger..t


i have come to not only accept, but value my prosopagnosia (face blindness..don’t recognize people on sight).. i’m a great believer in cognitive diversity.. unusual minds discover important things that might otherwise go unnoticed. because i could not recognize people on sight, i had to become more sensitive to what they did and how they fit into the world if i was to be able to recognize them at all..

all human minds i’ve gotten to know well have turned out to be more amazing than i imagined at first. it’s just that we’re all tuned into our world in diff ways..(years later i would coinvent digital devices that could recognize faces for me, but i ultimately declined to use them. try to be ‘normal’ is a fool’s game.)

also.. i suffer from a peculiar quirk in semantic memory..

part of the problem is that there have been too many similar events.. our world is awash w supposedly elite conferences, trade shows, parties, and ceremonies..


ok jaron, this is amazing, but slow down. can i talk for a minute..? it took me years to learn to cede that minute. a shame, but youth takes time. more a shame because my rant was all about people being able to reach each other..

me and al


i was burning inside w a peculiar utopian obsession.. i felt the world needed a tool for the spontaneous invention of new virtual worlds that would express the stuff of the mind that was otherwise impenetrable.. if you could conjure just the right virtual world, it would open up souls and math and love..

sounds like rat park.. but maybe it’s more about 2 convos.. opening us up

programming was an eden.. today it’s a crowded bureaucracy; code is all about reconciling what you want to do w endless layers of preexisting structure in the cloud.

what we’re doing w/ blockchain crowding w/ie: contracts and currencies


(on moores law and that it’s really only human understanding that improves) .. look at what accelerates and what doesn’t. chips get better at an accelerating pace, but  user interface design doesn’t. the diff is that we define the edges and the function of a chip so precisely. since we can nail it down, we can understand it better and better. user interfaces are about people, and people live out in the big unfenced world, and we can’t specify them perfectly. so there’s no way to achieve the same kind of learning curve..t

while i didn’t think we should try to optimize people, i was all for optimizing computer hardware..

too early to work w proper 3-d graphics.. we could dive into haptics: broadly means sensations that come form either sensor cells in the skin or in muscles or tendons – generally meaning sensations reports thru the spinal cord instead of a dedicated nerve bundle between a sense organ and the brain. it is impossible to separate such sensations from human motion, so haptics isn’t just about sensing. haptics includes touch and feel and how the body senses its own shape and motion, and the resistance of obstacles.. it’s surprisingly hard to define the term precisely because there are still mysteries about how the body senses itself and the world.. (derived from greek haptikos, meaning ‘able to come into contact’)..


haptics at very least how you feel that a surface is hot, rough, pliant, sharp, or shaking – and how you sense stubbing a toe or lifting a weight. it’s a kiss, a cat on a lap, smooth sheets, and corduroy desert roads..it is the pleasure of the sex that made us all and the pains of the diseases that end us. it is the business end of violence.

it’s the sense that overlaps the most with the other senses

i love the haptic modality in part because we still haven’t learned to work w it well or fully appreciate it. it’s an intimate frontier..

we tend to use visual metaphors to convey analytic mastery, seeing a situation clearly, while haptic metaphors tend to convey intuition, gut feelings.. haptics is about you as a part of the world, not as an observer..t

other senses are aloof compared w haptics.. they eyes and ears are interactive, in the sense that they probe by subtly and subconsciously shifting their positions.. but haptics require direct contact w the world.. you push against things to feel them.. you change them at least a little in order to perceive them.

every touch carves away at least a saving of what is touched..faint gouges are being carved in the glass where you touch your phone the most. you are the weather of your world slowly wearing it down.. that is the price of sensations…


funny how moore’s law forced us to build useful equipment for each of the sensory modalities in a sequence instead of all at once; haptics first, then hearing, then vision, w olfaction, taste and debatable catalog of other senses still to come. funny, because it mirrored the way i was slowly becoming more able to perceive the world as i emerged from the trauma of my mother’s death

a bridge between the way nature had made the human body expressive and the digital world was finally – literally – at hand (glove)



until recently, vision connected generations.. dominated culture.. whole academic depts..  we love to talk about what we see.. vision makes us feel superior and invulnerable..  no one would think of placing an ear at the tip of a pyramid; it is the all -seeing eye that symbolize s the power of the dollar..


it might take generations before we fully internalize how obsolete visual dominance has become in the info age. whoever has the best computer cloud will watch everyone else w superior intensity form now on.. one’s own eyes are increasingly beside the point..

input is more important than display. . t.. your input in vr is you..

self-talk as data/detox.. huge..because.. currently.. most of us are not us


15th den: instrumentation to make your world change into a place where it is easier to learn.. (ie: slow down balls you are trying to juggle)


on timothy leary


On that same day, Leary announced his candidacy for Governor of California against the Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan. His campaign slogan was “Come together, join the party.” On June 1, 1969, Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal Bed-In, and Lennon subsequently wrote Leary a campaign song called “Come Together


Leary was released from prison on April 21, 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown. After briefly relocating to San Diego, he took up residence in Laurel Canyon and continued to write books and appear as a lecturer and (by his own terminology) “stand-up philosopher”. In 1978 he married filmmaker Barbara Blum, also known as Barbara Chase, sister of actress Tanya Roberts. Leary adopted Blum’s son Zachary and raised him as his own. During this period, Leary took on several godchildren, including actress Winona Ryder (the daughter of his archivist, Michael Horowitz) and current MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito


In the 1980s, Leary became fascinated by computers, the Internet, and virtual reality. Leary proclaimed that “the PC is the LSD of the 1990s” and admonished bohemians to “turn on, boot up, jack in”. He became a promoter of virtual reality systems, and sometimes demonstrated a prototype of the MattelPower Glove as part of his lectures (as in From Psychedelics to Cybernetics). Around this time he befriended a number of notable people in the field such as Jaron Lanier and Brenda Laurel, a pioneering researcher in virtual environments and human–computer interaction. With the rise of cyberdelic counter-culture, he served as consultant to Billy Idol in the production of the latter’s 1993 album Cyberpunk.


After his separation and subsequent divorce from Barbara in 1992, he ensconced himself in a circle of artists and cultural figures encompassing figures as diverse as actors Johnny Depp, Susan Sarandon and Dan Aykroyd; Zach Leary; his grandson Ashley Martino and his granddaughters Dieadra Martino and Sara Brown; author Douglas Rushkoff; publisher Bob Guccione, Jr.; and goddaughters Ryder and artist/music–photographer Hilary Hulteen.


he (tim) became a great friend w whom i disagreed. it was good practice for me, as i would grow to have more of those over time..


time leary had a nickname for me: the control group… i was the only person around the scene who had not taken drugs, so maybe i was the baseline.. maybe drugs made people straighter..

many years later, when richard feynman knew his cancer was starting to overtake him, he decided it was time to experiment w lsd. the plan was to hang out w some hippie women in a hot tub at the edge of an unfenced cliff high above the waves in big sure… the man was hilarious on lsd. couldn’t do arithmetic anymore ‘the machine’s broken’ he said, pointing to his head in delight..


there was one drug that resonated in particular w vr:.. ayahuasca.. finds psychic link between people.. communication that transcends words..


therefore, ayahuasca was understood in a way that was similar to the way i thought about the future of vr..


alan kay got me into mit.. this is how i met marvin minsky, who became perhaps the sweetest and most generous of my mentors..



marvin lacked the capacity to become jaded or bored, or to fall into any state of mind shy of being startled by the constant novelty of reality..



vr data is a derivative of personal, pov experience, it’s immediate and sensible. when you see vr data, it has a flavor and you can understand it. vr makes people curious and there can be no more important function for a technology

unless.. we’re freed back up to the curiosity (of a 5 yr old).. and then we need tech to listen to and facil our curiosities.. (for equity)

30th defn: a tech in which *internal data and algos are intelligible as transformations of real time pov human experiences and thus inspire curiosity to look under the hood..

*idio-jargon/self-talk as data


bluntness is good in the design of info devices.. if a camera is looking at you, it should be visible, if the world you are wandering is not real, that should be made obvious… maybe one’s attitude about these questions has to do w how much one likes physical reality. i adore the natural world and love being alive. vr is part of a wonderful universe; neither a means of removal from it, nor a fantasy of getting the better of it.. i also like vr very very much and that makes me even less interested in attempts to make it ambient or undetectable (ie: on big vs small glasses).. i love classical music but am dismayed when i run across a person who leaves a feed of classical music on ‘for relaxation’ it’s so much more than wallpaper, if only you give it a chance. less is often more, because attention isn’t infinite..


33rd defn: the ultimate media tech, meaning that it is perpetually premature


remember when i mentioned that there’s a subconscious info channel between people that’s transmitted by head motion? add eye motion, skin tone, tiny changes in expression, and undoubtedly other factors we are not yet aware o f. mit’s sandy pentland dubbed these the ‘honest signals.’ w/o them, we perceive each other w less openness and ease, esp so between strangers


people wear sunglasses to attempt to hide these signals, but it doesn’t work, because sunglasses don’t conceal head motion and other signal channels. .. the wearer can pretend that signals are hidden; it’s a confidence booster, like makeup. that’s all fine, but if the signals really are blocked, then people don’t get along as well..


to perceive honest signals honestly, people have to experience each other accurately in 3-d


there have been dozens of partial solutions to the duplex problem in vr, but nothing ready to change the world..

partial ness.. and glue


36th defn: a way to try out proposed changes to the real world before you commit


if you turn complicated data into a virtual place, a palace you can roam or a city you can tour, your brain remembers better and notices more.. when we turn complexity into territory, we tame it..

37th defn: digital implementation of memory palaces


vr wasn’t ready for the public in a them park setting until much later, when randy pausch worked w D=disney..  – you’ve probably heard of randy, not for his work in vr, but because of his famous last lecture, about living and dying well.. died of pancreatic cancer.. in 2008, as close to a secular saint as one can get..

just read Aaron Frank‘s article on vr

With VR, users can learn by doing. And that’s a big deal. Learning in this way may be far more effective than anything else out there.

and this from Boyan Slat:

@parisvega @TheOceanCleanup Forgot to mention that, but indeed >95% of experiments we do are virtual. But model output is of course as good as the input, and we’re still stuck with the unknown unknowns. Nothing beats the real deal

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/BoyanSlat/status/946023472735584256


the best trick for enhancing a vr demo is to sneak genuine flowers into the vicinity while visitors are inside the vr experience. they’ll come out and experience a flower as if it was the first one they’ve ever seen. the best magic of vr happens in the moment s right after the demo ends

why is that..? perhaps use it in some way for global re set..?


it seemed to me that underplaying the reality of reality only ended up obscuring the more useful aspect of that way of thinking: if everyone’s thoughts could change, maybe the world could become kinder and smarter. and yet even in that case it is not necessarily easy to know what people should think or dream

no shoulds.. just whatever

there is an unavoidable problem -solving aspect to making the world better

the main problem is in us not letting go.. thinking we have to should/train/prep people.. thinking we can’t trust 100% of us .. to do the dance

true believers around sv used to demand that we all dream of socialism, but then the demands were for libertarianism, and lately they’ve been for the supposed supremacy of ai. no one is ready to accept that the perfect dream hasn’t been articulated and might never be

perhaps it’s a means/mech.. for 7 bn to ongoingly dream.. daily.. as the day..


at any rate, the word ‘reality’ had more than a touch of a utopian charge in the 70s and i liked that feeling, if not necessarily all the cultural baggage..

a nother way

so far as i know, i also coined ‘mixed reality’.. (it’s often said i coined the term ‘vr’). however,, boeing had an engineer who became enamored of ‘ar’ instead, so of course we were happy to use that term. i still like ‘mixed’ better. maybe ‘stirred’?

lately ‘augmented’ means you see the world annotated, while ‘mixed’ means you see extra stuff added to the world that can be treated as if it were real


there was a fresh literary scene related to vr in the 80s called cyberpunk. it was, in my view, a continuation of em forster’s ‘the machine stops’ . dark stuff, usually; cautionary tales..

characters typically manipulated and deceived one another  or wallowed in existential malaise.


i had the ridiculous idea that i was called upon to brighten the cyberpunk movement.

solarpunk ness..?


michel fb share:

I can’t get enough of this, the P2P movement has finally found its literary genre:

“Cyberpunk and Solarpunk are actually based on very similar tenets. Both contain the central idea that human nature doesn’t tend to change. The key difference is that Cyberpunk assumes that the worst human traits will dominate, leading greed and exploitation to win out. Consequently, Cyberpunk is full of grimdark dystopian visions and high levels of cynicism. Solarpunk in contrast assumes that the best human traits will dominate, giving more optimistic eutopian (not utopian) visions. Cyberpunk is in reaction to the shiny spacesuits and silver rockets of the 1960s. Solarpunk, in turn, is in reaction to Cyberpunk.

Where Cyberpunk is about nihilism, Solarpunk is about anti-nihilism. 

other great cyberpunk writers appeared.. bruce sterling’


fiction about vt has mostly been quite dark ever since cyberpunk. the matrix movies; inception, meanwhile, norms for tech journalism became hell bent on positivity


vr engaged a new generation of journalists, like steven levy, howard rheingold… i”ll highlight two figures who were particularly influential as well as dear to me: kevin kelly and john perry barlow..

howard.. kevin..

kevin is a fine ie of a trusted friend w whom i disagree completely..

kevin thinks the objects we perceive to exist in software really exist. i do not.. . kevin thinks tech is a superbeing that wants things. he perceives grace in that superbeing..  i was delighted to provide a blurb for his book what tech wants, stating that it was the best presentation of a philosophy i didn’t share..


(on eff and property and robots/ai doing work) the key point is that digital idealism took a turn for the absurd around 1990. we started to org our digital systems around bits instead of people, who were the only agents that made bits mean a thing


(on www) previous designs were centered on people, not data. there was never a need to copy info because one could always go back to the source/person.. copying was considered a crime against efficiency.

tim berners lee chose to offer a diff approach .. one that was much easier to adapt in the short term.. though we’ve paid dearly in the long term..  one simply linked to online info, and link went in only one direction. no one could tell if info had been copied. artists wouldn’t be paid, context lost. scammers could hide..


but tim’s approach was profoundly easy to get into..


(on one way links) much later on, co’s like google and fb would make hundreds of bns of dollars for the service of partially mapping what should have been mapped from the start

this is no way a criticism of tim.. he didn’t have a plan for world domination; only a plan to support physicists at a lab..

? then why did he say – won’t work unless the whole world is on it..?

i still fill that sense of miracle, but what made it float was vacuousness (having or showing a lack of thought or intelligence; mindless.). the long term price we have paid has been too high


the internet would be designed as minimally as possible so that entrepreneurs could experiment. the internet as a raw resource provided no *hook for persistent personal identity, no way to conduct transactions, and no way to know if anyone else was who they claimed to be.. all of those necessary functions would have to eventually be fulfilled by private businesses like fb

*(id, measuring transactions, verification, ..)necessary..? really..? maybe that’s why we’re missing it.. maybe we try sans id, measuring transactions et al

the result in the coming decades was a mad rush to corral users at any cost


we embed it w an uncharted ad hoc internet. we made our lives easier during the period described in this book, but the whole world is paying a heavy price many years later.

for one thing, we don’t trust the internet. each tech co and service provider lives in its own universe, and the ragged cracks between those universes provide handholds for hackers..

more the problem than the free/ease ness of the internet.. we didn’t set it up so that everyone (like tim said) was free to use it.. and he didn’t really specify/grok.. what free ness we really needed.. access isn’t enough if people are free.. we have to have gershenfeld sel.. as the day


the thing about netflix, though, is that it doesn’t offer a comprehensive catalog, esp of recent, hot releases you think of any particular movie. it might not be available for streaming.t  the recommendation engine is a magician’s misdirections, distracting you from the fact that not everything is available..

spinach and rock ness as manufactured consent.. voluntary compliance.. we accept two choices.. we don’t look beyond.. ongoingly distracted by the shiny/loud.. so we’re not really free.. not really us


every time you believe in ai you are reducing your belief in human agency and value. you are undoing yourself and everyone else

46th defn: vr = -ai (vr is the inverse of ai)


the test of an instrument is not what it can do, but whether you can become infinitely more sensitive to it as you explore and learn. a good instrument has a depth that the body can learn that the verbal/visual mind cannot


if you have played music, esp improvised music, in front of an audience, you know the vulnerability i am talking about, that precedes an authentic performance..


if the whole universe is your body, then talking would be beside the point. you’d just realize what you would otherwise have to describe

there are scholars who argue that people in ancient times didn’t even notice the existence of the color blue until there was a word for it. it is absent from much of ancient lit. how can we not wonder what we might be missing today? maybe postsymbolic communication will open our perception wider than words

indeed.. beyond words.. et al


48th defn: a shared, waking state, intentional, communicative, collaborative dream

put another way

49th defn: the tech that extends the intimate magic of earliest childhood into adulthood..t

1 yr to be 5 ness

the illusions of childhood would be realized. .. i wondered if our infantile nature might turn out to not be so bad if we were honest about them and created sustainable techs around them..


50th defn: a hint of the experience of life w/o all the limitations that have always defined personhood

science of people and supposed to ness


here’s another question that would usually come up, though if no one else asked it, i would ask it of myself: ‘what’s so important about contemplating the nature of childhood and connecting w people in expanded ways? isn’t this a rather obscure obsession you have?’

my answer was that it’s about the survival of our species..

if we keep on the path we’re on , we’ll eventually destroy ourselves.

leap – for (blank)’s sake


we’ve become used to the fact that we already have the means to feed, house, and educate everyone.everyone.. and yet we haven’t done so. it has long been the dark shame at the core of the whole enterprise of tech..t

tech as it could be..


51st den: the medium that can put you in someone else’s shoes; hopefully a path to increased empathy


if that method (that lets you reset the bits in the computer that compromise a program, while the program is running, w/o having to commit to immovable abstracts) became sophisticated enough, maybe programming could become more experimental and intuitive. that in turn would open up the path to reconceiving programming as a way of expressing whole worlds, systems, experiences; of expressing new levels of meaning that we couldn’t yet articulate. that is what i wanted from computers..

my term for this ambition is phenotropic, though it’s also sometimes called neuromimetic or organic programming..  ‘phenotropic’ suggests surfaces turning toward each other..

it was only a pleasant side effect, at first that we could also change what a virtual world did while we were inside it


52nd defn: a way of using computers that suggests a rejection of the idea of code.. t

rev of everyday life


fundamental principle: computers only make sense as tools to serve people. if you make a computer ‘efficient’ but that efficiency makes it harder for people to understand and maintain sensibly, then that computer actually becomes inefficient.

a great ie of this principle is found in computer security

let’s let go of security ness .. via gershenfeld sel


could programming ever be real time?


ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


i’ve long looked to musical instruments for inspiration in user interface design. if you look at tech as a form of expression, then there is no question that musical instruments are the most advanced tech s that have ever existed..

it always astonishes me that people can improvise jazz.. improvising involved problem solving of considerable depth that goes on in real time.. the programming of the future will have to be a lot like jazz

rev of every day life.. 7 bn people following their whimsy.. as the day


from phenotropic perspective we need to learn how to design ‘editors’ that convey the range of what a program can do in a convenient viable manner.. people will spend centuries on the problem, mark my words..


the established way we cope w very large numbers of concrete possibilities is thru abstraction. the open question is whether there’s a more fluid form of concrete expression that can become a practical alternative to abstraction.. it’s only imaginable in user interfaces beyond what we know.. probably in future version s of vr..

ted nelson is still working w a shifting group of students and followers to implement xanadu, the original design for ta digital network, which he started on in 1960. i’m convinced it would be better that the www, but no one can know until there’s a fuller implementation..

the idealist projects of computer scientists aren’t the ones that end up running the world, but they have indirect influence. bits and pieces end up inserted in odd spots. the www is a pale shadow of what ted originally proposed, but it is informed by his ideas..


while math is an ever rising tower of truths, computer science is more like a mound of fragments from forgotten wars..  this is not a lament. another diff is that computer science practically mints money, and it will continue to do so until computer scientists *make money obsolete..

let’d do that..


pull back the curtain of ai and there are millions of exploited people.

i am not saying ai is bad. i’m saying it’s not a thing at all..fearing ai is just another way of amplifying the harm done in the name of ai.. it’s just as fantasy bound to fear a mere algo that people want to use – to worry, for instance, that it will inevitably create unemployment or a crisis of meaning – as it is to pretend that the algo is alive and would be valuable on its own w/o the stolen human data.. the only way to reduce the harm is to stop believing in ai as a new type of creature, but instead evaluate algos as tools to be used by people..


in the 80s many of my friends liked the idea of a future of pretend economic valuelessness; then everyone would be forced to accept either a pure from of socialism or some other utopian scheme.. more recently, this sort of thinking has reemerged in discussion of the bi model..

i suspect the bi model is a trap. people would feel useless and absurd, economics becomes destructive when value is selectively ignored..  a centralized superpowered political body would have to command the scheme; an invitation to corruption..

begs we use bi as temp placebo


a universal *data econ is an alt to the bi model that will not only resist an unsustainable concentration of political power, but also reenforce individual creativity and human dignity..

perhaps only if that *data is self-talk


consider how odd it is that the whole society, not just in our nation but globally, has to beg a few tightly controlled corps to allow useable space for sincere news reporting..


the business model that sustains companies like google, fb, and twitter is called advertising, but it’s really something diff. the model relies not so much on persuasion as on the micromanagement of human attention..

attention ness

unlike advertising, sm and search’s current business model is based not so much on biasing which persuasive info is most available; instead it depends on biasing the options for action that are most readily available such as posts to read or links to follow..

spinach or rock ness

the reason this works so well is the ‘cost of choice’  the tech co’s make their money by manipulating your perception of infinity. it would take an infinite amount of time to read/understand the agreement you click.. the millions of search results.. so you accept that the ai algos are the only option ..

ginormous small ness begs we go deep/simple/open enough for 7 bn today


the devices.. track who is reading/watching at a given moment, and that’s the truth that matters, not what’s on the screen..

the content that draws eyeballs is often alluring, even when allure isn’t the main business, so the situation is confusing.. we have to understand changes to user behavior as the product and the content as raw material for that product..

manufacturing consent.. voluntary compliance.. et al


sm companies must hold on to people by getting them angry, insecure, or scared.. guilty.. the most effective situation is one where users get into weird spirals of moblike agreement or disagreement w other users.. that never ends, which is the point..

binary ness


we have wonderful systems to work with. if we don’t dismiss the value left to us by every preceding generation, we can build a dignified, sustainable, very high tech society that becomes the launching pad for *adventure we can’t yet imagine but we engineers might have to learn a **little humility to get there…

*as it could be

only if we **let go


it’s impossible to be a scientist w/o being able to acknowledge the unknown..

our fate rests on human traits that haven’t yet been defined in scientific terms, such as common sense, kindness, rational thought, and creativity..

the questions of our age: can we see thru our seductive info systems in order to see ourselves and our world honestly?..t

perhaps if we use ie: self-talk as data

how bad do things have to get before tech culture decides it’s worth challenging even our most cherished mythologies ..t..in order to dig ourselves out of our mess..?

ie: let go of money.. measuring transactions ness



just after finishing book.. this tweet

Giovanny Leon (@GiovannyLeon) tweeted at 1:05 AM – 30 Dec 2017 :

All Realities Are Virtual https://t.co/Nwpm3of6aw by @JasonSilva (http://twitter.com/GiovannyLeon/status/947015870949314561?s=17)

3 min video by Jason

free from notion to be coupled to any one self limiting reality tunnel.. liberating our imagination to move into space/places we can play..

reconnecting us w feelings of deep presence.. that childlike sense of first sight unencumbered by knowingness..

so.. perhaps 53rd defn: potentially therapy.. anything less will be a travesty


and this tweet on theory of relativity

Esko Kilpi (@EskoKilpi) tweeted at 7:09 AM on Sat, Dec 30, 2017:
Theory of relativity explained (well) in three minutes https://t.co/MAL2uDPqoF

before you start making any observational arguments w others.. first imagine yourself observing thru their reference frame

and or.. just bypass the arguments and assume good.. assume another story


ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way