Dawn of the New Everything

Dawn of the New Everything

Encounters With Reality and Virtual Reality

Book - 2017
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The Microsoft interdisciplinary scientist largely credited with popularizing virtual reality reflects on his lifelong relationship with technology, showing VR's ability to illuminate and amplify our understanding of our species and how the brain and body connect to the world.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781627794091
Characteristics: xv, 351 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Jul 19, 2018

Keeping up with technology has become an impossible task for me. I have always been attracted to virtual reality, but couldn't always find the right places to look for information. Jaron Lanier has supplied it with this book. He has been a Silicon Valley stalwart since the early days, and steady proponent and creative force in the development of virtual reality. The great news is here is a tech guy who can write engaging prose about his life as well as technology. He makes technical material clear and brings it to life. He is also philosophically perceptive about it. His critique of algorithm use reminds me of old metaphysical treatises on belief in the Christian trinity, except these speculations are about our future. One of his points is that we do not know how "to embed ethics into an algorithm." Along this line he states, "We make ourselves dumb to make computers look smart all the time..., so you suspend disbelief and trust in the algorithms. A fool is born."
Though like a lot of "new tech" books this drifts into some Utopianism, Lanier ultimately stays grounded and critical. His critique includes gamer misogynist behavior as well as those who have given over the center and much of their lives to social media. His solution to companies selling our information is for them to make a payment, even very small, to those whose information they take. His explanation makes it seem very do-able. In fact, his analysis of economics is consistently cogent. For instance, "Cyberspace' implementations, like social media, motivate two-tier schemes where ordinary people barter, while the proprietors earn real megamoney from so-called advertisers. And that pattern has spawned the largest and fastest fortunes in history, contributing to a crisis in wealth concentration that has destabilzed much of the developed world." Lanier's work with virtual reality has brought him in contact with many important players in the last forty years. The book's excellent index makes it one to keep on the shelf.

Dec 09, 2017

Enjoy the ride with Jaron here! he is a musician, scientist, technologist, philosopher all wrapped in one, and "Dawn" presents an almost psychedelic journey with him through the early days of virtual reality technology. "Never has a medium been so potent for beauty and so vulnerable to creepiness," writes Lanier; he further sees VR (and "mixed reality," where technology allows us to add virtual aspects to the rest of the world we perceive) as an exciting frontier for basic understanding what it means to be human and to perceive the world.
The chapters alternate between narrative memoir of the author's experience founding one of the first Silicon Valley startups dedicated to VR technology, and his musings on the phenomenon. Imagine, he asks us, what it is like to return to the very first memories of childhood, the time when our imagination could conjure anything we wanted, positive and wonderful or harmful. This is just some of the potential of the experience of VR, and we get an insider's thoughts on it - while he is demoing and discussing with Terry Gilliam, the Dalai Lama, Al Gore, Peter Gabriel, and Spinal Tap among others.


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