El Futuro Es Ahora / Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality By Jaron Lanier

    The ideas in this book are so refreshing, thrilling, amusing, enlightening, and sad that they had me eagerly looking forward to another session with it whenever I got a chance. I found myself fearing what was to come as I read the final chapters. If I say I wish it had turned out differently, it wouldn’t make much difference. I am just so relieved & reassured that such people exist. We share a sensibility. I suppose such people forever be shunted aside by more talky types, louder but not more capable. Anyway, this kind of talent shares a bounty that accrues to all of us.

    Everyone knows Lanier was exceptional for his ideas about Virtual Reality. He created, with others, an industry through the force of his imagination. What many may not recognize was that amid the multiple dimensions that made his work so special was his insistence on keeping the humanity—the imperfection, the uncertainty…the godliness, if you will—central in any technological project. It turns out that slightly less capable people could grasp the technology but not the humanity in his work, the humanity being the harder part by orders of magnitude.

    It was amusing, hearing such a bright light discuss ‘the scene’ that surrounded his spectacular ideas and work in the 1980s and ‘90s, the people who contributed, the people who brought their wonder and their needs. He gives readers some concept of what VR is, how complicated it is, what it may accomplish, but he never loses sight of the beauty and amazing reality we can enjoy each and every day that is only enhanced by VR. Much will be accomplished by VR in years to come, he is sure, but whether those benefits accrue to all society or merely to a select few may be an open question.

    While ethnic diversity is greater now in Silicon Valley than it was when Lanier went there in the 1980s, Lanier fears it has less cognitive diversity. And while the Valley has retained some of its lefty-progressive origins, many younger techies have swung libertarian. Lanier thinks the internet had some of those left-right choices early on its development, when he and John Perry Barlow had a parting of ways about how cyberspace should be organized. It is with some regret that we look back at those earlier arguments and admit that though Barlow “won,” Lanier may have been right.

    Lanier was always on the side of a kind of limited freedom, i.e., the freedom to link to and acknowledge where one’s ideas originated and who we pass them to; the freedom not to be anonymous; or dispensing with the notion that ideas and work are “free” to anyone wishing to access it. he acknowledges that there were, even then, “a mythical dimension of masculine success…that [contains] a faint echo of military culture…” Lanier tells us of “a few young technical people, all male, who have done harm to themselves stressing about” the number of alien civilizations and the possibility of a virtual world containing within it other virtual worlds. He suggests the antidote to this kind of circular thinking is to engage in and feel the “luscious texture of actual, real reality.”

    In one of his later chapters, Lanier shares Advice for VR Designers and Artists, a list containing the wisdom of years of experimenting and learning. His last point is to remind everyone not to necessarily agree with him or anyone else. “Think for yourself.” This lesson is one which requires many more steps preceding it, so that we know how to do this, and why it is so critical to trust one’s own judgement. There is room for abuse in a virtual system. “The more intense a communication technology is, the more intensely it can be used to lie.”

    But what sticks with me about the virtual experience that Lanier describes is how integral the human is to it. It is the interaction with the virtual that is so exciting, not our watching of it. Our senses all come into play, not just and not necessarily ideally, our eyes. When asked if VR ought to be accomplished instead by direct brain stimulation, bypassing the senses, Lanier’s answer illuminates the nature of VR:

    “Remember, the eyes aren’t USB cameras plugged into a Mr. Potato Head brain; they are portals on a spy submarine exploring an unknown universe. Exploration is perception.”
    If that quote doesn’t compute by reading it in the middle of a review, pick up the book. By the time he comes to it, it may just be the light you needed to see further into the meaning of technology.

    Lanier is not technical in this book. He knows he would lose most of us quickly. He talks instead about his own upbringing: you do not want to miss his personal history growing up in New Mexico and his infamous Dodge Dart. He talks also about going east (MIT, Columbia) and returning west (USC, Stanford), finding people to work with and inspiring others. He shares plenty of great stories and personal observations about some well-known figures in technology and music, and he divulges the devastating story of his first marriage and subsequent divorce. He talks about limerence, and how the horrible marriage might have been worth it simply because he understood something new about the world that otherwise he may not have known.

    All I know is that this was a truly generous and spectacular sharing of the early days of VR. It was endlessly engaging, informative, and full of worldly wisdom from someone who has just about seen it all. I am so grateful. This was easily the most intellectually exciting and enjoyable read I've read this year, a perfect summer read. Jaron Lanier Virtual Reality as Life Therapy

    I admit it: I was wrong. After reading Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments, I dismissed him as a half-literate techno-traitor peddling some personal resentment about a mis-spent life in technology; but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Steered by another GR reader, I ran smack into Dawn of the New Everything and immediately began groveling. Lanier is not only someone of integrity, he is the kind of person who is worthwhile aspiring to in the very specific sense that he has used his life to address the mystery of his life.

    The son of artistically and intellectually talented Holocaust survivors, Lanier’s personal life alone is worth knowing about. Raised in the wilds of West Texas, he started primary school in Mexico because the education was better and the bullying less. Before he left school he had designed and built a Theremin which not only made eerie music but also transformed the music into images that he projected at night onto his house.

    At age 13 his father allows him to design and build a geodesic home for them in the New Mexico desert. Dropping out of high school age 14, Lanier starts university before being accepted or even applying. His main worry isn’t dating, or grades or even nuclear war but the fragility of the earth’s orbit. He pays for university by starting a herd of goats from which he makes cheese for a hippie commune. At 15 he thinks up the idea of shared virtual reality: “putting each other in dreams.” By 17, he has flunked out but finds himself at 19 playing jazz sets with Richard Feynman at Calthech.

    Lanier then launches himself into a nascent Silicon Valley without even a high school diploma. At this point it becomes clear - certainly to the reader, perhaps at the time even to Lanier - what he has always been: a mystic. As I have discussed elsewhere (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...), mystics are not necessarily religious, and they are almost always annoying. They’re judgmental without apparent reason, socially awkward, irritatingly self-contained, and driven by strange and alien forces which they cherish. So indeed, does Lanier describe himself.

    Lanier‘s mysticism attaches itself to technology. In other times and places and circumstances, it might have taken to steam engines, or string concerts, or baroque architecture; but for him it happened to be computers and the emerging field of artificial intelligence. Mysticism is not a job description. No mystic ever got paid well, or at all, for being a mystic. But if they’re lucky, and Lanier was, they get to be mystical through what they do for a living.

    This isn’t easy to do. In the first instance, mysticism is not a conscious philosophy of life. Neither is it a systematic or rational roadmap for one’s career. Simply put, mystics make connections, usually strange ones which they can neither explain nor completely describe; they just know. They don’t analyse; they see wholes and marvel that others can’t. This makes them difficult to follow. They don’t proceed from a beginning leading to some terminal point; they proceed from beginning to beginning. There is only flow, process, indeterminacy; never a conclusion. This is precisely what annoyed me so intensely when I read Ten Arguments.

    But I know Lanier is a mystic primarily because of his attitude toward what he does. For him, VR is not just a scientific or technological pursuit; it is the central science and the most important area of technological development. It is for him, therefore, the core of human intellectual activity. Or, perhaps better said, it is the entirety of thought itself, and therefore of the universe. VR is Lanier’s language for the connections among things which are not connected in normal discourse - from neurology to cosmology and from preconscious sensation to eschatology. VR is code for these potential connections.

    VR is also an attitude, a stance toward the world, and a method: “Virtual reality peels away phenomena and reveals that consciousness remains and is real. Virtual reality is the technology that exposes you to yourself.” That is, the object of study through VR is not programming, or information, or ‘the world’ but oneself. This is a remarkably mystical point of view. It allows Lanier to devote himself to the technology without idolizing it. He knows its dark side, just as his knows his own.

    VR has a spiritual component for Lanier. “Virtual reality was and remains a revelation,” he says. Perhaps not for everyone, but I believe him. That’s what he experiences. VR for him is indeed a transcendent event. He explicitly admits as much: “As technology changes everything, we here have a chance to discover that by pushing tech as far as possible we can rediscover something in ourselves that transcends technology.”

    What is most interesting is the source of this transcendence. It isn’t in the successful creation of technology, but in the failure to do so: “Bugs were the dreams within virtual reality. They transformed you.” This realization brings with it a truly stirring thought: “Maybe there’s peace and happiness to be found in uncertainty. There isn’t anywhere else to look.” This in turn leads to a profound existential appreciation of what he is up to in his professional life: “VR is the technology that... highlights the existence of your subjective experience. It proves you are real.”

    Others who know much more about artificial intelligence and the practicalities of survival in Silicon Valley will have a different take on Dawn of the New Everything. But for me, Lanier’s book is a revelation about how it is possible to live one’s life, whether in high-tech or not. We all play the cards we’re dealt; but what’s special about Lanier, it seems to me, is that he took his hand and insisted on his own game: An unexpected inspiration. Jaron Lanier To many people, Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality. He coined the term in its contemporary usage though points to an older, literary use. Lanier is a credit-sharer, not a credit-grabber, so this memoir of his childhood, early work and years at VPL Research, Inc. is full of sharing the credit with mentors and collaborators. Lanier, though, is not your typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur/coder/inventor.

    First and foremost, Lanier is a humanist. Much of that may come from his unconventional childhood. He lost his mother in a car accident when he was young. He grew up in New Mexico in a house his father allowed him to design (geodesic, sort of). He was taking college classes before he graduated high school. In fact, he never graduated. Much of his life reads like Hunter S. Thompson without the drugs and misogyny. Wild, free, spontaneous, and on the edge, that was his life, but it was a life of learning, always thinking, always learning.

    He talks about the development of virtual reality and computers. He also explains why he does not fear the singularity because he does not believe in artificial intelligence. He explains why VR is the anti-AI. In fact, he has fifty-two definitions of VR which is, of course, the “new everything.” He believes that as we develop technology, we also develop, that machines will not outpace us.

    He is full of opinions that reflect his humanism. He thinks the “weightlessness” of the internet leads to the fakery, fraud, theft, and vile abusiveness that is so common. Folks do not have to invest themselves and that lets them be their worst selves. There, I am sure he is right.

    What the heck did I just read? That’s kind of how I have felt all through reading Dawn of the New Everything. I enjoyed every minute of it, but it was a wild ride. I don’t have the background to make this an easy read. I don’t code. I know how to make bold and italic text, but that’s about it. Even simple things like hyperlinks, I have to look at a sample. So, this is a book that I expected to take me out of my comfort zone. It did more than that.

    There’s a stream of consciousness kind of speed and spontaneity to the text. It feels like it was spoken, not written. Perhaps it was. More than anything, though, it was sort of hallucinogenic. I might not understand it all, but it’s all original. His major theme is that we need to center computing and technology on humanity, not on the technology for the sake of technology. Technology should be contoured to humanity and not seek to shape humanity to its contours.

    Lanier sees risk in technology if it is produced without empathy, but also sees tremendous potential for technology, particularly virtual reality, to create empathy. I enjoyed this book very much even though it was a challenge and took me far too long to read it.

    I received an e-galley of Dawn of the New Everything from the publisher through NetGalley. There were no photos or illustrations in the e-galley but I have paged through the released version and it’s full of pictures.

    Dawn of the New Everything at Macmillan / Henry Holt & Co.
    Jaron Lanier author site
    Interview with Business Insider

    https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre... Jaron Lanier There are moments of wonderful insight in here, but way too few to justify a meandering memoir. I really enjoyed Lanier's interview on Ezra Klein's podcast and bought this book to hear more of that conversation, but the podcast was basically where all the good stuff was. It was fascinating to hear about the culture of silicon valley and Lanier's experiences in AI, but I just don't care enough about him or his life to have made this book worthwhile. Jaron Lanier Very interesting and fascinating. Jaron Lanier

    The father of virtual reality explains its dazzling possibilities by reflecting on his own lifelong relationship with technology.

    Bridging the gap between tech mania and the experience of being inside the human body, Jaron Lanier has written a three-pronged adventure into virtual reality, by exposing its ability to illuminate and amplify our understanding of our species. An inventive blend of autobiography, science writing, philosophy, and advice, this book tells the wild story of his personal and professional life as a scientist, from his childhood in the UFO territory of New Mexico, to the loss of his mother, the founding of the first start-up, and finally becoming a world-renowned technological guru. Understanding virtual reality as being both a scientific and cultural adventure, Lanier demonstrates it to be a humanistic setting for technology. While his previous books offered a more critical view of social media and other manifestations of technology, in this book he argues that virtual reality can actually make our lives richer and fuller. Dawn of the New Everything is ultimately a look at what it means to be human at a moment of unprecedented technological possibility, giving readers a new perspective on how the brain and body connect to the world. El Futuro Es Ahora / Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Having already read Lanier's other two books You Are Not a Gadget and Who Owns the Future, I'm very familiar with his humanist views on technology and the questionable ethics of how technology is being implemented in our current age - But Lanier is also the pioneer of Virtual Reality and in this book he reveals his incredible and bizarre life story. From raising goats and living in a geodesic dome of his own design in rural New Mexico, to making his way to a young Silicon Valley where he and a ragtag group of hippie hackers developed the first VR company and VR systems - It's a really fun read.

    Though Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist, philosopher and arguably one of the most brilliant people alive, his writing style is accessible and not overly technical. His thoughts meander a good bit but in to humorous territory, and he stays relatively focused and bounces between his life story and his thoughts on VR.

    I would consider this (and his other books) required reading if you even remotely consider yourself a technologist or work in technology. We are forging ahead too quickly, blindly, and stupidly and building an unsustainable surveillance economy which does not empower people - Awareness is the most important thing for changing it, and Lanier is a refreshing dose of badly needed humanism. He continues that trend in this book as he discusses the true promise of technology - Making us more connected, more empathic, more empowered, and building an egalitarian society where everyone benefits from it. Jaron Lanier Lanier's memoir-ish recounting of the creation of virtual reality technology and his philosophical musings on technology and how it impacts actual reality was well worth the read. I had numerous of course moments at the cross-cultural intersections of technology and society at large, i.e. technology and Silicon Valley intersecting with the psychedelic movement. Jaron Lanier Fascinating account of the history of VR from one of its founders intermingled with autobiography and philosophical musings about technology and humanity. I enjoyed every word. Don't ignore the appendices. They're also worth the time. Jaron Lanier A little bit of every sort of book in here. Jaron Lanier First a confession that might surprise those who know my interests in general: I've never been even slightly interested in VR. Coming from a game research background, it's seemed to me just a visual gimmick to distract from lack of actual substance, which of course is located in the world of pure ideas, separate from eyesight. Then my spouse dragged home this half-autobiography of a VR pioneer that has been dubbed both a luddite and a visionary. It seemed so intriguing I started reading, and then I couldn't put it down. It seems I've only encountered some modern day works that don't really do justice to the medium.

    Lanier is really one of those modern day renaissance geniuses and has that hallmark feature of a good thinker, that even if some of his ideas don't sound convincing at first you still want to hear more about the thinking behind them. I can't give this book five stars because it's somewhat uneven after the founding of VPL, but it's very worth reading. Oh and don't skip the appendixes - they might be the best part of the book. Jaron Lanier

    read El Futuro Es Ahora / Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality