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Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

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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.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published November 28, 2017

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About the author

Jaron Lanier

22 books1,271 followers
Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author.
In the sciences:

Jaron Lanier scientific interests include biomimetic information architectures, user interfaces, heterogeneous scientific simulations, advanced information systems for medicine, and computational approaches to the fundamentals of physics. He collaborates with a wide range of scientists in fields related to these interests.

Lanier's name is also often associated with Virtual Reality research. He either coined or popularized the term 'Virtual Reality' and in the early 1980s founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. In the late 1980s he led the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays, for both local and wide area networks, as well as the first "avatars", or representations of users within such systems. While at VPL, he and his colleagues developed the first implementations of virtual reality applications in surgical simulation, vehicle interior prototyping, virtual sets for television production, and assorted other areas. He led the team that developed the first widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual reality applications. Sun Microsystems acquired VPL's seminal portfolio of patents related to Virtual Reality and networked 3D graphics in 1999.

From 1997 to 2001, Lanier was the Chief Scientist of Advanced Network and Services, which contained the Engineering Office of Internet2, and served as the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion Initiative, a coalition of research universities studying advanced applications for Internet2. The Initiative demonstrated the first prototypes of tele-immersion in 2000 after a three-year development period. From 2001 to 2004 he was Visiting Scientist at Silicon Graphics Inc., where he developed solutions to core problems in telepresence and tele-immersion. He was Scholar at Large for Microsoft from 2006 to 2009, and Partner Architect at Microsoft Research from 2009 forward.

Lanier has received honorary doctorates from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Franklin and Marshall College, was the recipient of CMU's Watson award in 2001, was a finalist for the first Edge of Computation Award in 2005, and received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE in 2009 for contributions to Virtual Reality.


Lanier is a well-known author and speaker. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. His book "You Are Not a Gadget" was released in 2010 and was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Michiko Kakutani in the NY Times. He writes and speaks on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technological practices, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. His lecture client list has included most of the well-known high technology firms as well as many others in the energy, automotive, and financial services industries. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Discover (where he has been a columnist), The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, The Sciences, Wired Magazine (where he was a founding contributing editor), and Scientific American. He has edited special "future" issues of SPIN and Civilization magazines. He is one of the 100 remarkable people of the Global Business Network. In 2005 Lanier was selected as one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by readers of Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines.


As a musician, Lanier has been active in the world of new "classical" music since the late seventies. He is a pianist and a specialist in unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments of Asia. He maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played rare instruments in the world.

Lanier's "Symphony for Amelia," premiered in Octo

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 140 reviews
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
December 7, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,416 followers
June 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Tonstant Weader.
1,185 reviews66 followers
December 31, 2017
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

Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
February 25, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Kent Winward.
1,679 reviews46 followers
July 9, 2018
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.
272 reviews2 followers
July 20, 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.
Profile Image for Blake Williford.
20 reviews2 followers
March 19, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Colin Ellard.
Author 7 books27 followers
July 5, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Louhikärmes.
81 reviews20 followers
October 14, 2022
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.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,145 reviews188 followers
March 14, 2018
I was very looking forward to reading this book. I have not gotten too much into virtual reality but it is something that intrigues me. Therefore I was very interested in what Mr. Lanier had to say as one of the first to experience virtual reality.

What I got was some history about his childhood. Not that I did not find it interesting that he and his father lived in the desert for years. Yet, for the most part I really did not find that much interesting. The further that I read the more I started to get turned off. After getting a third of the way into the book and not finding myself looking forward to reading anymore, I put this book down. If it had been just about the history of virtual reality, without the memoir aspect, I may have stuck with this book longer.
Profile Image for Jim Nail.
Author 3 books9 followers
December 18, 2017
I really don’t know how to review this book, it is so completely removed from the life I have lived. But I read every word of it, understood some of it, and learned a lot about the world as it is and where it is going. If, like me, you are a boomer who followed the hippie dream and paid no attention to the technical revolution going on at the same time, you might benefit from reading Jaron Lanier. He links the two dreams of the 60s with a passionate humanism that guides his innovative work and thought. If you are feeling terrified by the future, you might find some comfort here.
Profile Image for Kyle.
433 reviews10 followers
April 1, 2018
A comprehensive explanation of the evolution of virtual reality and its related technologies, there are a few dozen attempts to define what it is Lanier has developed and promoted most of his life. More surprising to find so much autobiographical details from childhood onwards. An unconventional life made slightly suspect by his habit of being an unreliable narrator, yet fitting for some so immersed in illusion.
Profile Image for Orsayor.
532 reviews3 followers
January 31, 2018
Informative Read. Usually not my cup of tea - but I do believe if you are interested in Virtual Reality - then this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Herval Freire.
20 reviews8 followers
September 14, 2019
A memoir interwoven with some attempts to make VR something spiritual and larger than life. Absolutely nothing like I expected, unfortunately :(
Profile Image for Venky.
949 reviews341 followers
December 27, 2019
Usually when a man credited with coining a technical term, expounds about his creation, the outcome is inevitably anticipated to be dense, it not downright esoteric – expect for a segment of the populace that terms itself fraternity. Unless such a man goes by the name of Jaron Lanier that is. The author of the best-seller “You Are Not a Gadget”, and “Who Owns The Future”, in his latest book, “The Dawn Of the New Everything”, gives a vantage techno-spiritual overview of the concept of virtual reality. Universally acknowledged as one of the pioneers of this immersion technology, and also the computer scientist who coined the term VR for the first time, Mr. Lanier has penned what can be correctly described as a riveting quasi-memoir.

Here’s summarizing the latest offering of Techverse’s most famous recluse:

A deeply personal and touching memoir where Mr. Lanier dwells about the devastating loss of his mother in an automobile accident and how he was left to nurse this scar for a protracted period of time. Writing in a matter-of-fact manner, Mr. Lanier described as to how before turning seventeen he designed his family home, an asymmetric, futuristic, weird angled geodesic dome. Not surprisingly, he chose to call it, “Earth Station Lanier.” This following the burning down of their home in an arson attack. Unable to obtain any compensation from the insurance companies, the prodigious Mr. Lanier and his equally prodigious father Ellery (Ellery went on to obtain a PhD in his eighties), were forced to live for some time in a tent. If this reads unbelieving, wait until you get to the part where he deals with goats and musical instruments;

Possessing an inveterate and a preternatural zeal for music, Mr. Lanier accumulates musical instruments at a rate which puts even the reproduction capabilities of rabbits to utter shame! From the conventional to the bizarre, Mr. Lanier’s personal collection numbers at least a whopping 1,000!
Stretch limos are passé; goat limos are in! Procuring a goat so that he could make money by selling cheese, which in turn would enable the payment of his tuition fee, Mr. Lanier comes to the firm conclusion that many are better than one. Modifying an already modified care – one with a missing back seat – he stuffs bales of hay where there once was a seat and where one rightfully should be too, thereby converting the battered car into a barn. This “goat limo” facilitated Mr. Lanier going about his chores while, “moving the lovely creatures around in style.”
In a Where-C.S.Lewis-meets-J.R.R.Tolkien fantasy, while still attending high school, Mr. Lanier gets himself enrolled at New Mexico State University. In the course of studying computer science, he comes across the exploits of Ivan Sutherland, a pioneering tech enthusiast, who, in the 1960s, conceived a head-mounted display permitting an individual to view a digital world, the preserve of computer programs. Another book that gets a special mention by Mr. Lanier is the complex work, “Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”, popularly known as GEB, penned by Douglas Hofstadter
Virtual Reality is a kaleidoscope of a myriad definitions. In this book, Mr. Lanier defines Virtual Reality in more than fifty – yes you read that right – different ways. From the Triptych of Hieronymus Bosch to haptic Data Gloves and Headsets named Sword of Damocles, the medley is just jaw-dropping! However, at the heart of every definition lies a benevolent and benign concept of beauty. The objective of VR is to encourage young people “create beauty” in stark contradistinction to the greedy multinational corporations where hackers, “twitch our marionette strings.”
The story of how a group of happy-go-lucky, carefree and creative spirits brought together their eccentricities and enthusiasm to form a formidable VR Company – VPL Inc. – demonstrates in clinical fashion the heights to which an unshackled human spirit full of vibrancy and bereft of the weight of expectancy can soar. However, Mr. Lanier’s story also underscores how swiftly and unfortunately such a vision can disintegrate, if not evaporate as after a bout of differences of opinion, involvement of venture capitalists and gung-ho marketers, Mr. Lanier leaves the very company that he founded. In a typical self-deprecating and humourous manner, Mr. Lanier blames himself rather than castigating any of the protagonists involved in the rupture of VPL. In fact, throughout the book, he refuses to bite the bait, in the form of the lure which a juicy story about a rambunctious board battle could bring both to the author and to the published work. He prudently and steadfastly steers away from making controversial statements of any ilk;
VPL existed for all of five years during the course of which Mr. Lanier had the opportunity to engage in eclectic collaborations. Partnering surgeons in an effort to design higher quality prosthetics to working in tandem with military personnel on defense contracts, Mr. Lanier attempted to elevate the utility of Virtual Reality to a height hitherto experienced or ascended. In fact, VR’s coming-of-age movie, The Lawnmower Man featured VPL’s ‘EyePhone’, a headset capable of tracking head movements. VPL’s most famous invention, arguably, the haptic “DataGlove” appeared on the front cover of Scientific American in 1987.
A phantasmagoria of characters appears in a whorl throughout this curious book. Ace Hollywood Director Steven Spielberg, Marvin Minsky, the American cognitive scientist concerned largely with research of artificial intelligence (AI), and co-founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AI laboratory; Andy Herzfeld, the father of the Macintosh Operating System; Larry Tesler, the inventor of the browser; acid Guru Timothy Leary; and the inimitable and brilliant genius Richard Feynman, who taught Mr. Lanier how to form geometrical designs using one’s fingers to think about chirality. This phalanx of geniuses and their indelible contribution to the fields of Science and Technology leaves the reader with a sense of awe.
The biggest takeaway from the book however, lies in Mr. Lanier’s clamour about the plummeting ethical standards that has become the cornerstone of today’s technology domain. While multinational corporations are flush with wealth, a predominant proportion of such accumulated riches come, courtesy tracking online identities. Cybersecurity firms ubiquitously prowl the unseen digital world compromising the data privacy and security of millions of gullible and unsuspecting people. In the words of Mr. Lanier, “The strange new truth is that almost no one has privacy and yet no one knows what’s going on.”
Author 7 books45 followers
November 23, 2019
This is a strange book. Most likely that is because Jaron Lanier has the money to do whatever the hell wants, and that's exactly what he does.

The father of virtual reality writes an autobiography. That's the best way to explain this book. Along the way, he teaches you a great deal about (wait for it) virtual reality.

The extremely clever part of the book is that Jaron Lanier examines how each person examines reality in a different way. He communicates this by telling his life story in the way he remembers it. His memory is fragmented. He discusses how he has trouble remembering faces. He believes we should celebrate cognitive diversity at this point in history, and we're nowhere near that ideal. He later interestingly criticizes Silicon Valley for only recruiting employees who are on the spectrum.

He uses virtual reality as an example of how people prize different senses over others, and how that doesn't work when you're actually programming a reality. He gives you an expansive perspective on how the human mind consciously understands the world. He then tells you exactly what tech companies are doing with that information these days and why he doesn't like it. You walk away from this book with a broadened perspective. You're much more vigilant in regards to your cognitive biases after he's done with you.

That said, Jaron Lanier takes the scenic route to get you there. This is a long book. He has many digressions about the start of Silicon Valley, philosophical questions, and any personal anecdote he wishes to tell you. It's like having a brilliant professor speak to you who has never been told to tighten up his set.

I enjoyed the whole ride. He's a fantastic writer. I especially loved his views on life when brought to fruition through his unique experiences. He has such a quirky view on the world, and he's had such a weird life. It was a pleasure to get to hear so much of it. I feel like I learned a lot from his mental wanderings.

Profile Image for Fraser Kinnear.
774 reviews38 followers
February 22, 2018
Well, I learned a lot about VR (e.g., why we'll never have floating holograms, VR programming concerns like latency, and the pros and cons of various interfaces). Lanier has a pretty rosy perspective of how the tech will develop, and why our experience with VR will be much more creative and positive than the existing opinion about video games and social media. Much of this book is memiors from a wild, alternative Bay-Area lifestyle. For better or for worse, there is a ton of name dropping (why else does one write a memior?), and some fun academic gossip / oral history, like this:

One reason the term 'artificial intelligence' came into being (at a conference in Dartmouth in the late 1950's) is that more than a few of [Norbert] Weiner's colleagues couldn't stand him. They felt compelled to come up with an alternative name because 'cybernetics' was starting to catch on and was associated with Weiner. The alternative they came up with did not mean the same thing. Artificial intelligence purported to describe qualities of future computers without reference to people, suggesting that computers would become free-standing entities that will exist even if all people died, even if after nobody is left to observe them.

Actually, far more interesting than the VR stuff was Lanier's various opinions about the culture and technology of tech today. While some of his opinions are curmudgeonly/didactic (e.g., the critique of programming today not being the same as his hey-dey, because he was writing code all the way down to the chip level) or economically naive (we ought to switch the internet economy over to a micro-payment system to replace today's data-hoarding/advertising business model), there are a lot of pretty great gems. Here's a decent list of quotes:

- "The more designers tried to make [Google] glass blend in - just a tiny little fashionable thing on the face - the more it stood out, like a pimple. The question of what stands out in a design is always part of a negotiation about power. There's a conceit in Google glass and related devices - the wearers of such devices will eventually be given the stealthy super power of omniscient x-ray vision. But to an unadorned person nearby, it can feel like a surveillance device, as if the human face had been redesigned into an Orwellian demon mask. But (and this is the core problem), both the wearer and the supposedly less naked face observed by the device are in fact subservient. In the terms of information superiority, whoever is running the cloud computer that oversees the whole arrangement from afar is the master of both people. Even the wearer is worn."

- "Please keep the following in mind when you read "think pieces" about how robots deserve empathy. Tech writers have a bad habit of articulating "big ideas" that happen to serve the interests of the big tech companies at a given moment. There were a lot of pieces about the evils of copyright when Google was making an unprecedented instant fortune by plowing over copyright. Similarly, a flood of radical think pieces praising the end of privacy and the value of collectivity appeared when Facebook was first commoditizing and cornering the market on digital personal identity."

-"The thing about Netflix, though, is that it doesn't offer a comprehensive catalog, especially of recent hot releases. If you think of any particular movie, it might be available for streaming. The recommendation engine is a magician's misderiction, distracting you from the fact that not everything is available. So is the algorithm intelligent, or are the people making themselves somewhat blind and silly in order to make the algorithm seem intelligent... Your friends, lovers, purchases, and insecure "gig-economy" gigs are broght to you by acts of misdirection that echo Netflix's moot algorithm. A bounty of options seems to be out there on the net somewhere, too many to evaluate on your own. Life is short, so you suspend disbelief and trust in the algorithms. A fool is born..."

-"The only difference between perceiving an evil AI machine that destroys humanity and perceiving total incompetence on the part of techologiests and the military i that the second interpretation is actionable. Every time you believe in AI, you are reducing your belief in human agency and value. You are undoing yourself and everyone else."

- "When I realized that status is fractal: the pattern repeats itself at every scale, small and large. When the titans of industry are gathered in a room, there will always be one who is the designated loser, relatively speaking...[when Lanier found himself in a new social circle] I experienced yet another local minima" [This reminds me much of DFW's envy has no reciprocal concept. He would have appreciated Lanier's fractal analogy]

-"There also was an interior problem with activism. You start to find your own worth in the cause, and that's too narrow a formulation. Activists start to fudge a little to reinforce each other. You pretend you're having more impact than you really are and that you agree more than you really do."

-"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 underlying icy 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."

-"With a real news source like the New York Times, I read, I get the news, and then I'm done. If the Times's business model includes getting me to look at ads along the way, and perhaps be persuaded, great. But if the business model is to hold on to me, to manage my choices for hours and hours of the day, then real news isn't of much use. It gets read - used up - too quickly. Unlike the news, a news feed needs me to get cranky, insecure, scared, or angry. That's what will keep me in a Skinner box, where a service can manage which button is the easiest for me to reach. The current business model of social media requires that it become part of the life of a user during all waking hours, even in the middle of the night, if one can't sleep. Real news and considered opinions don't serve that goal well enough. The sober contemplation of reality doesn't take up enough time."
Profile Image for David.
172 reviews2 followers
May 5, 2021
This was a fantastic book and a special one at that!

This book is about 55% percent autobiographical and the rest a study of virtual reality. Is this a disappointment? Is it misleading? No. The biographical aspects very much lead the reader down the road to better understanding why Jaron Lanier pursued this dream, how upbringing informed his world view and how he sees the future of VR.

With the exception of the appendix, the technological aspects of the book are easy to understand, are interesting, and are much a commentary on the history of immersive technologies as they are VR.

Whilst I was initially surprised (and baffled) by the intermingling of biography and technology, but they work together so well it is hard to see how contrasting they are.
Profile Image for Nade.
33 reviews19 followers
June 26, 2021
Mr. Lanier writes about music, family, love, goat herding, the Wild West days of Silicon Valley in the 70s, 80s and 90s and of course technology like no one else. This is a book for everyone but especially people who want to gain an insight into what and who cooked up the digital world we live in today.
Profile Image for Murilo Queiroz.
144 reviews15 followers
September 3, 2019
I'm old enough to remember the "first wave" of Virtual Reality, so the historical / autobiographical chapters of this book are very interesting to me. And Jaron Lanier ideas are always thought-provoking and out-of-the-box: you are not going to find the usual hype about VR/AR/MR here, but comments more philosophical, subtle and humane. Just like in You Are Not a Gadget, it's hard to agree with the author on everything, but the discussion is very rich anyway.
Profile Image for Jacques Coulardeau.
Author 29 books29 followers
June 2, 2021
Mesmerizingly Esoteric

A very surprising book from an extremely surprising person, best known for his public appearances as a public speaker or lecturer, as a musician innovating all the time in styles and with new at times exotic instruments, and as one of the historic founders of Virtual Reality. The book then is a typical likeness of the author. It contains fifty-two definitions of Virtual Reality from page 3 to page 309. You can sort them out, but it will be hard for you to make any global sense of them all because every single one is dictated by its environment in the book and the book follows many tracks. Personal recollections of his childhood, youth, and life in general. The personal approach of cybernetics, informatics, computer science, coding, in the perspective of Virtual Reality. Personal reflections on Silicon Valley and other cybernetic sites, places, and locales where computers are not a simple tool to process a text or an image but a complex and complicated network of machines trying to create a virtual universe that would feel haptically real for a Persona in an Avatar that would discover a completely different and new experiential and existential feeling of life, a virtual life that would be even more powerful than real life, because of the Avatarization of his/her/their beings.

Jaron Lanier even goes into the philosophy and the ethics of cyberpunk cybernetics in cyberspace endowed with cyber rights and rejecting all cyber-derived ideologies like cyber-Darwinian effect or cyber-Marxist utopia. That leads him to refuse any extension of Darwinism, or Darwinian evolution from the field of biology to the field of machines on one hand, which means the refusal of the Kurzweilian utopian dystopia of the nanobotic hybridized human beings. In the same way, he refuses any implementation of Marxism in real life, on the other hand, and the negation of history in the utopian dystopia of communism as a rewriting of the Jewish and Christian Messianic Jerusalem.

He considers in chapter 11 that man is not dominant visual. He is totally wrong on one hand and absolutely right on the other. In real life, he is wrong. Human beings are first of all visual based on the auditory underlayer because when a child is born, he arrives in the real world with the registered memorial sound clusters that he is going to immediately associate with some people or items in the real-life he discovers because these clusters are the names of people around the mother, some words she used over and over and other people used around her. The referents of these clusters are the junction of a visual entity to an auditory memorized cluster of sounds. Of course, the child in the womb was floating in haptics, and only haptics till the 24the week of his gestation. But the 24th week is for the child a revolution, a new dimension, and birth at the end of nine months will bring a second revelation, eyesight. Haptics then remain fundamental, but as the foundation, the fundament, not as the most significant elements. Haptics have to be curbed, dominated, even censored in real life under an Authority that comes from various agencies around the newborn. By the age of 24 months, the child will be clean, will have been weaned for quite some time, will be regular, and thus ready to integrate society in which he will walk and which he will discover.

But yet Jaron Lanier is uppermostly right in considering that haptics are fundamental and absolutely dominant and crucial in Virtual Reality for the simple reason that in Virtual Reality the Authority the child has been confronted with since birth is pushed aside. The subject becomes a physical subject that the mind can take off like a garment, and the subject can put on a new Persona in a new Avatar. That means the Ego of the subject is side-tracked by the mind and replaced by a virtual Ego, the Ego of the Persona, and the Avatar. That means too the Phallus of the Ego of the subject is provided with some elements of the new Persona and Avatar, but it may also be reconstructed to correspond to the new Persona and the new Avatar. Hence the subject in Virtual Reality takes off his body, his Ego, and his Phallus, though he keeps his impulses, desires, instincts though he/she/they will curb term all to fit the new Persona and Avatar, then the subject will don a new phallus or Ideal of the Ego, and a new Ego. Imagine a 20-year-old man entering Virtual Reality as a 25-year-old woman entirely dominated by her sexual desires, and she will satisfy her hunger within a couple of days, and she will get pregnant and deliver a child nine months later. And all this female Persona in this female Avatar or body will experience all this sexual desire, pregnancy, and delivery as if it were real because in Virtual Reality everything is real that happens there.

But Jaron Lanier does not seem to take into account the great human invention that is called language. An invention going back 300,000 years when Homo Sapiens emerged from Homo Ergaster who had emerged from Homo Erectus in Black Africa. He does not take into account the acquisition and development of language by the newborn, starting in the 24th week of his/her/their mother’s pregnancy. The subject who gets into some Virtual Reality does not lose the ability to speak and communicate. He/she/they might push it down or aside to live more in their haptics, hence in their basically animal dimension, but the language remains in the mind of the subject and the subject projects it into the “mind” of the Persona and Avatar. But the subject is free, and he/she/they can modify the language into some kind of new language, cybernetic language, esoteric language, multilingual language, etc. but this language will remain human language, communicational language, no matter how much the subject will have distorted it to fit it to the new Persona and Avatar and the Virtual Reality environment, including the other Personae and Avatars he/she/they are going to meet.

Virtual Reality then is a revolution in the psyche of the subject. If we follow Jacques Lacan in this field of the psychological and mental structure of the subject, we can see that the deepest and most animalistic tier of the subject, his impulses, instincts, desires, particularly those that have been repressed or dominated into some kind of normalcy, will have the opportunity to liberate what had been mastered because the Authority that mastered it is no longer there. Regressive, some will say, with a lot of transference and countertransference onto the entities the virtualized subject will encounter. The Ego tier of the subject is totally (at least in theory) pushed aside and replaced by a new Persona in a new Avatar. The “I” of real-life no longer is, and it has been replaced by an “I” in Virtual Reality? Welcome to this new “Ego” that, at once, sorts out the old phallus or Ideal of the Ego of the real subject to replace it, reconstruct it into a new Ideal of the Ego, a new Ideal of the New Ego of the Persona in the Avatar. No one here can predict what this Ideal of an Ego in this new Ego confronted to unforeseen and unforeseeable Personae in unforeseen and unforeseeable Avatars can be, will be, but we can be sure this new being will have to have reactions. The question to wonder how much of the real subject’s existential knowledge will survive in this new Persona-Avatar. Probably more than we can know, in varying proportions from one subject to the next because the Authority that controlled the real subject has disappeared and has been replaced by an existential and experiential new situation that carries in itself this Authority without which there is no life. The Virtual Authority is going to be dominated and determined by the environment, the various Personae that will meet in this environment, and their actions on the environment and among themselves, among one another.

Imagine a young subject entering such a Virtual Reality with the maximum command of Artificial Intelligence and 5G. He/she/they have no limits except their ability and competence to use these utmost cybernetic tools that give the virtual Persona-Avatar the power of believing and trying to be God Almighty, omniscient, etc. That’s where Jaron Lanier stops. He knows such Virtual Reality cybernetic technology could be used within the school system, within education but he does not even consider the possibility, at least with any serious intention to devise something in this domain (despite some episode in his real-life with Boeing, for example). He would have then discovered that another concept is necessary. The concept of synesthesia, meaning the centering of all senses not on haptics but on the couple eyesight-hearing that could be expanded to some touch (skin contact) and some feeling (soul-mind contact, empathy, and other feelings of the type). He rejects in half a sentence Marshall McLuhan he quotes three times and that deprives him of this fundamental concept of synesthesia. Our capture of the world – particularly the mediatic world captured on a screen, including the “screen” or Virtual Reality – is immediate, without any delay, and it involves our five corporeal senses more or less centered on the visual-auditory magnifying glass all of them informed and mapped onto the direct situation by the sixth sense of the Buddhists, the Mind. And that is where some education projects can be articulated onto this cybernetic, informatics, computer-scientific virtual universe that could be an extension of the real world and not a negation of it. How can we lead the twelve learners of a class in this virtual extension of the real world with the objective of enabling them to learn something they will be able to use in the real world to achieve some goal, scheme, project?

We have here to understand the world in which we could be trying to introduce the learners is threefold. First, it is action in this virtual world in order to improve our action in the real world. Second, language as a communicational tool constantly used during the Virtual Reality experience and of course before, to prepare the trip, preparation that would be better if collective, and after to exploit the trip’s results. Third, the subjects should be entering this Virtual Reality experience as if in the case of Lucid Dreaming. Dreaming to explore now vistas beyond our real limits and lucid to keep in mind we are supposed to bring something back from this Virtual Reality dream in order to improve our knowledge, our life, the life of our community by developing their knowledge from what we have discovered.

The book is crucial, but it is only one step in a never-ending staircase that gets invisible up in the sky of our objectives. Jaron Lanier remains a dreamer, a lucid dreamer definitely, but he does not seem to be willing or ready to implement Virtual Reality in Kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities, plus educational institution for adults who will need more education all along in their whole their lives, right to the end, at least right to the moment they may lose their consciousness and utilitarianistic dimension.

Profile Image for Thomas.
241 reviews44 followers
December 21, 2022
I'm really interested in this guy's ideas but he just ain't a very good writer is he
Profile Image for Teo 2050.
840 reviews80 followers
April 8, 2020


Lanier J (2017) (14:28) Dawn of the New Everything - Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality


Preface: Virtual Reality’s Moment

• What Is It?
• What Can a Book Do That VR Can’t, at Least as Yet?
• How to Read This Book
• Meeting My Younger Self

01. 1960s: Terrors of Eden
• Border
• Window
• Trifecta
• Mood
• Spun
• Beyond Recall
• Sound
• Outlasting Cruelty
• First Experiment
• Burned

02. Rescue Spacecraft
• Landed
• Where in the Universe?
• Whence
• Permission
• Build
• Habitat

03. Batch Process
• From Atoms to Bits and Back Again
• Access
• The Nasty Bits
• Goats
• Pixels in Real Life
• Stacks
• Prize
• Pestering Strangers About Ivan

04. Why I Love VR (About the Basics)
• The Mirror Reveals
• Verb Not Noun
• A Vice to Avoid
• The Technology of Noticing Oneself

05. Bug in the System (About the Dark Side of VR)
• Paranoid Android
• Terror Equation
• Bipolar Bits

06. Road
• Dome Done
• Film Flam
• First Time in the City
• Down Spiral
• Back in Flames
• Aztec Outpost; Wheels
• Inquests
• Consensus and Sensibility

07. Coast
• Casual Enrollment
• City on a Pill
• Rainbow’s Gravity
• Protogoogle
• Audience
• Transcript

08. Valley of Unearthly Delights
• El Paso del Cyber
• Optimal Us, and Them
• Finite and Infinite Games
• Loop Skywalker
• You Have to Get Awfully Weird to Avoid Becoming a Behaviorist
• Grounded
• A Club That Would Have Me as a Member
• Code Culture

09. Alien Encounters
• The Essential Bug
• Rent-a-Mom
• Young Guru of Loneliness
• Realization
• Despite Myself
• Math Against Loneliness?

10. The Feeling of Immersion
• Woman as Social Stem Cell
• Impossible Objects
• Triptych
• Reality Engine Engine
• Much Touch
• Haptic Antics

11. To Don the New Everything (About Haptics with a Little About Avatars)
• Blind Bind
• Hand-Waving Demo; Digital Interface
• Passive Haptics
• Bearing Arms
• Haptic Lemonade
• First VR Consumer Product
• Interspecies Gastric Haptics
• Octopus Butler Robot
• Lick the Problem
• Deepest Time Machine
• Haptic Intelligence
• As If One Obsession Weren’t Enough
• Harm and Heal

12. Nautical Dawn
• Other Sighs
• Other Everythings
• The Previous Everything
• Stim City
• Legitimacy, Hair, a Giant’s Shoulder
• Dixie-Futurism
• Ants on a Mission
• On Track

13. Six Degrees (A Little About Sensors and VR Data)
• The Eyes Must Wander
• The Brain Integrates
• A Moving Experience
• Sea Legs, Virtual Legs
• Virtual Realism Versus Virtual Idealism

14. Found
• Bite Before Hook
• Peanut Sauce Gallery
• Dotted Lines
• Round Horizon
• Deputy Top Suit
• Footprint
• We Shipped!

15. Be Your Own Pyramidion (About Visual Displays for VR)
• Remembering the EyePhone
• That Thing on Your Head
• When to Take a Pass
• The Ridiculous Mistake That Floats in the Air All Around Us
• A Gadget Spectrum
• The Inner Extreme on the Spectrum
• The Outer Extreme
• Scope Is the Thing with Feathers
• Étendue
• The Duplex Problem

16. The VPL Experience
• In-Spiral
• Veeple
• What VR Was For
• Surgical Training
• Tradewinds
• A Few of Our American Projects
• Soldiers and Spooks
• Characters
• Spin-Offs

17. Inside-Out Spheres (A Little About VR “Video” and Sound)
• VideoSphere
• AudioSphere

18. Scene
• Demolition
• The Art of the Demo
• The Art of the World
• Advice for VR Designers and Artists
• Flags Planted
• Moniker on the Loose
• The Party
• Ricochet la Femme
• Dark Lineage
• Flattering Mirror

19. How We Settled into a Seed for the Future
• Virtual Rights, but Not Virtual Economic Rights
• The Easy Road to World Domination
• Microgravity
• The Invisible Hand Improves When It Is Made Visible as an Avatar Hand
• Birth of a Religion
• Love the Work, Not the Myth
• Alien Virtual Reality

20. 1992, Out
• MicroCosm
• VR, Trapped in the Movies
• Voluminous Possibilities Lost
• In Slickness and in Stealth
• The Sound of One Hand
• The End of One Finite Game

21. Coda: Reality’s Foil
• Afterword

Appendix One: Postsymbolic Communication (About the Reveries of One of My Classic VR Talks)
• More Transcript
• Kind of Blue
• Speak, Tentacles!
• Poïesis
• Fascination Versus Suicide
• Rue Goo

Appendix Two: Phenotropic Fevers (About VR Software)
• Mandatory Metamorphosis
• Grace
• Picture This
• Sleight
• Editor and Mapping
• Variation
• Phenotropic Trial Run
• Scale
• Motivation
• Role Reversal
• Expression
• The Wisdom of Imperfection
• Resilience
• Adapt
• Swing
• Rubble Fills Plato’s Cave
• Many Caves, Many Shadows, but Only Your Eyes

Appendix Three: Dueling Demigods
• Not Artificial, but Imaginary
• The Banality of Weightlessness
• The Invisible Hand on a Multitouch Screen
• The Absurdity of Demanding That AI Fix Itself
• The Humane Use of Human Systems

Profile Image for Robert Craven.
Author 12 books25 followers
December 31, 2020
A wonderful and insightful biography by one of the founders of Virtual Reality. It is raw, honest and very well written.
Excellent appendices and never descends into geek jargon. well worth the investment.
Profile Image for Corrie Campbell.
69 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2018
I chose to read this book on the recommendation of Ezra Klein from Vox after listening to his podcast. That's the last time I do that. To be fair, the book was interesting and okay, but a bit tedious and long. I appreciated the biographical parts of Jaron Lanier's book because his story is infinitely more interesting than the history of virtual reality. Sadly, you really can't separate the two as he is really a type of founding father to virtual reality in Silicon Valley.

Nonetheless, if you are even mildly interested in virtual reality, you will learn something new. If you know nothing about Jaron Lanier you will be amused and entertained. Although, get ready for long-winded ride.
494 reviews
July 25, 2018
Wow--SO MUCH to think about. This was an amazing book. Lanier was like a friend visiting over a cup of coffee--or a bowl of noodles. Loved this.
Profile Image for Antonio Gallo.
Author 6 books42 followers
November 28, 2017
Che cos’è la realtà? La risposta presuppone la conoscenza dei “luoghi”, reali e virtuali, nei quali ogni giorno viviamo e che crediamo di conoscere abbastanza. Purtroppo, ahimè, alla fine, ci accorgiamo che quella che abbiamo vissuto, non è quella realtà che abbiamo pensato. Infatti, nessuno è venuto a dirci, almeno finora, cosa c’è “oltre” di essa. Il “dopo”, per intenderci. Per non parlare poi del “prima”.

Se le cose stanno così, parlare di “realtà virtuale” potrebbe sembrare una provocazione, un non senso. Invece, la RV sembra essere diventata un argomento utile per leggere il futuro. Questo libro, appena uscito, cerca di dare delle risposte a questo interrogativo. Nei ventuno capitoli con le tre appendici si possono leggere una cinquantina di definizioni di cosa l’autore intende con RV.

Se fate una ricerca in rete scoprirete che Google vi proporrà milioni di risposte. Eccone alcune: “una tecnologia mediatica per la quale misurare è più importante che apparire”. Oppure “quella tecnologia che evidenzia l’esperienza”, o ancora “un simulatore che addestra a fare guerra informativa”. Tutto e di più, come si può immaginare, specialmente in questo momento in cui i media sono sempre in primo piano a far rumore. Come è logico che facciano: è il loro mestiere.

L’autore di questo libro, di cui ho letto diversi estratti e recensioni, è uno che nella Silicon Valley sin dal 1984 si è occupato di realtà virtuale con quelle famose cuffie. Ora lavora alla Microsoft. Ha scritto diversi libri i cui titoli “Tu non sei un aggeggio” (2010) e “Chi è il padrone del futuro?” segnalano il suo pensiero nei confronti del potere monopolistico delle grandi multinazionali, i colossi della “high tech”.

Questo libro è importante non solo e non tanto per quanto riguarda la RV, quanto per comprendere dove siamo arrivati, la strada che abbiamo percorso finora per arrivarci e dove siamo diretti. Egli scrive che un tempo, solo una ventina di anni fa, nella Silicon Valley si pensava che il mondo potesse essere “migliorato”, creando un tipo di potere che sarebbe stato più importante del denaro. Per fare questo era necessario che il “software” fosse libero, come l’aria o il sesso.

A distanza di una ventina di anni, i colossi della tecnologia sono soltanto tre, il web è meno caotico di quando nacque, è più strutturato, ma i risultati non sono quelli sperati. L’ossessione del “libero e gratis” ha quasi distrutto il mercato musicale, le grandi aziende tech globali resistono a qualsiasi tipo di condizionamento locale, senza essere responsabili di quello che fanno con le loro potenti piattaforme. Si preoccupano più per il tempo che i loro visitatori/clienti trascorrono su di esse, piuttosto che della qualità dei prodotti che offrono ed essi consumano.

Faron Lenier sembra piuttosto fiducioso non tanto negli algoritmi, quanto sul fattore umano che deve essere il centro di Internet. Cosa significa allora, in una realtà come questa, la “realtà virtuale”? Va detto subito che questa non potrà mai avere lo stesso successo dei cellulari, ma avrà la sua influenza. Si svilupperanno ambienti generati al computer in maniera da riproporre la realtà per fini specifici quali ad esempio, la medicina, la formazione, i servizi sociali.

Bisogna però fare attenzione a non manipolare i suoi utenti. Bisognerà stare attenti a “non ingabbiare i naviganti all’interno di un annuncio pubblicitario”. E’ chiaro, comunque, sin da ora, che la RV si diffonderà dopo che ci saremo sempre di più abituati ad usare al meglio, (e non al peggio!), tutto l’armamentario dei nuovi media, e sapremo come non farci manipolare.

Potremo così, almeno dare una migliore definizione della stessa RV: “Un’anticipazione di quello che sarà la realtà quando la tecnologia migliorerà”. Ed è un fatto certo, la tecnologia migliora di giorno in giorno sia che essa dipenda dai tecnici che la usano che dalla capacità della società umana a farne quello che vorrà.
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