People In the News

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

Written by Agnes Banks
Category: People in the News Published: Monday, 27 November 2017 10:12
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I discovered Jaron Lanier when I heard him playing in a Berkeley concert in 1999. I have since followed his passion for music and technology, and started to read his books. Thanks to him, I started learning about VR. Anyone who works in VR should read his new book, Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality. This is the story of how we got to where we are today in virtual reality.



In You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (2011), Lanier looks back at the birth of digital media, and discusses the technical and cultural problems that have risen from programming choices, considering what the future will bring. As social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs are taking over our daily life, he urges us to prepare ourselves for imminent threats, such as, for example, tweets and computer algorithms elevated above the intelligence and wisdom of individuals. 

In Who Owns the Future?(2014) Lanier turns to urgent economic and social trends: the concentration of money and power in our digital networks. Lanier, in visionary ways, predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades. Lanier calls the tech firms “Siren Servers,” referring to the Sirens of Ulysses, corporations that exploit big data and the free sharing of information. Corporations that led our economy into recession, attacked our personal privacy, and are destroying the middle class. The internet and the web, which have built and defined a new world over the last decades—to include social, political, and financial relations—are now threatening to destroy our foundations. Lanier looks at alternatives for a brighter future, a more humane world, an information economy where corporations pay users for their data and reward them for what they share on the web.

His latest book, Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality (2017), is a nostalgic take on the development of VR, as well as a more autobiographical account of his growing up experimenting with gadgets, and his fascination with VR and reality concepts. Starting from the Sketchpad hardware and headset, interfaces, experience designs, and software, he gives some design principles for VR while presenting neuroscience concepts such as homuncular flexibility and its impact on experience. Don't miss this chapter, it provides many insights.

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Jaron Lanier, an interdisciplinary scientist at Microsoft, either coined or popularized the term Virtual Reality. His startup VPL created the first commercial VR products, avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences, and prototypes of surgical simulation. Both his previous books, Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget have been international bestsellers. In 2014, he was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, one of the highest cultural honors in Europe.


Agnes Banks is a contributor at FrontMatter 

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