Thursday, September 08, 2016

Bicycle for the Heart

1. Steve Jobs likened the personal computer as a "bicycle for the mind". I think of VR as a bicycle too. Though for the heart. 

2. Is VR an empathy machine ? In of itself, no. But when designed to do so - yes, and quite strikingly, and more profoundly then any current medium in existence. 

3. Its effect will only grow stronger and more profound the better the technology gets. And - most importantly - we figure out how to tell compelling stories within it. 

4. It's noteworthy, and extraordinary, that there already exists this intense desire, by many, to deeply move people to make the world a better place with VR. Empathy / social good was not something discussed at the birth of radio, cinema or TV, until much later. This is a positive sign of the times.

5. Good VR hacks your senses. That's its aim. It uses sophisticated tech to do that. From stereoscopic images, to binaural and directional sound. So it's not just novelty. It consistently transports people unlike any medium. There is biological data that proves its unique effects on us and I believe this effect will only get deeper until we will not easily be able to distinguish between the real and virtual and, eventually, between even our dreams and memories. It's the blurring of these lines that will shift what meaning we derive from these different states of consciousness. 

6. It's striking that VR and empathy are talked about together. A little over a year ago it was gaming and porn. And suddenly, given the amazing efforts of many, it's impossible not to associate this burgeoning new medium as something that holds a greater promise. 

7. I don't think this should be taken for granted. The values and norms of the pioneers of any medium have always shaped things to come. The hacker, whole earth catalog, hippie new age-ness of the Internet has a lot to do with how our world is now (for better and for worse. I would never in a million years have thought that when I was at Burning Man in 2000, that it would be a billionaire hangout one day).

8. Similarly, this intense desire to see technology serve humanity and see VR as something more then just commercialism and escapism will profoundly effect many people's relation with something so consciousness shifting. 

9. There are naysayers (there will always be) who say VR is a novelty. That its effects will wear off with repeated use and habituation. Or that its ability for empathy is no greater then a book, painting or other forms of media. They cringe or are reluctant to call it "the last medium" or privilege its status as being greater at eliciting empathy then all what came before it. 

10. It's important to be skeptical. But also important to be objective and realize that there is something profound and unique about VR. It's certainly not a passing fad. It will profoundly shift what it means to be conscious, alive and human. 

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