Friday, January 11, 2008

What if you could live in a world where Darth Vader was YOUR father... So awesome...

If your consciousness could enter limitless realms of virtual reality that were immersive in every way would you be willing to give up your physical form for long periods of time and perhaps even indefinitely? This idea might chill some. I think that not only is our technology moving towards making this possible but our society is developing to accept this fate on a subconscious level. Ascending into a spirit world is a global mythological theme from the dawn of history but I wonder if might wind up being a self-fulfilled prophecy.

You see something with your eyes, it gets logged as a memory, and in the doing certain parts of your brain are activated. When you remember the thing you have seen, when you elect to see it again within your mind, the same parts of your brain spark to life. Scientists have performed experiments and have seen this occur. The brain doesn’t care about the temporal aspect of the viewing; visualization is as good as a stored memory for eliciting an emotion. This may be salient in re-prioritizing the value we place on real life and a simulated version. If our brains are fine with either and our consciousness resides within, who are we to get picky?

Matter, or at least our concept of it, is for all intents and purposes an illusion. It’s solidity and stability; its permanence can be questioned. Atoms in part or wholesale wink in and out of our existence and this has given rise to quantum physics and the theories of alternate universes, that atoms may spend times in places other than our own reality. If other universes are apart of nature then there should be no stigma in us attempting to create our own, we ape nature continuously and to the benefit of all.

Human corporeal existence is a wearying exercise in compromise. I cannot spend an hour on a beach in Tahiti after work because of natural laws such as space and time as well as man-made hindrances such as finances and responsibility. What we call life is in fact a prison planet of boundaries and limitations that we have accepted utterly. The great promise of virtual reality is that we may escape these chains. Glorious, gorgeous Tahiti might be constructed down to the last grain of sand and we might get there after work in the same way we send an email. A simulated existence has the dual benefit of not only being exactly the same as the real world but also being something far more fantastical. Rather than beaming to Tahiti we might wish to fly there instead so that we may admire the ocean view and cloud formations along the way. A life lived in virtual reality is one that might see more, do more, experience more, and therefore live more.

A human in motion through our world consumes in great quantities and expels waste in equal fashion. We burn our surroundings steadily, much less of course when we sleep or are inanimate. Our requirements for public and private space become much reduced when our consciousness is shunted to another realm. A civilization that spends significant time within a virtual reality will use resources more efficiently and thus become more sustainable and long-lasting than what we are currently. Our society might start small in this regard and still reap significant benefit. Many of us work on computers in an office. If the office was in a virtual building you could still attend meetings, have access to the Internet, and have discussions with co-workers but you would not burn gas, use paper, or even spend a premium on fast food lunches.

Modern society has shifted its focus dramatically in the past couple decades. The infrastructure of our cities is mostly built, we don’t seek to expand as we use to, rather now we concentrate and vertically integrate. In our increasingly dense communities our focus shifts to entertainment, to diversion, and to solitary study. With the necessities of life not requiring all of our day’s attention we give ourselves more and more time to indulge our wishes and whims. This trend increases with every generation and it seems to me the modern way of living prepares us for a smooth transition to a virtual existence.

Like every human on the planet I dearly hope that our species might live on for the rest of time but it won’t unless we do some truly miraculous things. Living on a planet with minimal environmental impact is just the tip of the iceberg. One day our sun will alter in intensity and even the smallest change might make this world inhospitable. It will eventually burn out and essentially destroy the solar system itself. Long before such inevitability we might be victim to some catastrophic event such as a massive asteroid. At one point or another we will need to leave this place if the human race is to have a billions long year history. We may never achieve faster than light travel and so we’ll have to get to other stars the old fashioned way; taking hundreds and even thousands of years. Virtual reality becomes an absolute necessity at this point. We must lay dormant whole civilizations, revive them only when absolutely necessary, and in those long stretches in-between give them a life to live.

Video games are the tip of the virtual reality spear. Humans in vast numbers enjoy looking at a simulated reality of one kind or another to the point where it is now an industry exchanging billions of dollars yearly. As I type this I am doing so on a virtual piece of paper and you are reading it in similar fashion. Watching television, whether it’s a movie taking place in Japan or a hockey game is another virtual reality stepping stone. The Internet and its explosive usage is a self-evident testament to our desire for virtual libraries, shopping malls, and arenas of competition. Fake or representative versions of real things are useful and we all learn to appreciate them because of the convenience they bring. The more we use these fake things and take them for granted the more real they become. This doesn’t cheapen reality; it expands our definition of it. We are all training for the kind of future I’m describing whether we know it or not! Don’t worry, it’s a good thing. This is a serendipitous development of events. We need this. The first heaven we visit will be on-line and it will be of our own creation.

A good time to start thinking about buying a Playstation 3…

Warner opted to put their high-definition movies exclusively on Blu-Ray disc and now that most media publishers have weighed in Sony’s proprietary format has the clear advantage. Other companies like Universal, who at first stated they will produce only HD DVD product, have backtracked, stating that they too will provide Blu-Ray material. Industry experts are calling Sony the winner and that HD DVD will eventually go the way of Beta though in truth even the unsuccessful storage medium take a while to finally die. If you are going to buy a new high-definition disc player for movies however, take a tip and go Blu-Ray. No point in having to buy something else a few years from now.

Boat fly-bys are SO not as cool as plane fly-bys…

I wanted to touch on the DEF CON 4 episode of the month. Small Iranian Revolutionary Guard speed boats got nice and close to a few U.S. battleships travelling through international waters off the Straits of Hormuz. It was a very tense situation because military analysts have predicted that if Iran was going to take down the big battleships they would do so with explosive laden small boats that could get in quickly and avoid being targeted by the big guns. It is said the Iranians issued threats over the radio but this has since been questioned.

I watched the video footage and there is no question that it was pure and blatant provocation. I think those U.S. boats should be commended for their restraint and nerve because any captain would be well within their rights to torch those boats in order to safeguard their crew mates. It was however a win-win for Iran's forces. They got to witness U.S. naval readiness firsthand and that is probably some A+ intelligence. If the U.S. did strike an Iranian boat they could play the victim and enjoy the negative U.S. press that would surely come. It was an asshole move but an effective strategy.

Everyone loves to read a great speech, right? RIGHT?!?

I’m trying not to follow the American leadership caucuses because this is journalism at its lowest, drama for drama’s sake and the tiring punditry over every teeny tiny thing that comes up. The news agencies have no filter, it’s like they have to fill all twenty-four hours of the day with this stuff and quite frankly, there is nowhere near enough real news material.

This link however is Barack Obama’s concession speech in New Hampshire, where he lost by a low margin to Hilary Clinton after beating her in Iowa. You can really see how he has studied the words of Martin Luther King and is evoking the style to great effect. This is damn fine piece of writing and oratory. I hope he wins!

Darth Vader gets a makeover!

My picture today is from this art exhibit. There are some very neat versions of the iconic, glossy black villain. In retrospect Vader should have had multiple helmets to convey his mood. One for when he was going to terrorize an Ewok village, one for when he was going to torture a princess, one to impress the Emperor, and maybe one for when he just felt like spending a night alone, by himself, some quality ‘me’ time. If that particular helmet had curlers that would fuck us all up. When a guy who can crush your throat with his mind sports a set of curlers men like me get scared as hell! There is just no beating a guy that tough and crazy. Darth Vader in curlers would make Han Solo curl up and cry. Darth Vader in curlers wearing a Wookie pimp coat may be my Halloween costume next year.

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