Monday, March 05, 2007

Jaron Lanier on transforming communication...

Some clips from his essay:

One extravagant idea is that the nature of communication itself might transform in the future as much as it did when language appeared.

Suppose you're enjoying an advanced future implementation of Virtual Reality and you can cause spontaneously designed things to appear and act and interact with the ease of sentences pouring forth during an ordinary conversation today.

Whether this is accomplished by measuring what your body does from the outside or by interacting via interior states of your brain is nothing more than an instrumentation question. Either way, we already have some clues about how the human organism might be able to improvise the content of a Virtual World.

That aspect of the brain which is optimized to control the many degrees of freedom of body motion is also well suited to controlling the many degrees of freedom of a superlative programming and design environment of the future.

Imagine a means of expression that is a cross between the three great new art forms of the 20th century: jazz improvisation, computer programming, and cinema. Suppose you could improvise anything that could be seen in a movie with the speed and facility of a jazz improviser.

A finite game is like a single game of baseball, with an end. An infinite game is like the overall phenomenon of baseball, which has no end. It is always a frontier.

So many utopian ideas are about Finite Games: End disease, solve global warming, get people to be more rational, reduce violence, and so on. As wonderful as all those achievements would (will!) be, there is something missing from them. Finite Game optimism suggests a circumscribed utopia, without frontier or mystery. The result isn't sufficiently inspiring for me- and apparently it doesn't quite grab the imaginations of a lot of other people who are endlessly fascinated by dubious religious and political utopias. The problem is heightened at the moment because there's a trope floating around in the sciences, probably unfounded, that we have already seen the outline of all the science we'll ever know, and we're just in the process of filling in the details.

The most valuable optimisms are Infinite Games, and imagining that new innovations as profound as language will come about in the future of human interaction is an example of one.

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