Thursday, May 05, 2005

tangent on this morning's thoughts.

I've continued to think about the stuff that the PEAR visit stirred up, and I stumbled into another tangent.

The idea I'm examining here is this: There is a fear and a resistance to the digitization of the world. What is this fear made of? Is it legitimate?

In Scott Granneman's class last year, I did some writing about this which I have since lost (maybe I could find it on a bulletin board somewhere...). In any case, one thing I've been thinking about lately in relation to online gaming, and the increasing visual and auditory reality of some online worlds, is that soon it will be possible for a person to live entirely within online digital realities. Basically, to 'opt in' to a Matrix-like world, and abandon the physical body to a storage tank with an IV drip and a brain-implanted ethernet jack.

I've been wondering about the appeal of this new world, and the resistance to it, and I think one component of the resistance is rooted in the 'second lifeless existence' I mentioned this morning. Namely, the consciousness being surrounded not by the unfathomable depths of physical reality (the 'greater consciousness' of the natural world), but by an a-personal facsimile. In this case, this 'lifeless existence' would take place in a virtual reproduction, a model based on physical reality, and built with human intent.

It's my impression now that though it may be fun to be able to jump off a building and bounce, as in a simulated reality, and though eventually there may not be any quantitative sensory difference between a simulation and reality, there is a great thing lost when the indeterminate complexity of "God's World" is replaced by algorithmic pseudo-randomness, and the programming of experience.

What is that thing lost?

Human consciousness is something that I would presumably take with me as I entered this virtual world, but I am uncertain of how the virtual environment would feel to me. Would the subtle consciousness of the natural world somehow inhabit the digital sensory input? If so, would it's character be changed? Would it be possible to form subtle consciousness-to-consciousness relationships with this re-constructed virtuality? would that virtuality have the richness of the boundless depths of physical experience? would it contain the intangibles which are so important to a meaningful relationship with the outside world?

From my own life, I know that I can form an emotional tie to a virtual character. Any RPG is based on this. However, there is something very tangibly different about that tie. is it because it is a disposable tie? you have the capacity to press control+Z redo?

There is something emotionally different that I can't capture at the moment.

I'm drawn to think about some of the Walter Benjamin writing that I vaguely recall, and that jessica has been mentioning lately. Auras of the original, mass production, etc. Also - some Asimov i read once dealt with this (people preferring to live holographic realities instead of come face to face with their biology). And - the animism my good friend Scott Anderson introduced me to - what of that?

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