Two excellent comments on yesterday’s post! The reason this all came up is that I gave a talk this week about possible directions for socially shared virtual reality, and a student asked whether replacing reality with virtual reality will change who we are.
I responded that we are already living in virtual reality. We just don’t know it because we are subject to Alan Kay’s dictum that “Technology is anything invented after you were born.” I told the student that we generally go through our day sincerely believing that we are living in some sort of natural state, whereas in truth our perception of the world and of each other is highly mediated.
To put this in context, if you and I talk on the phone, or over Skype, you don’t think “Oh, that’s not really Ken, that’s just a technological reconstruction of Ken.” And the same goes for email or handwritten letters, both of which are technologically mediated artifacts. You don’t think “I received an avatar of Ken in the form of his handwriting.” Although, in a sense, you have. Rather, you think “I got a letter from Ken.”
The important thing is that the thoughts between my mind and your mind are connecting. Any medium that achieves this, for people who are used to that medium, is simply labeled as part of reality.
So yes, the self may be a complex, multifaceted and ever changing thing, but reality (if you are a human) is quite simple: It is whatever medium of communication allows my self and your self to effectively connect with each other.