Thursday, November 4, 2010

There Is No Spoon

I was disappointed when I first saw the Matrix, because the notion of a person being raised in virtual reality was something I had been exposed to, and found interesting. In 1991, a Shadowrun sourcebook called Virtual Realities came out, and in it was a short story about a character that was raised in virtual environment. The story ended with the character looking upon "real life" with real eyes, and a description of what an alien sensation it was.

I tend to regard human perception as pretty thin, partly because of how easily it is to fool (see yesterday's post), but sometimes I wonder if it's also because of what I do for a living. I mean, with games, we find ourselves more or less transported, eyes fixated on a screen as we drive our characters around to explore and succeed in a pseudo-reality. And though there are a too many reasons for it being impractical in reality, another loved idea in science fiction is the holodeck.

So when my job is to create compelling worlds, and when it strikes me as likely that in the future we could create a virtual environment as compelling as reality, and when I have a hard time distinguishing for myself the difference between my animal neuron cognizance and a complicated AI cognizance (both of which take in input, process it, and act according to an automated process of priority)... I almost find it likely that whatever think is reality is just one layer of an onion. Not in a religious sense, but a virtual one.

Not that it makes any difference. Sorry for the trip down loony lane!


  1. Do you know how sometimes you have vague memories of events or places, but you can't quite put your finger on what or where it is? And you keep racking your brain trying to figure out what this memory on the tip of your consciousness is?

    I had one of these a few years ago, where I had this vague memory of being somewhere, but I couldn't bring it into focus or remember what it was or anything about it. I knew I had been in this place and done something, but I couldn't figure out what it was.

    Finally, I realized that it was a place in Deus Ex that I was remembering. It was a really weird but cool experience to realize that even though it was just a game, my memory of being there and doing something felt the same as a real experience would have been, and the only difference was that I was aware that it wasn't "real".

    Since this initial experience I've become more aware of this phenomenon and kind of take it for granted, but I still think it's pretty cool when I think about it :)

  2. Wow. That was an amazing story. I love it, thanks for sharing!

  3. If it helps in your defense of life as a virtual reality, the interaction of matter we call "mass" is really just an expression of energy that tells particles to behave as though they are colliding, have weight, etc. So in a way we're all just beings of pure energy, but with the "mass" switches turned on in our energy modules, almost like the on/off state of any computer bit.

  4. Sometimes when I hear Robert Miles music I remember having been on a dock and something to do with a lapis lazuli pendant, though I know that only happened in a MUD I was playing once while listening to it. The memory is of more than just text, though. Kinda cool and weird. : )

  5. The responses in this thread are incredible. I should visit loony lane more often. You guys rule. Thanks!