Oculus

There’s a wave of change coming. If we want to be realistic, we need to be ready for it — at least, as far as we are able to be. Anyone making plans for a future that won’t be there by the time it arrives is simply wasting everybody’s time, and first of all their own.

Under even remotely capitalist conditions, technology reliably over-performs in the medium term, as long as you’re looking in the right direction. Sure, flying cars, jetpacks, and nuclear fusion have gone missing, but instead we got mass-consumer computing, Cyberspace, and mobile telephony. What actually turned up has switched the world far more than the technologies that got lost would have done. It climbed into our brains far more deeply, established far more intense social-cybernetic circuitry, adjusted us more comprehensively, and opened gates we hadn’t foreseen. (You’re on a computer of some kind right now, in case you hadn’t noticed.)

Because technological innovation rolls in on hype cycles, it messes with our expectations, systematically. There’s always a prompt for fashionable disillusionment, shortly before the storm-front hits. Dupes always fall for it. It’s hard not to.

Boy_wearing_Oculus_Rift_HMD

The hype wave carrying us now has cyberpunk characteristics. Anticipated in the 1980s-90s, its delivery lag-time had drawn burnt-out excitement down to reflexive cynicism by the turn of the Millennium. The only thing preventing the first decade of the 21st Century being defined by broken promises was the intolerable embarrassment of having to admit that cyberpunk futurism had ever seemed credible at all. Social Media rushed in to paste an amnesiac banality over awkward recollections of the lost horizon.

All those detailed expectations of decentralized crypto-fortresses, autonomous Cyberspace agencies, anarcho-capitalist digital dynamics, and immersive simulated worlds — so ludicrously dated — are reaching their implementation phase now. Satoshi Nakamoto’s blockchain machinery is the primary driver, and there’ll be much more on that to come. It’s the Internet-enveloping blockchain that lays down the infrastructure for the first independent techno-intelligences — synthetic agencies modeled as self-resourcing autonomous corporations. It’s probably strictly impossible for us to exaggerate what that implies.

Virtual Reality‘ appears as a comparative triviality, and perhaps it is. Nevertheless, as a socio-technological and cultural occurrence, it will be vast enough on its own to shake the world.

William Gibson fabricated a fictional brand-placeholder for the coming immersive interface products (‘decks’): Ono Sendai. We can now confidently substitute the actual first-wave brand Oculus Rift, which is undergoing subsumption into the Facebook Internet-capital ‘stack‘ around about now. Oculus Rift is happening. Techno-commercial realization of VR in the near-term is thus a practical inevitability.

Comparing this second-echelon techno-commercial occurrence to the wildest dreams of political innovation is radically humiliating to the latter. Not only will politics certainly disappoint us, but even were it not to, the outcome would be a relatively pitiful one. Political transformation is ‘at best’ a re-ordering of primate dominance hierarchies, which everyone knows won’t actually be for the best — or anything close to it. VR could easily be worse, but it will inevitably be much bigger. It touches on the cosmological (and if people want to push that into the ‘theo-cosmological’ they won’t receive much push-back from here).

Set aside Moldbuggian invocations of VR as a solution to the ‘dire problem‘ for now — even though they exceed the limits of the consensual political imaginary. The implications of VR effortlessly reach the level of the Fermi Paradox. It could be the Great Filter itself, which is arguably the most awesome monster — or abstract horror — the human species has ever conceived. Whatever the games and worlds it introduces, end of history scenarios are bundled in for free. It’s vast, and it’s coming just about now.

Our species is about to start building worlds. If we don’t take that seriously, our seriousness is very much in question.

July 16, 2014admin 31 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Technology

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31 Responses to this entry

  • spandrell Says:

    I recall reading the Oculus founder say that an optimal experience would require two 8k displays. The screens may happen in the next 10 years, but the GPU power to output to that level is nowhere close.

    If Oculus goes public with a 1080p display and that gives people nauseas and just sheer uncanny-valleyism, it’s gonna bomb, and VR will be commercially dead for decades again.

    And I say that as a fan; I’d really like this to work. Letting aside the potential for omegas wasting their lives with porn or immersive games; an Oculus simulation of Ancient Rome, or simple concerts of classical music would be really awesome with this. We could enjoy Exit while having access to the same cultural assets as the elite in NYC.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    There already seems to have been a consumer testing process, with positive results. We’ll see (soon) I guess, but the level of commercial hype being rolled out strongly suggests OR (and Facebook) think they’ve already crossed the line you’re drawing up ahead.

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    S.C. Hickman Reply:

    I’ll have to find it but read an article about the latest version of Oculus Rift and some Alien demo… the testers almost killed themselves trying to escape the beast it was so real they’d jump up and slam themselves into steel walls trying escape… now that’s real… I’d love to see Eve Online start over and create something like that with thousands of fleets attacking… who knows, do our banking, waltz down the street do my drugs, hey … never need a grocery store again… just pretend I’m a vegan VR master… get my juice directly through the circuits… haha

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Trip to Mars or the Moon or life in a space habitat could be a lot, lot cheaper if you were plugged in to a virtual, much more spacious ship most of the time.

    [Reply]

    Ademonos Reply:

    But don’t you think that we might miscalculate the location of the Exit, in relation to the new reality dimension that is being introduced? The real kicker with Exit isn’t that someone is stopping you from leaving – it’s that you don’t want to give up the benefits. And this time it’s Facebook who is handing those out.

    [Reply]

    scientism Reply:

    Have you used one? I used the first developer model, with the SD display, and the resolution was not a problem as far as comfort is concerned: it feels like you’re looking at the world through a wire mesh. It’s usually frame rate, tracking lag and persistence effects that cause nausea (and the experience of being moved when you don’t expect it). I think 8K is probably the “can’t see the pixels” level, rather than the comfort level.

    It’s definitely a step-up from the stuff we had in the 90s. I have no idea what it’s going to be used for, but the effect of immersion is definitely real and compelling. Modelling historical sites was the first thing I thought of.

    [Reply]

    S.C. Hickman Reply:

    Yea, that might be for the first one… but the latest version came out last week seems to make that like living in the dark ages… at least that’s the buzz on boards.

    [Reply]

    Aeroguy Reply:

    Nausea can be caused by simulator sickness aka Simulator Adaptation Syndrome (SAS). SAS happens when you have an image of yourself moving that encompasses your peripheral vision aka vection, particularly when maneuvering and with high detail in the peripherals. So if you simulate twists and turns the person using the simulator can not only get nausea but can exhibit, fatigue, sweating, dizziness, and vomiting (this is with fighter pilots so don’t think this only applies to wusses). Full motion simulators still cause SAS but there are other ways to mitigate it. Spacing sessions at least 2 days apart, and mixing in periods without maneuvering.

    I heard people have been flying RC planes with cameras attached to OR, I’m not sure if I’d want to do it since it only takes about a minute for me to start experiencing SAS and it only gets worse the longer I’m exposed (mind you this is when continuously looping and rolling, it’s not nearly as bad when in steady flight). Also yanking and banking is my favorite part of actual flying so any VR short of hard wiring my inner ear is an inferior good.

    [Reply]

    Dan Reply:

    The problem with enjoying these VR exits is that for human civilization it is like a dying patient enjoying the pleasures of a morphine drip. From the inside, it feels good. From the outside, you see it for what it is.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 5:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner (@heresiologist) Says:

    Not that the post needs another link, but this is a taste of what is coming down the pike:
    http://www.wired.com/2014/07/alien-isolation-oculus/

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 5:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    Great insight here. If we were to boil down your post might we say, “Technology is progressing faster than our ability to understand its political implications. So, 90% (or whatever) of our political discussion risks being behind the curve.” If true, the implications are profound …

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 6:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • rpk Says:

    It’s a race. Which comes first, the collapse or the singularity? Progressive ideology & hyper ‘altruism’ cannot be sustained for much longer. A western dysgenic IQ collapse will see to that. Also, how to spread the progressive virus to the violence & double digit IQ-plagued 3rd world? (Especially important once they’ve been invited to live in one’s country). However, a panoptical techno god to keep the rabble contained in their pens might do the trick. The worst part is once we’re all pacified by ED-109’s, and the streets of Joburg are safe at night, they’ll think they were right.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 8:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Oculus | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 8:23 pm Reply | Quote
  • S.C. Hickman Says:

    All I want to know: Where is my DIY Gnon Subscription? I ordered it millennia ago… and, I’m still waiting: oh, ok, I see… it came in my Oculus Rift pouch… oh no… it’s alive…. oh no… it’s eating me …. alive

    But seriously… sounds like the fun is only beginning… where’s the pop-corn… I’m ready for the devolution to begin… Cathedral crash around the corner, yes? Let’s give it one last gasp: “hurrah, hurrah, hurrah…. Death to the Cathedral, long live the Gnon!”

    We return you to your regularly scheduled suicide…

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    You’re already in trouble, referring to Gnon as the Gnon. Tsk, Tsk!

    [Reply]

    S.C. Hickman Reply:

    That’s why I said DIY Gnon… do it yourself… 🙂 there can be no One… 😉

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    [Thud and several cracks – Spinoza turning in his grave]

    fotrkd Reply:

    P.S. How long til Nietzsche pronounced God dead and Admin tried to stab him in a bar? Mr Hickman has severed Gnon in a matter of months. Teleoplexy here we come? If only…

    Posted on July 16th, 2014 at 9:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    Kids, kids – it’s the new big thing
    I want you to listen, just a for second
    I promise I won’t try dance or sing
    This is way bigger than anyone reckoned
    They call it the Rift, and think it’s a door
    But you and I, we know its so much more
    It’s a perfect filter for everyone’s life
    Hey — wait — I’m not done with my pitch
    A minute, okay – please put away the knife
    You know that insatiable, incurable itch
    It’s big – we both know without a doubt
    But this is Big too – so stand up and shout
    Anything – everything you want —
    Filter it out!

    [Reply]

    Stirner (@heresiologist) Reply:

    Monorail!

    [Reply]

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    [CHORUS]

    What does he think he’s going to do
    A pied piper without a song
    Oh, oh he’ll just be all so blue
    When they decide not to go along!
    But wait – our words have been rescinded
    For now the fife has just been winded!

    [Reply]

    Ademonos Reply:

    In case you weren’t being clear enough for everyone, I’d just like to second how interesting the implications of this potential form for the Great Filter is. Did the other alien civilizations get stuck in a Snow Crash-esque Metaverse, having diluted one second of meatspace time into millions of years of the virtual equivalent? Or maybe they simply forgot to feed themselves? Or, if we want to combine a couple of the popular theories in this corner of the internet, maybe we *are* the virtual aliens, in the diluted timespace?

    [Reply]

    Prog-Trad Reply:

    It certainly is a fascinating, and distressing, suggestion: the aliens never found us (or us them) because there simply wasn’t the interest on. Perhaps the virtual universes they were able to create proved more satisfying to be involved with than the ‘real’ one ever was. One could have a helluva lot of fun speculating along these lines.

    The post-scarcity society in Iain M. Banks’ ‘Culture’ novels have godlike AIs who are said to often prefer to spend time in ‘Infinite Fun Space’, simulations, than in the ‘real’ world.

    [Reply]

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    Brain speed limits prevent this. You can only process so fast, so you can only concentrate (or dilute) time so much. Thus, unless you were digitized – a process that might cause you to actually consume much more power than you do now – you are stuck in at least ‘near-meatspace-time’. Whether digitization preserves your nous – that is, the point of your experience of the now – or not, we don’t know and perhaps have no way to properly test. If it did not, the process would be useless – your mind would still be processing things at an amazing speed, but the simulations would be unnecessary as experience would no longer be direct.

    My thought is that the filter, the real filter, is not something the world so much does to us, as we do to ourselves. This is consistent in pattern with the problems man tends to face – “I came not to condemn the world, for the world already stood condemned…” – such as the NSA constructing a panopticon of a size the socialists could only dream of, just by hacking the surveillance devices people willingly brought into their homes.

    The logic may be simple that the virtual worlds are better than the real one, and so people incapable of meta-thinking will be trapped and lost. Or, if you will, people who believe this world to already be a simulation may also be lost, choosing the better (more enjoyable) simulation over the worse.

    Anyone play Fallout 3? There was a great – and quite horroristic – part that dealt with the idea of ‘perfect’ virtual simulations.

    [Reply]

    R. Reply:

    In case you weren’t being clear enough for everyone, I’d just like to second how interesting the implications of this potential form for the Great Filter is.

    One could argue that the aliens are all around us but we can’t see them. I’ve seen no good arguments disproving the notion that cognitive processes are inextricably tied to biological materials, nor that they can’t be done with much less material..

    There could be alien starships orbiting earth, each inhabited by whole civilizations..
    Anyone capable of crossing interstellar distances would probably have the technology for very good invisibility all across the el-mag spectrum.

    The universe could be full of intelligent life, and the absence of conspicuous, high energy signalling doesn’t really mean anything.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 17th, 2014 at 1:36 am Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    I’m going to cling bitterly to my cynicism wrt VR. At least with the Google Glass, the user is arguably connected to reality — perhaps moreso than a tween staring down at her iPhone. Augmetned reality is still augmentation (albeit in a crude, bumbling infancy), continuing the deep heritage of cybernetics, a parallel path of eugenics.

    But this O.R. — well, thatt picture of the kid with darkness consuming his primary sensory organs couldn’t be more apt. All that’s missing is a human-sized vat of gelatin.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The gladiatorial games reached their height as the Roman Republic was breaking down and stayed that way through the early Empire. Free grain distributions too. Panem et circenses.

    Will some future civilization use “SNAP and VR” as its byword for dole and distraction?

    [Reply]

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    in talking about the Aliens game, he talks about nearly slamming himself against the wall. Some of these advanced gladiatorial (first-person-shooter) virtual games will get bloody.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 17th, 2014 at 1:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) Says:

    EVE: Valkyrie is one of the first games coming out for it. Looks pretty.

    http://youtu.be/vzOFSSvKfqU

    Not sure how to embed videos here.

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 17th, 2014 at 2:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • Xoth Says:

    It was an odd room, a sort of shapeless, plastic-lined cocoon without furnishings. The thing had floated submerged in the fluid. It lay on the floor now, limbs twitching spasmodically.

    It was male: the long, white beard was proof of that. It was a pitiful thing, a kind of caricature of humanity, a fantastically hairy gnome curled blindly into a fetal position. It was naked: its skin, where it showed through the matted hair, was grub-white and wrinkled from the long immersion.

    It had floated in this room in its gently moving nest of hair, nourished by the thick, fleshlike cord trailing from a tap protruding through the wall to where it had been grafted to the navel, dreaming the long, slow, happy, fetal dreams.

    … This was where everybody was. This was the end man had reached.

    (James Gunn, The Joy Makers, 1963)

    [Reply]

    Posted on July 19th, 2014 at 4:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • Lightning Round – 2013/07/23 | Free Northerner Says:

    […] On VR and the Oculus Rift. […]

    Posted on July 23rd, 2014 at 5:03 am Reply | Quote

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