Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 15 2007


The more time I accumulate navigating the online world, the more I find bits of that mindset popping up in The Real World. I’ll be reading a book and want to find a certain section and automatically think, “I’ll just do a search” before realizing that there is no search. I’ll see an unfamiliar Chinese character on a sign and some part of me will try to mouseover it to see what it means. I’ll be looking at a building or a car and thinking it would look better in a different color or shape and mentally prepare to adjust the hue or morph it. The other day I noticed that one of my favorite posters, Thomas McKnight’s “Riviera Coast” was covered with scratches due to multiple moves over the last few years, and I thought to myself, “No problem, I’ll just use the clone tool and it’ll be as good as new.”

Thankfully this kind of thinking doesn’t extend to wanting to jump off buildings because you can fly in video games or anything like that. It mainly concerns a desire to have the same level of access to information IRL that I do online. You get used to being able to look anything up instantly, having your entire world indexed, searchable and adjustable. Now, 3.5G mobile devices with Wi-fi and GPS are starting to provide more information to us when we’re out and about, but not to the degree we’re used to online, not yet. Virtual environments are still laughably oversimplified and clumsy, but at the rate hardware and software are improving it’s really only a matter of time before they will resemble the actual world that we live in to such a degree that they’ll seem just as vivid.

I don’t believe, however, that such virtual worlds will draw people into them. I think that what people really want is to go the other way, and rather than taking themselves into some virtual word, instead bring all of the benefits of a virtual environment to everyday life via an interface for the world that we already inhabit, a personal browser that gives us accessibility to information about the real world to the degree that we are privy to online. Searchable literature. Objects, even buildings, that can change color. Or perhaps glasses that can scan and search what we see, or even change the world to look differently to each person (they could call the product “Rose”). If Twitter is anything to go by, I can imagine people doing nothing all day but looking out of other people’s eyes. Of course, if everyone does that, there won’t be anyone left actually doing anything for anyone else to watch.

I suppose that the downside to living in a society where we can make everything Just So would be that people might become so unaccustomed to seeing and dealing with things that they didn’t like, that we would lose any shred of adaptability that we have left, leaving us completely vulnerable to the slightest unexpected change in our environment. Some argue that we’ve already reached that point with iPods and the Internet. As we retreat from “traditional reality,” our ability to deal with it will naturally atrophy, but this has been going on since history began; who among us wouldn’t have trouble adapting to life a hundred years ago? In any case, the trend of acquiring greater access to information isn’t going to stop, so we’re going to have to deal with it somehow. And, somehow, I think we will.

And of course, there’s always the brain-plug thingy, just in case.

posted by Poagao at 4:57 pm  

1 Comment »

  1. […] while ago I wrote about how the Internet could eventually be combined with our physical reality in some fashion, […]

    Pingback by Poagao’s Journal » The Two Worlds — July 26, 2008 @ 6:51 am

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