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Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with…

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

by Jaron Lanier

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I was very looking forward to reading this book. I have not gotten too much into virtual reality but it is something that intrigues me. Therefore I was very interested in what Mr. Lanier had to say as one of the first to experience virtual reality.

What I got was some history about his childhood. Not that I did not find it interesting that he and his father lived in the desert for years. Yet, for the most part I really did not find that much interesting. The further that I read the more I started to get turned off. After getting a third of the way into the book and not finding myself looking forward to reading anymore, I put this book down. If it had been just about the history of virtual reality, without the memoir aspect, I may have stuck with this book longer. ( )
  Cherylk | Mar 13, 2018 |
To many people, Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality. He coined the term in its contemporary usage though points to an older, literary use. Lanier is a credit-sharer, not a credit-grabber, so this memoir of his childhood, early work and years at VPL Research, Inc. is full of sharing the credit with mentors and collaborators. Lanier, though, is not your typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur/coder/inventor.

First and foremost, Lanier is a humanist. Much of that may come from his unconventional childhood. He lost his mother in a car accident when he was young. He grew up in New Mexico in a house his father allowed him to design (geodesic, sort of). He was taking college classes before he graduated high school. In fact, he never graduated. Much of his life reads like Hunter S. Thompson without the drugs and misogyny. Wild, free, spontaneous, and on the edge, that was his life, but it was a life of learning, always thinking, always learning.

He talks about the development of virtual reality and computers. He also explains why he does not fear the singularity because he does not believe in artificial intelligence. He explains why VR is the anti-AI. In fact, he has fifty-two definitions of VR which is, of course, the “new everything.” He believes that as we develop technology, we also develop, that machines will not outpace us.

He is full of opinions that reflect his humanism. He thinks the “weightlessness” of the internet leads to the fakery, fraud, theft, and vile abusiveness that is so common. Folks do not have to invest themselves and that lets them be their worst selves. There, I am sure he is right.

What the heck did I just read? That’s kind of how I have felt all through reading Dawn of the New Everything. I enjoyed every minute of it, but it was a wild ride. I don’t have the background to make this an easy read. I don’t code. I know how to make bold and italic text, but that’s about it. Even simple things like hyperlinks, I have to look at a sample. So, this is a book that I expected to take me out of my comfort zone. It did more than that.

There’s a stream of consciousness kind of speed and spontaneity to the text. It feels like it was spoken, not written. Perhaps it was. More than anything, though, it was sort of hallucinogenic. I might not understand it all, but it’s all original. His major theme is that we need to center computing and technology on humanity, not on the technology for the sake of technology. Technology should be contoured to humanity and not seek to shape humanity to its contours.

Lanier sees risk in technology if it is produced without empathy, but also sees tremendous potential for technology, particularly virtual reality, to create empathy. I enjoyed this book very much even though it was a challenge and took me far too long to read it.

I received an e-galley of Dawn of the New Everything from the publisher through NetGalley. There were no photos or illustrations in the e-galley but I have paged through the released version and it’s full of pictures.

Dawn of the New Everything at Macmillan / Henry Holt & Co.
Jaron Lanier author site
Interview with Business Insider

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/9781627794091/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Dec 31, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
One of the biggest steps forward in computing is virtual reality. In this volume the author examines the tremendous impact that this development will have on the field. How this field will unfold is still unclear but the author provides his ruminations. Currently there is a race to develop artificial intelligence and even who has gotten to the fray. He has stated that whoever wins the artificial intelligence race will control the world.
  gmicksmith | Aug 29, 2017 |
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