Jan 28 • 21M

"Dream of Virtual Reality" Audio Version AND Some Links For Your Consideration

The Convivial Society: Vol. 3, No. 1 (supplement)

L. M. Sacasas
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Audio version of The Convivial Society, a newsletter exploring the intersections of technology, society, and the moral life.
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As promised, here is the audio version of the last installment, “The Dream of Virtual Reality.” To those of you who find the audio version helpful, thank you for your patience!

And while I’m at it, let me pass along a few links, a couple of which are directly related to this installment.


Links

Just after I initially posted “The Dream of Virtual Reality,” Evan Selinger reached out with a link to his interview of David Chalmers about Reality+. I confess to thinking that I might have been a bit uncharitable in taking Chalmers’s comments in a media piece as the basis of my critique, but after reading the interview I now feel just fine about it.

And, apropos my comments about science fiction, here’s a discussion between philosophers Nigel Warburton and Eric Schwitzgebel about the relationship between philosophy and science fiction. It revolves around a discussion of five specific sci-fi texts Schwitzgebel recommends.

Unrelated to virtual reality, let me pass along this essay by Meghan O’Gieblyn: “Routine Maintenance: Embracing habit in an automated world.” It is an excellent reflection on the virtues of habit. It’s one of those essays I wish I had written. In fact, I have a draft of a future installment that I had titled “From Habit to Habit.” It will aim at something a bit different, but I’m sure that it will now incorporate some of what O’Gieblyn has written. You may also recognize O’Gieblyn as the author of God, Human, Animal, Machine, which I’ve got on my nightstand and will be reading soon.

In a brief discussion of Elon Musk’s Neuralink in his newsletter New World Same Humans, David Mattin makes the following observation:

A great schism is emerging. It’s between those who believe we should use technology to transcend all known human limits even if that comes at the expense of our humanity itself, and those keen to hang on to recognisably human forms of life and modes of consciousness. It may be a while yet until that conflict becomes a practical and widespread reality. But as Neuralink prepares for its first human trials, we can hear that moment edging closer.

I think this is basically right, and I’ve been circling around this point for quite some time. But I would put the matter a bit differently: I’m not so sure that it will be a while until that conflict becomes a practical and widespread reality. I think it has been with us for quite some time, and, in my less hopeful moments, I tend to think that we have already crossed some critical threshold. As I’ve put it elsewhere, transhumanism is the default eschatology of the modern technological project.

Podcasts

Lastly, I’ve been neglecting to pass along links to some podcasts I’ve been on recently. Let me fill you in on a couple of these. Last fall, I had the pleasure of talking to historian Lee Vinsel for his new podcast, People and Things. We talked mostly Illich and it was a great conversation. I commend Vinsel’s whole catalog to you. Peruse at your leisure. Certainly be sure to catch the inaugural episode with historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan, the author of one of the classic texts in the history of technology, More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave.

And just today my conversation with the Irish economist David McWilliams was posted. We talked mostly about the so-called meta verse, and while we focused on my early “Notes From the Metaverse,” it also pairs nicely with the latest installment. My thanks to David and his team for their conviviality. And to the new set of readers from Ireland, the UK, and beyond—welcome!

Postscript

I can not neglect to mention that it was brought to my attention that the promo video for Facebook’s VR platform, Horizons, from which I took a screenshot for the essay, has a comical disclaimer near the bottom of the opening shot. As philosopher Ariel Guersenzvaig noted on Twitter, “‘Virtual reality is genuine reality’? Be that as it may, the VR footage is not genuine VR footage!”