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"Post-symbolic communication" in Virtual Reality (from "You Are Not a Gadget")

"Post-symbolic communication" in Virtual Reality

I've selected a few important passages from Jaron Lanier's 2010 book, You Are Not a Gadget (pages 123-125) that speak specifically to "post-symbolic communication" in Virtual Reality (and the inspiration: cephalopods and neoteny).

The problem is that in order to morph in virtual reality, humans must design morph-ready avatars in laborious detail in advance.

We can learn to draw and paint, or use computer graphics design software, but we cannot generate images at the speed with which we can imagine them.

Suppose we had the ability to morph at will, as fast as we can think.

For instance, instead of saying, “I'm hungry; let's go crab hunting,” you might simulate your own transparency so your friends could see your empty stomach, or you might turn into a video game about crab hunting so you and your compatriots could get in a little practice before the actual hunt.

I call this possibility “post symbolic communication.” It can be a hard idea to think about, but I find it enormously exciting. It would not suggest an annihilation of language as we know it—symbolic communication would continue to exist—but it would give rise to a vivid expansion of meaning.

We'd then have the option of cutting out the “middleman” of symbols and directly creating shared experience. A fluid kind of concreteness might turn out to be more expressive than abstraction.

I imagine a virtual saxophone-like instrument in virtual reality with which I can improvise both golden tarantulas and a bucket with all the red things.

I consider it a fundamental unknown whether it is even possible to build such a tool in a way that would actually lift the improviser out of the world of symbols. Even if you used the concept of red in the course of creating the bucket of all red things, you wouldn't have accomplished this goal.

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