We’re aware that Trump’s election further exposed the cultural divide between urban and rural America. In the postmortem, those of us who live in cities tended to agree that we need to empathize more with our fellow citizens who live in places without access to Whole Foods. I grew up in rural Washington State, and…
Who’s afraid of artificial intelligence? Plenty of people, it turns out. What is everyone afraid of? Simply put, that a superior machine intelligence could make decisions that result in harming or enslaving human beings.
This fear has been cultivated throughout history.
Portal, a VR arcade and lounge, opened a week ago in Ballard within walking distance to the literal floodgates of Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. I popped in yesterday with my kids and found a welcoming, well-designed space where players can experience VR using Vives in ten padded booths. When you’re not playing, you can hang…
Masculinity, that wonderful human trait that gives us the ability to pry the lids off pickle jars and start wars, appears to be a meta-theme of our present moment, running through institutions from the White House to Silicon Valley startups.
There was the weird revelation that Vice President Mike Pence won’t dine alone with women who aren’t his wife. The omnipresent scandal of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Aisles, and the culture of harassment at Fox News. The slow-motion car accident that is Uber.
A few years ago I noticed that every bookseller I spoke to at Elliott Bay Book Company recommended Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s novel about a kid who lives much of his life in a virtual world designed by a 1980s pop culture-obsessed game designer. I read it in a few sittings and enjoyed the hell out of it. It had what I like to call idea density–a steady flow of new information that kept me interested the whole way through. The pacing was tight, the protagonist easy to like, and the cultural references continually pressed my Gen X nostalgia buttons. If you pay attention to the goings on in the VR industry, you’re probably aware that Ready Player One is given to every new hire in Facebook’s Oculus division, and that Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation hits theaters in a year or so. It’s a wildly popular book.
April, 1998. Amazon’s call center in the Securities Building in downtown Seattle. I spent much of that month in a windowless classroom with about a dozen other people learning to master the online bookstore’s elegant UNIX-based customer database. Most of my fellow reps in training were like me–in their twenties, opinionated about techno music, full of young energy. There was one rep, Walter, who stood out from the rest.
We humans are notoriously bad at imagining non-human intelligence. Whether its alien or artificial, we usually anthropomorphize the hell out of it. The intelligence we know we’re going to meet is the one we’re striving to create, the artificial kind, which makes the question of what it will look like more pressing than speculation about extra-terrestrials.
Technology hates me. Sit me down at a device, and the Internet connection will call it quits, printers will pout and sputter, apps will fail. After so much negative feedback, I assume the worst: I’m just not built for technology; I don’t have the tech thumb; I’m Gramanda Knox. Thus, I may seem an unlikely guide into the world of virtual reality. But the truth is, everyone is stumbling forward in the dark. As VR insinuates itself into the fabric of human civilization, we need more than just technologists steering its evolution. We need artists, advocates, empaths. That’s where I come in.