← to the HSITA Home Page

The digital life


Here’s an excerpt of Kevin Kelly talking about how VR may change the game. The way he frames it is really interesting.

Cinema is a trick to our brains

There’s a trick that’s played on our brains when we watch a movie. And the great innovation in cinema was to employ that trick and amplify it. The trick was that if you look at some still images in rapid succession they can produce a very real sense of movement.

So when we watch a movie today, say the Matrix, and we see a bullet fly across the screen, there’s no doubt in our mind there’s movement across the screen. It’s moving, it may be in two dimensions, but it’s moving.

But there is no movement, there’s no movement at all. It’s just a series of still pictures. And so our brain has been tricked the, it’s kind of like an illusion or an optical illusion our brain’s trained to believe.

And we really, really believe very strongly that there was movement.

VR takes it even further, making the internet of experiences possible

A VR works similarly. There’s a trick in a deep part of our brain. It’s not the front part of our brain where we watch a screen. It’s a deeper part.

When you have this volumetric information, […] and you see things in three dimensions, […] you have sound, and maybe you can even touch things.

There’s a part of your brain which is not the front conscious part of it, but more of a reptilian unconscious part of your brain that is totally convinced that you’re there, that this is real.

So, a very common demo of VR is to have you walk out on a plank over a city or on the edge of a cliff. And you’re [simply] standing in a normal room [with] these goggles on.

Your conscious brain knows you’re standing in a room, but your body is telling you: you’re going to die, this is dangerous. You’re on the edge of a cliff. So your body is reacting and your body is telling you something very different than what your mind tells you.

So when you have these, when you’re in VR and you go through and you take off the goggles at the end, you don’t remember having seen things, you remember having experienced them, because this is where it’s working [in your brain].

So what VR is gonna doing is moving the internet from being an internet of information to an internet of experiences.

And experiences are some of the most valuable things we have going today. One of the very few types of things that aren’t decreasing in price, or in real dollars over time. They’re becoming more and more valuable.

And these experiences, of course, are very good for empathy, for highly emotionally charged. They’re the new currencies.

When experiences of what we’re going to be downloading. It’s what we’re going to be purchasing. It’s what we’re going to be sharing with friends. And because they are experiences they’re going to be very social and VR will become probably the most social of all the social media.

Because one of the things we’ve discovered in VR is, while it’s really cool to have a world that you’re immersed in and believe it’s there, it’s really cool to have objects, the thing that really is powerful is when you have other people that you feel truly present.

They don’t even have to look 100% like you can’t tell this realFor a glimpse of current stuff, see: Pinscreen or Apple’s Memoji on iOS 12.

. You can tell that they’re not real, but it doesn’t matter because you feel as if they’re real, that they’re there.

[…] And it’s great for learning because you have a whole-body learning. You’re experiencing the learning. It’s not just in front of your head. It’s really great for people who don’t necessarily learn that well from reading because maybe they learn better by doing.

It’s great for work because you can have virtual screens and have as many screens as you want and you kind of teleported colleagues that you feel are really there. So there’s a great potential as we shift from an information-oriented internet to one that is based around experiences.


Yeah, technologies can alter the way we perceive and interact with reality. When they do it successfully, they become such an ordinary part of our daily life that we almost always forget about how tricky (magical) they actually are.

Homework: find out what are the current technological bottlenecks for VR hardware to really work and how they might be solved. I still get sick of using it (and I’ve tried several of them, including the supposedly most advanced ones).

Subscribe to new posts via email

Like what you’ve just read?

Enter your email address to receive updates when (and only when) there’s a new essay.

I will never spam you and I won’t share your email address with anybody else.
Mailing list is powered by TinyLetter.