Continuing the discussion from Giving up on saving the world:
I remember the context!
We were talking about reasons not to give up on trying to save the world (and the viability of the co-opernation-within-a-corporation approach and the fact that nothing similar has been given a chance) and somebody mentioned the fact that technology offered no solutions.
When working on the co-opernation we wanted to give chances at excellent lives to everyone, not just westerners. Somebody pointed out during the process that there’s a problem with bringing everyone in the third world up to a high standard of living, that being the impact to the environment.
So the mission was to come up with at least one solution to that problem, because neglecting humans was not an option. That solution was the Wearable Holodeck.
The reason why I for one am excited by this is because
- It requires no new technologies, just minor enhancements of existing ones.
- Fully implemented, it greatly reduces the need for the vast majority of the populace for low-quality mass produced crap. It helps us save the environment without asking us to do things that most of us never do.
Basically, why buy a bunch of board games when you and some friends can have all the pieces materialize at a whim? Why buy a new video game system with a big screen TV when you can completely immerse yourself in the environment and have whatever controls are needed appear at your fingertips and have them disappear when you’re done?
We’re getting in front of that economic decision making point. Sure, people might want their own special toys (and that’s totally cool), but when so many things can be fully simulated virtually we nudge people into choosing things that can’t when spending resources…comfort, health, etc.
On top of that it had benefits there too, for example using the existing technologies mentioned within to enable a surgeon to perform surgery more precisely and accurately (with guides and assistance) than a mere human ever could alone. There are hordes of other productivity improvements, honestly I can barely grasp them all.
I was using eSight as an example of comfortable-ish wearable tech, but I actually like EyeTap now that we’re seeing it! We’d want a variant that covers both eyes for immersion of course, but that’s pretty spiffy! So huge thanks there, sir!
This is what distinguishes your approach to saving the humanity and the world, from everything else I’ve seen.
I guess the potentially fatal flaw is that it initially asks folks to do one thing many don’t, ie put their damn brain in gear enough to see the shitstorm on the horizon and take steps to avoid it…
You don’t need that many people. A few will do - if you reach a critical mass and show off the coolness of the approach, the snowball will then roll on its own.
And if it won’t work, the few will head to the doomsday while at least having fun. And who knows, maybe even ride it through and then start anew.
Also, consider the potential of coupling the VR with other technologies. Make a robot (or another mechanical thing) in a VR world, simulate it, potentially also let it evolve to near-enough perfection, and then let it go through a 3d printer, or send the score to the orchestra of CNC instruments to play you some industrial music. (Oh the sweet sweet hiss when a spiral of swarf is coiling off a lathe tool…!)
And the telepresence possibilities! All the deep-ocean research that can be done on a shoestring…
And aerospace, and especially space… I have a pet thought about propellants made from clean air and water. (N2H4/N2O4 combo, storable, non-cryo, and you can make it with just nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. N2O4 either via modified Birkeland-Eyde, or by catalytical oxidation of ammonia, N2H4 by oxidation of ammonia by e.g. hydrogen peroxide (would ozone in gas phase work?), hydrogen peroxide by electrolysis of sulfuric acid, and ammonia by reacting nitrogen and hydrogen in microwave plasma (which avoids the need for conventional-method high pressure and temperature). Microwave-assisted chemistry is a pretty fascinating area.) One of the things we’ll need is a way for easy production of ad-hoc chemical microplants, for which laser sintering of nickel (and hasteloy and glass…) may be a suitable way. Back to VR, which we’ll need for more comfortable process control and especially design and simulation phase.
To be fair, I never suggested that technology doesn’t have solutions or even that it isn’t possible to use technology to live in a more sustainable way (or even that this isn’t happening now to some extent), just that I’m not optimistic that it will happen enough or everywhere as I don’t think enough people are taking it seriously enough. If the shit hits the fan and multiple cities have to be evacuated due to lack of fresh water or flooding or large areas that have been used for growing food becoming unusable or greatly reduced in productivity, this will have severe effects on a region’s ability to sustain itself. It is certainly possible to grow food without soil or to provide other technologies like this to limit or cope with environmental damage, but this takes a lot of time and money to set up and I don’t think all of the world will be ready for the scale that this could reach. Las Vegas is facing the real possibility of losing its freshwater supply and hydroelectric energy if the situation doesn’t improve. If technology hasn’t already provided sufficient solutions by that point, a family living in an apartment in the city isn’t left with many other options - no land to grow food, no water supply if municipal supplies fail, no option to farm or dig wells in that area if the groundwater has been used up. If this happens, we will have to see if the world is prepared for large numbers of climate refugees, in addition to the existing pressures that it will face. VR headsets for everyone is not a serious answer here, although it is pretty cool technology.
For the record, I am not giving up on environmentalism or technology at all, I’m just saying that we should be very clear about the additional pressures that our civilisation will be under over the next century. A lot of the solutions that technology has provided so far will be unavailable or severely restricted in the future, and the solutions themselves have often mortgaged the future for present prosperity. We shouldn’t assume that answers will be there which give us all a standard of life that westerners consider acceptable, or that catastrophe is impossible - we may come out of the 21st century with greater equality, VR headsets, sustainable farming techniques, replenished fish stocks, new cities for the people who will be rendered homeless by the projected sea level rises, better desalinisation technology, humanitarian policies towards immigrants etc., but this isn’t a foregone conclusion and we are historically quite bad at long term planning, especially at the scale that will be necessary here. At the end of the day though, giving up isn’t an option - we should change tactics and not allow ourselves to believe in platitudes, but this is the only habitat we have and we need to make some difficult and far-reaching decisions if we want to save it. Right now we are not sustainable. Not even close, not even moving in the right direction, not even likely to level off any time soon. We have burned through a large proportion of our non-renewable resources in one lifetime and Kingsnorth is right to reject claims of sustainability when it is clear that this is not making close to the difference it would need to.
I couldn’t argue with a word of that.
Oh yeah! Totally agreed there!
In fact, I didn’t really disagree with your post at all there, just wanted to point out what happened to be an example of a technology that was designed for precisely that purpose and was focused on ‘getting people to stop wasting so many resources by exploiting the economic decisions we make’ rather than ‘adding another layer that makes being wasteful slightly less so’.
I still think that the real magic doesn’t happen until VR meets Haptics. Until then they’re both toys that are moderately useful…it’s when they’re merged properly that the ecological magic happens!
Heck, just set @Shaddack loose, he’s quite the idea factory!
This could be an interesting application. Digital drugs.
Add ultrasound-based deep brain stimulation (has advantages over transcranial magnetic - more precise and can go deeper), sprinkle with some EEG and/or that infrared tomography version of fMRI for feedback, and we have a recipe for something Very Interesting.
Whoa, you just reminded me of an article in a copy of Omni I saw years ago about analog drugs…
The jigger was the size of a walkman, and put out alternating current of a tunable frequency through electrodes that went behind the ears, and this could supposedly stimulate the production of neurotransmitters equivalent to a wide variety of drugs.
IIRC it was meant to work a treat, and wasn’t addictive to boot. Keith Richards used one to get off smack, supposedly.
An amusing thought is what the anti-drug crusaders will do with something that has the same effects and perhaps addictive potential, works on commodity hardware and can be downloaded as a bucket full of bits. FBI, DEA, their international equivalents, even the drug cartels that will start hemorrhaging profits… they all will be motivated to step in and keep the bad ol’ status quo.
Could be quite fun. @doctorow could perhaps take this as an idea for a short story or something.
A pair of random links.
Telepresence, using Oculus Rift to control a digger
The appeal of “real life” simulators
Do you see the same convergence I see?
Well, we’re still kind of stuck in a rut until we add that tactile component.
We humans are AMAZING at responding to and identifying things by touch, it’s how we’re designed. Put a tiny bit of glue on a piece of cloth and wait for it to dry, then try to find it by touch. You’ll find it over, and over, and over again. Easily and quickly.
Now try to touch exactly the same point in space twice. You can’t. Your precision is off by several orders of magnitude.
There’s simply no comparison to what we can do with just vision/sound vs. what we can do when we integrate touch. Sure, a HUD is nifty and can be really useful (going back to that amazing welder’s helmet!)
But the possibilities are pretty minor compared to what’s possible when you add in the full tactile component. That’s where you get a full-fledged wearable holodeck. Heck, it outstrips the possibilities of a holodeck by quite a big margin too…without any new techs and just some refinement of what we already have.
That’s the story I want Mr. @doctorow to write, because that story could actually change the world. It takes us from somewhat useful toy to economic and environmental game-changer and it allows us to share our best inventions freely with the third world without creating the kind of waste we first worlders are notorious for.
I mean, not that the other bits aren’t awesome (they totally are!) but I want a vision out there that isn’t just an incremental step up. I want a vision that changes the world in a practical way.
And if it gives us our co-opernation along the way, then that’s just made of more win, right?
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