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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Better Drivel 

As usual, everyone has talked about this topic except for me, and I had no idea what they were going on about, and have nothing valuable to add, and hence these lines. However, it's one of those things that is obviously complete nonsense but that people seem to want to credit.

I remember when virtual reality was in the news a lot. I've seen about ten or twenty really horrible movies that played around with the idea, without, of course, examining it. There was some inanity about a female pop star who kept finding herself trapped in a theatre with a wicked commedia dell' arte character. There was a thing about two boys playing a game which also included a dangerous bogeyman of some kind. In these movies the player is strapped into a chair or harness with gloves and a headset, yet is somehow subject to a vice in the game. I don't think it is satisfactorily explained how that works.

A virtual reality application is featured in Disclosure (1994), with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. This is the one about Douglas's boss, Demi Moore, setting him up in a bogus sexual harassment suit, etc. But his company's great, mind-blowing product is a virtual reality filing system: if you want to look up a record, you put on the glove and goggles and float around in a virtual Library of Congress card catalogue room, opening "drawers" and pulling "3x5 cards".

Let me mull over the huge gain in speed and efficiency for a moment.

Well, you can fly around. That has to be good. And there's no dust or spittle on the cards, another plus. And maintenance of the catalogue (or file) would be much easier, no multiwriter or manual sorting and filing to contend with. But the user is still doing the same thing, searching for a record. The advantage of an electronic catalogue is that the catalogue itself does the searching, as it were. In fact, anyone looking for information now has a host of unseen minions doing the actual looking. You just have to give sensible orders. "Bring me the head of Alfredo García!" you say, and off they go, scouring the countryside.

The moral is that reality is irredeemably punk, so we've probably nothing to gain to by making an exact replica.


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Watching TV is a good way to tear yourself away from the computer.