Are we entering a new era?

Posted: 03.16.16


My cynical been-there done-that, you-can’t-impress-me attitude may be breaking down. Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” He’s right. 

The ability to enter into immersive experiences is changing everything. So, maybe that’s not exactly what Cohen is singing about, but something is cracking wide open. 

We can trace the evolution of computer graphics, 2D, color, 3D, higher resolution, processing power to do amazing effects, and on. Evolutionary, almost predictable, with the usual surprises, but seldom a revolution, not a real one. 

Immersive technologies are ushering in the real thing. Applications might be rudimentary now, but there is a crack, and we can see the light. 
It’s going to be mind-blowing. Better than LSD, better than … really anything. 

The possibilities are endless, not limited by imagination because it’s crowd-sourced imagination, and that’s just about infinite. 

Visionaries come in waves. The first ones are eaten alive by the established, their bones tossed out like yesterday’s fried chicken, but they keep coming, when it truly is an inflection point. Ironically, it’s not new. There have been people trying to make immersion real for a long time. And yet, as this new technology works its way in, it’s proving to be something different than we ever expected. They can’t help themselves; the conclusions are too obvious and too resounding to be suppressed, no mat¬ter how cynical you may be. And then, at the tipping point, when the visionaries outweigh the naysayers, the truth is recognized, and the dismissal of the original visionaries is lamented, but soon forgotten be-cause now it is our idea. 

And here we are at the leading edge of that point where the future can no longer be denied, even if the machines to implement it are not yet perfect or up to the job. We know this is going to happen. We can’t ignore it, ridicule it, or suppress it, it is going to happen, and when it does we will rejoice. We will wonder how we lived before it, and philosophers and anthropologists will explain to us how, and why, we weren’t ready. For some that will soothe the pain of denial for all those months; for others it will be too late. Every revolution has its causalities, its martyrs. 

For the rest of us, the imagination-challenged who couldn’t see an express train barreling down the tracks at us until it was in front of us, for us, we will happily be swept along in the wave of euphoria and excitement about the new era, and the certain promises it will bring. 

And then, just as the peace one senses after the raging high tide recedes and calm is restored, when all is quiet and you can hear your thoughts and touch your fears and ambitions, then, you will realize the truth of it. It is a new era. 

Our lives will never be the same. We can never go back to 13-inch round black-and-white TV sets, AM radio, 8-track audio, or first-generation Nintendo games. We try, we think we’d like to, but we can’t. We are species driven by the quest for new stimulus, new discoveries, and new things—thingies. 

And our quest, our search, our desire is about to be met, to be satisfied beyond our wildest imagination. This is not a cynical case of be careful what you wish for, this is a case of how much I wished for this and now I have it. 

And there is the trap, the Faustian pit—have we entered into a covenant with the devil of all machines? The one that will truly devour our souls as it sucks us into this imaginary utopia of joy and satisfaction? Will we give up our lives as the worriers of the sixties thought we would with TV, as the conservatives of the seventies thought we would with drugs, as the alarmists of the eighties thought we would withvideo games, and as the moralists of the nineties thought we would with sex? Is this the new black pit of the doom of humanity, this false, artificial reality created by people with questionable ideals and perverted views of the world and it future? 

Is it? 

How will we ever know? It is the Hotel California; you can enter anytime you want but you can never leave. It’s Alice’s looking glass. 

Welcome, my friend to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside come inside. 

Wait a minute—I think I’ve seen this movie.