Sunday, January 17, 2010

3D Adrenaline Makes It Hard To Remember.

From: Dr. Pepper
To: Dr. Cosmos
Subject: Avatar

Is awesome because that technology will make virtual experiences more visually and imaginatively pleasurable than real life and will keep getting better. And the movie could be all about affirming the imaginary or fictional world because the guy chooses pandora over humanity, and the pandoran world is depicted as being so much better. So, we should embrace upcoming virtual realities? But they can't last indefinitely because humans will come back?? So its better but not??? Cos??? What's it all mean??!? ahhhagdvbhd I've been $#@%%^$ all day. miss everyone, movie was good

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

From: Dr. Cos
To: Dr. Pepper
Subject: Re: Avatar

I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner man; but you're dead on. There's quite a lot going on in Avatar. In the end the marine chooses to stay in his Pandora game-world and live a life of avatar-pleasure rather than remain faithful to his physical human past... So it seems like they're saying "HEY, VIDEO GAMES ARE BETTER THAN REALITY!, WORLD OF WARCRAFT FOREVER!"

But I think that Cameron was going for something different. In the last moment of the movie the hero opens his eyes in a new avatar body and the lights in the theater flash on. After hallucinating for 2.5 hours, anyone really watching that movie feels a shock, a jarring sensation of being thrown back into their human bodies. I personally believe that my reality is fictitious to a degree (I'm the author), and so any subjective perception of "reality" is by definition just as invented as Avatar 3D was.

Thing is, when you get thrown back into your physical body at the end of the movie, your world is a bit different because you've been subtly handed a new set of shiny goal structures within which to live (/play):

Hi, I'm James Cameron. Uhh, Spirituality, conservationism and harmony with nature, you know? Down with capitalism, $#@% Iraq and long live collectivism! Don't pirate movies.

No? There are some very seriously confusing messages about how we should return to earth following this movie. Sure every film/game/novel/dream has its messages. Problem here is: this pamphlet is making a billion dollars cash. It is itself the greatest mass-exodus of escapist citizens ever executed within our capitalist system, and they pull it off by deriding the very system that pays for it! The popcorn bags used to watch this thing worldwide probably leveled half the trees in New Guinea.

Our way of dealing with scarcity is very confused right now; it seems to be commenting on itself by selling a simulation of its opposite, ie, "Pandora." Avatar: 3D Technology allows a top media tycoon to show you a world where technology helps a public servant enter a media-free paradise and defeat technology-wielding mineral tycoons by blowing up their technology with technology.

We're confused. We can't decide whether or not to embrace virtual reality (technology-enhanced-existence) or live in a tree. I say: Embrace the alternate realities that are presented to you with every moment, sure, but there's an underlooked aspect of Avatars' hero: he was crippled. His avatar grants him the ability to move again and escape suffering.

By entering nature. Ready for some high theory? Deep breath.

Nature is change over time, dynamism. Self-aware (intelligent) systems that are forced to stagnate (not-change), experience suffering. Humanity, given the ability to remember, experiences suffering in the preservation of one personality throughout a lifetime of change. Because nature is in a constant state of change, and we are not, we revere it. It is everything our hard-drives are not. Computers and archives and facebook pages attempt to protect our fictions against the onslaughts of time and change. At the same time, we are afraid of getting stuck on a planet that has "killed its mother," forgotten all reverence to change and fully embraced mechanization as g_d.

An intelligence fully stuck is the saddest thing in the world. Don't leave your computer on.

Anyway.... those of us playing Halo, World of Warcraft and all the other immersive virtual realities we have today cripple ourselves in order to escape to our avatars. We can't move or walk or smell or make out with our fictional worlds, yet. We play because we're handed systems of challenges that we know we can accomplish and enjoy the visual and social rewards that have been meticulously created to seem more attractive than those we would receive with equal effort in the real world. Blizzard makes 80 million dollars a month through subscriptions to their desktop-pandora, and everyone plays it sitting down.

Games don't change unless you let them.

So Cameron is telling us to get out of the movie theater and rediscover mobility, nature, change, whatever(?) Whether we can get the same awesome visuals and subject-enhancing super-powers that you'd find in Pandora laid over our comparatively drab WalMart landscape is really... the question. The future is gonna be whacky.

Pepper, once we can step away from the desktop/Imax theater and get the same visual gusto in a fully mobile, 3D glasses-type mobile device, the question will indeed be : "should we embrace it?"

But by that point I think we already will have done so. We want to be entertained, and whatever makes people happy, in the end, is what they will/should(?) do.

I've seen avatar a few times. Half of the planet shares a secret existence with me in that world. We've all mind melded that Na'vii princess.

And we want to go back.