I gave a talk about Metaphors of Presence at the Sandbox Immersive Festival in Qingdao, China where I talked about how Chinese Philosophy insights about the balance between Yang and Yin could help describe the fundamental tensions in immersive and interactive storytelling. I told the audience that the West really understands the Yang Archetypal Journey through Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and I proposed that Eastern Cultures and China would likely have a lot of insight as to what the corresponding Yin Archetypal Journey might look like.
In response to my invitation for cross-cultural dialogue, Cosmos Deng came up to me afterwards to share his insights into how Taoist and Buddhist describe an path of ego disillusionment, some corresponding contemplative practices, and how the myths of the Eastern cultures can be seen as tragic. If the exalted individuation of heroic ego is the goal, then a king feeding himself to a tiger can certainly be read as tragic. But Deng says that it’s more about revealing the illusions of self, the interconnection and interdependence of all beings, and a much more passive and receptive sense of embodied presence and being. He shares a lot of deep insights into presence, consciousness, the nature of reality, how he sees that some of these Taoist & Buddhist ethics have been already showing up in Western entertainment through The Matrix and the reboot of Westworld, and why VR as a medium is perfectly well-suited to explore some of these contemplative practices and principles.
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[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So I recently got invited to Qingdao, China to give a talk at the Sandbox Immersive Festival by Eddie Liu. And I really wanted to speak to the Chinese audience and to talk to them about some of the metaphors of presence that I use. also really open up a dialogue and a conversation with people from China because I've personally been really inspired by Chinese philosophy recently and the metaphors of the yang and the yin just as high-level metaphors to be able to talk about the degree to which that you're expressing your agency with an experience and the degree to which that you're receiving the authored experience that has been Created and that you're really able to deeply listen to it But not only that be able to have this sense of presence and to really be emotionally centered and grounded in your body But also just have all of your sensory experiences stimulated so that you feel like that you're really present So I had this sort of idea that we have a good and strong idea of what a young archetypal journey is. That's basically like the hero's journey from Joseph Campbell. You go out, you are able to grow as an individual, but that ultimately you're able to then conquer the enemy, vanquish the enemy in some way, and you become a hero. And it's that level of the hero's journey that I think is something that is pretty well known as an architecture of a story from the West. And it's in all these different stories and mythologies and folktales going back from the whole Western tradition. But I think that virtual reality as a medium is affording us all sorts of new types of ways for us to be centered and grounded within our bodies. So it's less about witnessing somebody else go through and being a hero. What does it mean for us to be centered in our own presence and to really receive? And what does that really mean? So I posed it to a question saying, hey, look, you know, your Chinese philosophy is actually going to be informing the entire VR community a lot more because I think that you probably understand the yin archetypal journey a lot better than the West. The West has really got the yang archetypal journey, all these sort of structures of story really nailed down. But there's probably this new emergent structure of the yin archetypal journey that you probably have already embedded within your culture, and I'd love to learn more about it. So after I gave the speech, Cosmos Ding came up to me and had a lot to say about his Buddhism and Taoism. And just from talking to him, I get the sense that there indeed is a rich tradition in history for how stories are told in the East and what their center of gravity is. And I was super happy to be able to sit down with Cosmos and to be able to kind of unpack that a little bit and to explore what this yin archetypal journey might look like informed by his practices of Buddhism and Taoism. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Cosmos happened on Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 at the Sandbox Immersive Festival in Qingdao, China. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:03:15.552] Cosmos Deng: My name is Cosmo Stone. I'm from China, Beijing. And I just started in VR. I used to be in film production, VFX for specific. And then VR is a totally new thing. To me, it's a tool. I've been thinking about how to use VR for production, creating content, especially for film, TV for now. So, the way I look at it, there's a common thing between all these different media types, forms, is space-time. It's how you manage, how you tweak, how you manipulate space and time. And space and time actually is not the physical outside world. surrounding us. It's actually how we feel and sense and experience the world. So space and time, in a sense, is not really what we are talking about when we are creating experience and content, unless if we have an observer, if we have someone to experience it. So the author, in a way, is very interesting because it's like the author has to use his left hand to hold his right hand. So he acts, or he or she acts. The creator of the content has to act. and at the same time have to feel. It's an ongoing process of digesting and spinning out what you feel and shaping the world around you. So in a way the space-time have to be observed. And so now we have this very simple and fundamental elements of creating experience. It's space-time system defined and observers just like cameras and you know, cameraman, or director, or the audience when they're sitting in the theater, even though it seems like it's passive, it's not really passive. It is kind of a minimal level of interaction with the content, if you really think about it, because the cinema is dark, it closes down all your senses, leaving only the window, the screen for you to experience what's happening, and you have to, at least if you consider the eyeballs rolls around, and that's kind of a minimal level of interaction. So if you really think about it, there's no definite line between traditional media and the future of VR. It's basically the same thing, but just adding a lot of different shades between these two things. So by having a theory behind creating this kind of content for the future, we actually can unify all this different type of practice in creating content. So by defining, say, if we go onto a stage, a typical film stage, Right now, nothing is defined. There's no original point on the stage, physical stage. But if you talk to a Maya artist, a 3D artist, the first thing is to define the original point in the space. Otherwise, you're lost in the space. There's no way you can assemble all these things together. So why don't we have the original point on the stage? We should have it. And it should be a target that can be seen by all the sensors, by the cameras on set. And suddenly you will have the mixed reality production stage. And then when you put on the goggle, then it's turned into a VR stage. So basically it's the same thing. So a very good example I would take is that in the future, theme park interaction VR, interactive VR theme park is going to be in the daytime, people come in, tourists come in to experience the experiences. And night time, lights down, close the gates, and then the content creator is going to swarm in and put on the goggle to test and prototype their content. And basically it's the same playground. And what people do is basically you will have a very short distance between content creator and the audience now. Used to be you hide behind the camera. Now there's no hiding anymore. You have to be there and actually understand how you feel, how you view the world around you, and then digest and spit out the thing so that other people can get that. So it's a major challenge for content creators now. Because used to be you can have a whole team of people coming at it bit by bit, putting together a whole experience and present it in a very defined, restricted environment. But now you are talking about using all the senses and also motion. Now this time the motion is not just two-dimensional on the screen, but in 3D space, the motion has to be working with all the other things. So now, is it different from the past? It's kind of different, but it's not really that different. As creators, you have to be able to use the VR to stay in the VR world, to think about how to shape the content you want to build. At the same time, experience it. So it will be very hard in the future to fake something that would hit your heart. If it doesn't hit your heart, nobody will be hit either. So, but the industrial part of it, how to build a system to do that, I think as time passed, it was certainly up. Right now, people are looking at hardware, but it's not really the point. You know, I used to be using this example, the View Master. It's a goggle that old times film based. It's a stereoscopic viewer that had been very, very popular last century. And how many film slates they've been selling? I remember it's about 1.5 billion slates. and nowadays you can still buy them on eBay and Amazon. So people are still using that because it's on film, it looks terrific. You can point it to any light source and you will have the vivid image on it. So the VR is not new at all and the content creators have been doing it for a long long time. It's just about using the existing know-how and repositioning yourself in this new realm of content creation and how to face the world around you and perceive and think about new ways and especially because it's a mixed reality world, it's an illusion anyway. So you have to come up with new ways to talk to the world and react to the world. That's what I think.
[00:09:00.814] Kent Bye: Yeah, and we're here at the Qingdao in China at the Sandman Immersive Festival, which is, I think, probably the first gathering of a lot of the immersive storytellers from across China, bringing in a lot of different people from the United States and around the world to talk about storytelling and virtual reality. gave my keynote where I was talking about metaphors of presence and really also using Chinese philosophy to a certain way to start to talk about how there's the yang and the yin and the more yang elements of the active presence and the mental and social presence is about expressing your agency outward and making choices and basically exerting your will out into the world whereas the the more yen of the Water and the earth are much more receptive and that it's more about creating this sense of your embodied experience and your emotional experience But it's centered on you feeling present within that experience and I think that there's a lot of insights that I think that Eastern cultures and people in China have a lot of insight into this balance between the young and the end and you know in the in the heritage of the evolution of the Chinese mind has been this yang and yin, the I Ching, the Taoism and Buddhism that's sort of embedded within the culture. And so I sort of made an open call for people to come up and talk to me and you came up to me and said some different insights about what you're kind of drawing from your culture and your philosophy, the Chinese philosophy. So I'm curious if you could sort of maybe summarize how you see human experience and this yang and the yin and the balance of these different influences from Taoism and Buddhism and what that can teach
[00:10:30.288] Cosmos Deng: Wow, that's huge. Like I said, I can share a little bit of my own understanding. I'm not from the academic background at all, so nothing I said is legit. But what I understand, Ian, is the first thing you have to really think about, what is yin and yang? If you really look at the Chinese culture, the Oriental culture, the medicine and also the philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism, it's all about where is people, human, in this universe, in this world. And the Oriental point of view is very different from the West in a way that it thinks everything starts from yourself. So the first task, most prominent and important task, is to analyze and understand yourself, basically myself. And in the end, the conclusion is very astonishing, actually. There's no self. So that's one thing that would be very hard for the Westerners. In the Eastern culture there's no self, if you really think about it. It's not about giving up your personal freedom or your say to how to live your life. It is more like to understand your situation all the time. Try to step back a little bit and understand what's happening first. And that's the whole philosophy actually supporting the whole culture. And if you really think about it, all this martial arts from China, it seems like very elegant and beautiful, but not really designed for actual combat. you will understand that part because the combat is not about fighting others. It's about fighting yourself. Well, in a sense that if you're a very strong man, it doesn't really matter. If you are weak, it doesn't really matter either. If you're weak, at least you can run away. But that's not the point. The point is in the Buddhism and Taoism, it's all about people. It's not the most important. Experience is the most important. And what is experience? Experience is actually the consciousness. It's how you understand the world around and how you understand what your self is and behavior, your own behavior is. And the whole culture is all about how to understand this and how to position yourself. And understanding there is limits in your life, the space-time that you are in have boundaries and all these kind of things. And understanding the boundaries, sometimes it's vast, it's a huge world. There will be stories about how a farmer can tell the truth about the universe and these kind of things. which might be a little bit off the limit, but that's all about the nature of this culture. It's like being nobody, being not even yourself. And understanding that part, you'll be able to face the most difficult situation and the most challenging stimulation from the physical world. And that's like a very, very humble and on-the-ground starting point to be a human being. But that's exactly what it is. So in the culture, we have this kind of characteristic. And most people, they don't understand it. They don't start with this. They don't try to understand this at all. But they live in a way that they deal with this kind of things, you know, starting from that root. So, to have a VR experience in China or in the East, it would be very, very different. It's not about simulation from the physical world. It's not even about building a very complicated, sophisticated story structure. It's all about where do you start and how do you have the contrast and reflection of the self. That's what I understand it is.
[00:14:04.480] Kent Bye: Yeah, I know that that sort of resonates with my understanding as well. And I tend to think of, there's different metaphors that they have for yang and yin, with the yang being the sun or the light, and that yin being the moon and receptive and the receiving of the light or the shady side of the mountain. And so the one principle, the yang, is much more about the day. And then the yin is the night. And so over the course of the year, there's an equal amount of daylight and nighttime. And so you have this sort of balance between the two. And so I think that's a challenge of trying to come into a balance.
[00:14:36.424] Cosmos Deng: I'll give you an example, a very interesting one. A story from the Buddhism is that a king, when he's out in the wild, he met a hungry tiger. And the tiger says, I'm so hungry, I'm dying. And the king said, OK, eat me. And he actually fed himself to the tiger. So in the Western culture, people will say, okay, this is kind of a sacrifice for stupid reasons. But in the East, it's not. It's like giving up, but giving up nothing, because there's no self, and you're reacting to what the surrounding is, and you feel like, I can help this tiger, and you feel good about it. It's like a very extreme metaphor, but there's a slight difference between sacrificing and giving up what is already, should be given up. So if you really think about it, if you put this experience into VR, how people will react, whether you will feed yourself to the tiger, if it's a very cute, lovely tiger, can you do that? Or at least part of your limbo body? And that's a very challenging and interesting experience to ask Western people and Oriental people. And if you put a monk in the HMD, how he will react to that. And that's a very interesting thing to do.
[00:15:51.180] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's this, I think the yang and the yin, there's also this competition and cooperation that I'm also hearing, which is that during the daytime with the sun, you see shadows. And so there's this differentiation of the ego and the self that you see the self, you see the shadow, but yet at night there are no shadows. It's sort of like everything is connected in some ways. And so I see this also the yang and the yin as a metaphor for the competition where there may be limited resources in that the people are competing in order to really refine something in that there's a little bit of a zero sum game where Everybody has a limited amount of resources in that over time, there's some who gain more and more resources and others who don't. I think that's the nature of competition and the yang element. But yet, the yen is much more of that cooperation of things being interconnected and it's much more cooperative in that way. And that in terms of currencies, yen currencies, like information or love, like as someone who talks to a lot of people, the more information that I give out, the more information that I receive. And so information in some extent as a yen currency, because it's adding information to everybody in the collective. And so I see this individual and collective, whereas in the East, there is this much more focus on that cooperation, whereas in the West, it's much more focused on that individual and the competition.
[00:17:05.985] Cosmos Deng: Yeah, I think it's just like when we are talking right now, right here. It's like, yin is like when you're listening. And when you're listening, even though you're not talking, you're not speaking, you're part of the conversation. And yang is basically when you're talking. And it's all about fitting in that hole. But knowing that you will not be able to fill it to the really full. And it's about the same thing. It's like yin and yang. It's about always having this balance between too much and too little. And there's actually no too much, no too little. That's two extremes that you can never achieve.
[00:17:43.332] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I think that a lot of stories with Joseph Campbell and the Hero with a Thousand Faces, they have this hero's journey where, to me, it seems like it's much more of a yawn going outward and conquering something. You're either defeating an external enemy, but at the same time defeating an internal enemy. But you're going outward and you're taking a lot of action. And I think that that's a story structure that is from the West, but I suspect that there might be other story structures that are much more yin, like the yin archetypal journey, which I would expect that would be much more about trying to see how one individual is connected to the overall whole in some ways. And that there is a different type of experience, which is less about feeling the tension of the opposites of going through the different tensions of the different battles and seeing how people are able to integrate it. And it's more about you integrating your own opposites and you becoming present and you being in your own experience and you being fully emotionally present.
[00:18:41.523] Cosmos Deng: Actually, a lot of heroes in the Eastern culture, at least in Chinese history, the stories, they're tragic. They're not really the typical hero in the Western culture. It would be like the Monkey King, if you know. Monkey King's journey to the West. So if you read about the book, Monkey King is not happy. He's kind of confined in a cage all the time. And even though in the wisdom from the West, from India, and they return, it's like there's nothing left for the Monkey King. What else does he do? And what's next? There's no clue in the book. And the Monkey King is like so energetic and so powerful that it's not enough. The story itself, the happenings are not enough for him. So if you think about it, it's all about, even though you are very powerful, and still you have to face the fate, which is the boundary of your life. In the Eastern culture, a lot of times people will hide behind the history or stories. It's very hard to actually, if you want to find a character that's so strong, so powerful, that everyone will think that he's larger than the story itself. It's very hard. It's not like in the West, the story is all about building up the momentum so that in the end the hero becomes the hero and that's all you remember is the hero. I think story-wise that's very typical and very interesting. If you really think about it, if nowadays we want to reveal the real faces in this culture, in the history, in the stories, there is a whole new approach to it and actually it will work for this audience because people are starting to move towards the other side of the balance that individualism is more like popular now but in a way that is not really the same as the individualism in the West. So how to do this in stories to reveal who people are and what they think they are. We've been shooting Monkey King like so many times and every time a little bit towards more individualism and the story becomes weightless, weightless, weightless. So that actually tells a lot about what's happening here in the story world in China.
[00:20:51.423] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I would expect that because there is this culture that has this awareness of the balance between yang and yan that there could be storytellers that come from China that are really focused on creating these environments and knowing how to create an environment that allows you to either become fully present or to see how you are connected to the whole in some ways, but to really explore what this Yen archetypal journey may look like what it means to to really center somebody into their own experience or center them into their emotions as an individual and maybe sort of cut through the illusions of reality and experience and Have different experiences that are maybe trying to undercut that the illusions of this reality that we see. And so that's what I would expect. I don't know if you see that already or if you also suspect that. I mean, I think that there has been an influence of the West into China in terms of the stories and this sort of, you know, the individual and the hero and those Those tend to be very popular. And so I think the medium of virtual reality, though, it affords us to be able to create entire worlds. It has a different aspect of really, as a medium, I think it is really pointing us towards this yin dimension in a way that we've never had access to before.
[00:22:01.270] Cosmos Deng: Actually, a good example is that if you compare the first movie, Westworld, to the current episodic show, Westworld, you can see the yin and yang. Because the first one is mostly like a cowboy movie. It's like a road movie that you tour around, you kill people and do certain things, right? And now what we have, the story is all about finding yourself, who you are, and repositioning yourself in your fate, not in the physical surrounding. So it's like the West and the East is coming to this middle ground. And it starts with, I think it starts with Matrix. It's where it started. So I think the Chinese film industry or the story creators will gradually come up to the point that they understand this and they will find their way from their angle to do the same kind of thing.
[00:22:49.502] Kent Bye: Yeah, one of the things that you came up and mentioned to me was this Yogahara. And maybe you could explain to what Yogahara is and how that relates to experience.
[00:22:59.140] Cosmos Deng: Now I'm putting myself in a very awkward position. Well, I'm just a hobbyist in this sense because I love Buddhism. The first thing about Buddhism is my understanding. Again, all these followings are my understanding. Buddhism is not a religion at all. It is a philosophy, a system of philosophy. And actually it's not really philosophy because it's physical as well. Yoga actually is from Buddhism. You know, one of the origin is Buddhism. And Yogacara is one school of the Buddhism. It's a very, very complicated theory. Basically, I can tell you if I read a Chinese version of the Yogacara, I won't understand because it's all written in ancient Chinese translated from the ancient Indian language. I don't remember what the... Sanskrit? Yeah, Sanskrit. So it's easier for me to read the English version nowadays because the current world is all about the concepts and words from the West. But then it doesn't really matter which version you read. If you can understand the ancient version, it doesn't matter. If you understand the English version, it's the same thing. It's just easier. So if you really think about it, it's all about helping people to understand what is consciousness and even what is subconsciousness. It's what time is, what space is, and what illusions in your life are made of. It's a whole set of theories that's not touching the physical world at all. It's all about sitting there thinking about yourself, thinking of yourself, thinking. And because so many people put so many efforts and time into this over thousands of years, there's got to be something useful in it. So that's my attitude. I'm not a believer. I'm not a religious. I don't ever go to temple to bow before, because it's forbidden actually in the original Buddhism. If you really think about it, the Buddha forbids any kind of statue and forbid any kind of stationary thing to bow before. So, Yogacara, in a way, is very similar to Husserl, the philosopher.
[00:24:57.205] Kent Bye: The phenomenologist Husserl. Yeah, Edmund Husserl, one of the founders of phenomenology.
[00:25:01.909] Cosmos Deng: Recently, I read the book about comparison between the two theories. It's very astonishing that it's actually the same thing from different mouths. And in a way, it's merging the gap between the West and the East in a very fundamental way. And the roots of the culture is that how people look at the world. And actually, that's the most important world. The question at all is how people view the world and react to the world. And what is the world to them? What does the world mean to them? And your car is all about there's no world. It's all about you. Beforehand, you know, communists would say that because it's all about saying the world is imaginary, that's like a big, big mistake. It never says that the world is imaginary. It's not real. It's not about real or not real. It's about, as a human, you can only rely on your senses. Can you tell whether it's real or unreal? What is the right way to say this is real or unreal? I mean, what is the right way to say it and to distinguish between the two things without violating all those physical laws like science? It's not the same question. Science is science. There's a place for science in the world and there's a place for how people experience their life and how they react to it. It's also a science. But this science is not based upon physical materials. It's based upon how you think. And you have to really think about what you think, how you think. Then you can understand. So by this, we're saying that there's no way you can understand this by studying another person. Because it's all happening in your head. So it's very interesting in the old Buddha's saying that every Buddha is lonely. You have to be your own Buddha. Nobody can give you the wisdom. You have to find your own wisdom. And that actually makes sense from the philosophical level. Because it's all built upon that point that you have to start from yourself. And in the end, you will lose yourself in a way, but then you'll find yourself again, but not the same self. And in the end, it's not about self, it's about being yourself and being the whole universe at the same time. Whatever you can sense and feel is part of you. The world is about you, and you is the world.
[00:27:16.983] Kent Bye: Yeah, there's a book called The Secret of the Golden Flower that was translated by Richard Wilhelm. And it was a book that was given to Carl Jung, which Carl Jung was a psychologist who was looking at all these different dimensions of the psyche and through his own studies discovered this, what he called the collective unconscious, which was these symbols and myths that seem to be This common connecting fabric amongst people were that these symbols would just emerge out of people in these different mandalas and these dreams that they were having, even if they didn't have any context for those symbols, they were still using what those symbols meant appropriately. And he thought that this collective unconscious didn't have any sort of precedence until he found this book that was translated by Richard Wilhelm about the secret of the golden flower, where he saw these evidence of these similar ideas that coming from this tradition of Chinese philosophy. And, you know, one of the ways that Jung, I guess, describes it is that we have this polarity points between ourself and the unconscious. And that anytime that we develop, it's like this original idea, the opposite of the idea, and then you have to somehow reconcile those two polar opposites. It's almost like the yang and the yang is a polar opposite of how do you sort of come to some sort of resolution between those two? Well, it's more about finding some sort of balance between those two, rather than sort of saying one or the other wins or not, you can't be on any polar extreme. And so Jung was kind of using these concepts to then look to this Chinese thought and to come with some of these more Buddhist concepts and see how the individual was in some ways a unconscious part of the larger collective culture of the universal mind that was also trying to evolve and grow the entire culture. So even though as individuals we have our conscious and our unconscious and that creates a polarity point of We take these actions in the world, but yet our unconscious are paying attention to a lot of things we're not paying attention to. And then those get translated into symbols that then come out through our dreams and other ways in our life. But that as individuals, we are also a part of a larger collective that is also doing that same thing. So it seems like even at the quantum mechanical level of looking at whether or not the quantum wave function collapses through human consciousness. And if it does, some of the theorists have been going more down this path of, cosmo-psychism or pan-psychism or pan-experientialism that is saying these things that the self is an illusion that is, you know, this part of this universal mind. So, yeah, I don't know if you have any thoughts on that.
[00:29:44.025] Cosmos Deng: Yeah, that's very interesting. That's actually the other thing that's been a very hot debate in China is that a famous scientist actually brought up this idea of merging Buddhism with quantum theories. And in a way that a lot of people think it doesn't make sense at all. Chinese people. But it's a very, very good background for any story that we want to build. So if you really think about it, what if we use a sci-fi show, you put a real human into a situation that there's no way he can tell anything from a real thing from the not so real things. how he will react. Say if we put a brain on a spaceship and shoot it out to nowhere in the space, it's an infinite journey into the space and there's a whole set of smart machines to keep the brain alive and the brain is conscious and he will have to or she will have to build up a whole world in his mind so that he can sustain this infinite launch journey and this person will have to this consciousness have to build up everything it needs and In the end what you get is a Buddha That's the only way it will survive. Any normal, ordinary people will go crazy, right? So the balance, it doesn't really need outside world. In this world, there's no outside world. You can't even control the spaceship. Even though you can control, there's interface to the machine. There's no way you can understand it. And you think you understand it, but you have to give it a shape, kind of a symbol, so that you can understand it. That's how people's mind works. So this is one example that would actually tell us what kind of story will make sense for the future for both sides, for West and East audience, just like Westworld. It's like going deeper into the consciousness and at the same time keeping the hook with the traditional, the heritage of how you tell a story. It's basically always people expect something from the story, like dynamics and dramatic moves, but then in the end they want something left. And that something left over, it is how you, again, create a new angle and way to see yourself. And I think that's very, very interesting. If you look at the story universe with this and re-evaluate all kinds of possibilities and ways of skills of telling story, this is a new starting point.
[00:32:13.136] Kent Bye: Yeah, and so what does that look like for you in the future? Like, what type of experiences or stories do you want to have in virtual reality?
[00:32:21.040] Cosmos Deng: Well, I would think that creating illusions, that's the most important thing. It's all about illusions, it's not about being photoreal. I've been seeing these kind of approaches like create a physically correct photoreal representation of the world. But that doesn't help because people, they don't come in to accept the physical world you present. They expect something in there, a purpose in there. So just being very real doesn't make sense at all. It's all about creating a photoreal illusion or a stylized illusion. So the illusion is actually the outer shell of the experience and the experience is the outer shell of who you want to be and how you want the audience to be. And so these kind of stories have to go deeper. There's no more, I mean, for VR, there's no more like very high tolerance to look like very hot and crazy and noisy story that will keep you busy for two hours, then you will be satisfied. It's not like going to circus anymore. And circus actually is much more human because you go with your friends and you go on the roller coaster and the roller coaster is every time different. So VR has to be something that's more human-centric and experience-centric. So what I think the stories need to be multi-threaded. Parallel universes, you will have different endings and all these endings have to relate to each other in a way that even the endings, if you look at them together, it will create a meaning. And that's much more demanding comparing to the traditional media.
[00:34:01.161] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?
[00:34:09.777] Cosmos Deng: Well, if you really think about it, in the old days, at least for me as a teenager, every time I walk out of the cinema, I want to do something. I want to even sometimes kick the rubbish can, or I want to ride a bike, or I want to fight someone, or I want to fall in love with someone. That's the momentum from the story combining with your own experience. You kind of digest and turn it into your experience, right? So for the future, I think it's the same thing. VR is just a vehicle. It's a means of touching people. And you want to have a certain, the way I say it is that every time, I don't remember who said it, but the film really starts when you step out of the, finish the film, when you step out of the cinema, the theater. So it's the same thing. The VR starts when you take off the HMD and you start look at the world in a different way. So my hope is that in the future that we will see this kind of VR experience or experiences that would actually do these kind of things. Right now, it's all about within that period of time, that seven minutes or six minutes to do something. Afterwards, you are relieved. Now, can we have something that afterwards you feel like you're not relieved?
[00:35:18.060] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?
[00:35:25.613] Cosmos Deng: Well, what I say is that the Chinese young generation is very, very smart and in a way they're very sensible. So neglecting that audience is very, very not so cool. So come to China more and talk to young people and start learning Chinese and try to read the books.
[00:35:45.732] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you very much. So that was Cosmos Ding. He's somebody who's just getting into virtual reality and was at the Sandbox Immersive Festival and somebody who has a background in Chinese philosophy and Taoism and practicing Buddhist and yeah, just had a lot of really fascinating, insightful things to say about the yin archetypal journey. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all If I were to try to summarize the difference between the young archetypal journey and the yen archetypal journey The young archetypal journey is very much about you being centered in your ego and centered in yourself and to be able to conquer and vanquish the enemy and then to basically defeat in some sort of competition the other people and that there's perhaps a loser in this equation and That is all about you coming out and having your differentiated consciousness and your individuality. And I think that in the West, that is a story that is very familiar to us. And I think that is something that is a part of the foundation of pretty much every story, whether it's a outer journey or an inward journey, there's still this kind of individuation process. Now, what was really fascinating to hear from Cosmos was this more Eastern take on some of these story structures, which is much more yin. This yin archetypal journey is much more about ego disillusionment. It's about you not being the hero, but as the king, you are letting the tiger eat you. So it kind of refers to it. Some of these stories may seem tragic from the outside, but what the underlying point is, is that it's not about the ego becoming differentiated and individuated. It's about how can you, you know, surrender your ego and dissolve your ego and see how you're actually interconnected to the larger whole. It's a lot more cooperative and collectivist in that way in some ways you could see how a lot of this type of philosophy would kind of lead towards something like a Communist culture that is kind of embedded politically in that way But also just how people tend to not be so focused on their individual selves Right after I went to Qingdao China because I had a 72-hour transit visa I had to go to Tokyo in order to use the 72-hour transit visa within Qingdao And so I ended up spending like three days in Tokyo as well. And in Tokyo, it was really stark to be able to see how there was a lot more of this collective identity, where the fashion that people were wearing, so much of it was black and white, these uniforms, people were wearing like the business outfits or the school uniforms. It was not so much about trying to amplify individuality, but seeing how people really connected as a collective. So you see that in these different more Buddhist or Taoist or Chinese philosophy with the yang and the yin and this balance and harmony, I tended to see the more of an emphasis on that yin and collectivist type of mindset, both especially in the culture in Japan, but also these different signifiers that I was seeing in China, especially from talking to Cosmos. Now in China, I also saw that people were completely connected to their cell phones and centered in their own experience and kind of escaping into their own worlds. So I see that there is this influence, both in China and in Japan of the West, of this kind of more individuated type of awareness. But this idea of the yin archetypal journey being much more about you disillusioning your ego, being connected to the whole in some way, and just how that was perhaps reflected into some of their myths and their stories, like the Monkey King, which is the journey to the West, which seemed to be about somebody who kind of has like this monkey mind is really trying to explorer be individuated and that you know over and over again that there's kind of like this buddhist principles that are being taught throughout these different stories and so the really fascinating thing that cosmos said was that hey just look at what is happening in the story of westworld because if you look at the first iteration of westworld how it was really like the young cowboys It was really that center of gravity and that there's so much more of this eastern philosophy that's embedded into a story like Westworld that is so much more about asking these questions about the nature of consciousness and the nature of like what is your identity and what is your fate that you've been given within this world and some of these larger, more Eastern themes that are starting to have this blending of the East and the West, and that one of the things that he sees is that there's going to be likely this cross-pollination between the Western influence of already being going into China for a number of years, but there's also been this huge Eastern influence that has been coming over for the last hundred years or so from all sorts of different vectors, whether it's through Eastern spirituality and Buddhism and yoga and meditation, But also Japanese and Chinese culture, but a lot of these principles like the young in the end and Chinese culture, Taoism and Buddhism, these Eastern spirituality, I think, has a lot of insights when it comes to presence and what it means to be present. And so Yeah, just looking at some of these traditions, both from a model of consciousness to be able to perhaps help operationalize consciousness, but more from an experiential design perspective of what does it mean for you to dissolve your ego and to go into a virtual reality experience and to have it, you know, show to you how much of an illusion all of this constructed reality is and how much our perception, you know, we get to the point where you look at the self so much that you realize that there is no self. and that we are a part of this quantumly entangled panpsychic type of world where once you get down to the quantum mechanics, there could be some of these different insights that are coming in. We'll have to keep watch and see what happens if there's some general consensus in the quantum mechanic community to see if there's a movement towards these metaphysics of cosmopsychism or panpsychism or panexperientialism, some of these metaphysical frameworks that would allow for human consciousness to interface with the fabric of reality in different ways, which would Pretty much at that point, if that's true, then we basically are living in this participatory universe where the construction of a reality is something that is collaborative in this way. I've been reading this book called The Order of Time by Carlos Revelli, and he's really going into relational quantum mechanics. a lot of these concepts around how there are not concrete objects, that there is just these processes that are connected to each other and really diving deep into the nature of time. I know that I had given a talk at VRTO talking about some of the concepts of time and the structures of space-time from the perspective of general relativity. Well, with quantum loop gravity and some of these latest insights from quantum mechanics of trying to come up with these underlying mathematical structures to connect the large with the small from the general relativity with quantum mechanics, that there's even more sophisticated metaphors and insights about the nature of time and the nature of space. And that was one of the things that Cosmos started right off with, is that as you go into virtual reality technologies, you are having these new experiences of space and time, and as you have these new experiences of space and time, you're modulating your experiences of reality in that way. I think that's one of the really interesting things is to see how much we're able to use VR technologies to be able to modulate our consciousness and to Perhaps get these deeper insights into the nature of reality because as we go into these VR experiences They are perhaps, you know blazing these new neural pathways so that when we take off the headset We're able to see reality in a completely new and different way And I think that's what cosmos was in a large part trying to say here So, uh, lots of really interesting insights from Cosmos. Uh, like he said, he is not a trained, uh, philosopher in this realm. He's not a religious scholar anyway. So I hope to, at some point, uh, be able to talk to more people who, you know, have a little bit more rigorous training and all of these different traditions. Cosmos is somebody who is, you know, studied this on his own and has his own perspective and thought on it, which I thought is absolutely amazing. But, you know, as I move forward, I want to start to both create more of these bridges and these, these insights into some of these Eastern philosophies, and be able to, you know, talk to more experts and to ask them more about the nature of consciousness and nature of reality and what some of these Eastern and Chinese philosophies can teach us about the nature of reality and the nature of experience when it comes to virtual reality. as well as this yin archetypal journey. What's it mean to be able to have this ego disillusionment as a part of the story? And the experience that actually won the best Chinese experience, Shen Gong, A Tale of Illusion, is all about this ego disillusionment. So in terms of actually having experiences that are actually following what Cosmos is saying, the top experience coming out of this festival was doing exactly that in their experience. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. 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