This Metaphors of Presence & Experiential Design keynote talk that I gave at the Symposium iX conference in Montreal covers provides some concrete metaphors for presence, explores the connections between the Yin and Yang concepts of Chinese Philosophy, metaphors for time, the open questions around whether consciousness is emergent or fundamental, the philosophy of mathematics, as well as experiential design factors of context, quality, character, and how polarity points create tension in music and story.
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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 about four and a half months ago, I gave a keynote talk at the Symposium IX conference that was happening in Montreal, Canada, and I was able to talk about metaphors of presence. And anytime I give a keynote talk, it's an opportunity for me to kind of synthesize different thoughts that I've been gathering from amongst the virtual reality community, but also an opportunity to kind of synthesize other thoughts that are trying to make sense of all of what's happening in VR. Because in some ways, coming up with an experiential design framework means coming up with some sort of working model for reality. But it has to be at some point reduced down to a design framework so that you can actually make some different decisions. And reality is very robust and complex. And so how do you translate the more qualitative aspects of experience? How do you translate that into some concrete metaphors that you can really wrap your mind around so that you can start to figure out what is it that you're actually creating when you're creating a VR experience? Because you are in some ways coming up with a model of human consciousness, but also a map of the human experience. So this is a bit of an open question for the best way to do that, because you're really talking about qualities of presence and this quality of being. In episode 694, I talked to Ken Wilber about his approach with the integral theory, which I think is probably the most robust approach that I've seen that's out there, that it's trying to be as comprehensive as possible and really create this bridge between Eastern philosophies and Western philosophies. But it's also like a Swiss army knife. It's very complex and nuanced. And so in some ways, I was trying to iterate and come up with something that was very simple, maybe coming from something like Chinese philosophy or natural philosophy and start to take these concrete metaphors from the elements and start to expand out from there. But in this talk, I start to synthesize all these different things, whether it's consciousness or Chinese philosophy or the philosophy of time, as well as like the other aspects of an experiential design framework. I was able to present this to an audience of artists at an art institution at the Society for Arts and Technology in Montreal, and it kind of led to some other conversations that I'll be featuring as well. But I'd want to recommend either listening to this episode, or if you really want to see the other dimension of the visual component of what I'm talking about, I'm flashing a lot of different visualizations and symbols up on the screen so it makes it a little bit easier if you watch the YouTube video. But I wanted to put it out there on my podcast because I know a lot of people are subscribed to the podcast and don't necessarily always track what the latest video on YouTube is. So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this is a keynote talk that I gave on Thursday, May 31st, 2018 at the Symposium IAX conference in Montreal, Canada. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in. Well, it's an honor to be here and to be able to talk to you today. My name is Kent Bye, I do the Voices of VR podcast, and I decided to do it at the very first consumer gathering of this modern resurgence of virtual reality. In May of 2014, I went to the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Conference and did about 46 interviews in a day and a half, and that kickstarted the Voices of VR. Today I'm going to be talking a bit about some different mental models that I have and experiential design frameworks, talking about presence and different qualities of presence, from active presence to mental and social presence, embodied presence and emotional presence. And before we dive into that specific part, I want to take a step back and just sort of recount a little bit of my journey into this. I've gone to about 50 different VR conferences over the last four years, and I've conducted about 900 interviews, and I've published about 653 of them so far. And so I'll be continuing to kind of release these archives of historical evolution, but also kind of dipping into the different trends that I see. And I ask all my interviewees, what do you think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality? And it's kind of an impossible question just because there's no one answer, but what I've found is from all the different answers, there's these different themes that come up in terms of domains of human experience, like the ultimate potential of VR has to do with human experience, and for that matter all human technology has to do with what it means to be human. So whether it's entertainment, or medicine, or career, or education, expression of identity, how we exchange goods and see value. If we're isolated, how do we use virtual reality technologies to be able to keep us connected? Connecting to our friends, dealing with grief, going on dates with our partners, and connecting to our home and family and our heritage. So as I've done over 900 interviews, these are the different domains that seem to emerge. So I'd say that we're going from the information age to the experiential age. And so what does that mean? So if we go back into the 1454 when the printing press came out, at that point you're able to do mass production of books which are able to capture information and knowledge in a new way. And the computer is kind of the equivalent of our printing press of our era, and it captures human experience. And human experience is that you're able to interact and participate and receive, and it's not just a thing that you're just passively consuming, it's something that you're actively participating in. So some of the major technologies that are kind of symbolically representing that are video games and the internet and our cell phones to be able to connect to other people, as well as the embodied technologies of virtual and augmented reality. So I think one of the challenges of virtual reality is in order to make VR you have to have some map of reality and a map of human consciousness in order to do it. And so a lot of my focus lately on the podcast has been trying to come up with these maps and models but also experiential design frameworks to give to other creators so that you can boil down the essence of reality in a way that you can give it to somebody. And it's challenging because reality is multidimensional, it's very complex, and I want to just emphasize that any map or model that we have of reality is not the territory, it's just some sort of description that helps the complexity of reality reduce it down to 2D planes so we can actually wrap our mind around it and do something useful with it. So there's many different models and frameworks that I use to piece together. If you look at Gödel's Incompleteness Theory, or even all the domains of math, there's many different branches of math, and each of those branches of math, to some extent, describe one section of reality. I have to use many different models. And I'll go through some of the ones that I find the most compelling. But one of the things that I see within virtual reality is the best metaphor that I've found is like a circle. Because a circle is like a mandala. There's many different traditions that have reduced the circle to kind of represent the ecliptic of the sun, which then can get smashed down to then say this is northeast, south, and west. But this is like also a model of consciousness to a certain extent. there's a way that you can use these mandalas to be able to map the consciousness but also map reality. The mandala in this circle is kind of the intersection for mapping the cosmos and mapping the psyche. So going down to the lowest level of particle physics, now that the Higgs boson has been discovered, I've seen some people start to lay out all the different particles of base reality as part of this mandala. So this is kind of like all of the building blocks of reality at the smallest level. And to a certain extent, the best descriptions of reality are mathematics. However, unless you're trained in that symbolic system, a lot of these mathematical equations are not intuitive and they're beyond most people's grasp. And so what we end up doing is translating something like these math equations into metaphors and analogies. And this is something that George Lakoff and other people who have been studying embodied cognition, going all the way back to Kant, saying that in order for you to really understand it, you have to have some sort of primary metaphor. And you use analogical reasoning to use that metaphor to be able to extrapolate it out into reality. There's always going to be differences between the analogy and the metaphor in reality, but this particle-wave duality I think is to me the most mysterious metaphor for the nature of reality that we've found. It's the complementary nature of the wave-particle duality where things are superimposed on top of each other and they're happening at the same time but you can only observe one or the other depending on how you observe it. So it sort of speaks to this wave of potential And I think of it as once a decision is made, then it sort of collapses that wave function into that reality. So you're dealing with a wave of potential and the concrete reality. So that's a metaphor that I'll sort of be coming back to a little bit later. But there's a book by Pine and Gilmore called Welcome to the Experience Economy. And they say that we're moving from delivering intangible and customized services on demand to staging memorable and personal experiences that are revealed over a period of time. So that may seem intuitive, like an experience is something that happens over time, but what is time? The more you dig down into the nature of time, the more mysterious it gets. So what is time? Well, Einstein would say time is an illusion, because if you look at the equation for general relativity, there's no time variable in there. Time is kind of embedded within the space-time metric of space and time. So you can't have time without space, and you can't have space without time. So to some extent, virtual reality technologies is allowing us to have a new experience with time because it's changing how we experience space. So when you go into a virtual reality experience, you slip into another experience of time. So I think that's important because I think people are starting to play with that, and that tends to be some of the most compelling stuff that I've seen, playing with this sort of concept. And you can think of a metaphor as loaves of bread, in that you slice the... loaves of bread, and we have the phenomenological experience of the arrow of time going forward, but mathematically that's already all happened. The past, present, and future are all contained within the structure of space-time, and I think that is the most confusing thing. How could all those things be happening at the same time? Well, one metaphor that we have is in order to track the time, we see how the sun moves, how the moon moves to get a sense of the day and the month, but also how the sun moves across the whole zodiac to get a sense of the year. So you have this sort of chordal spiral structure of these planets moving through time that actually gives us sort of this metaphor of time. So we mark time by watching the movement of the heavens. Now the Greeks had two words for time. They had Kairos time and Kronos time. Most of us spend most of our time in Kronos time, that's sort of the left brain, like I gotta be at work, we start today at 9.30, gotta be there, I have a scheduled meeting at 10.30, and it's very linear, rational, and it sort of puts you into a mindset of this straight arrow, and seeing this stuff in a distant past and things are unfolding in the future. Well, Cairo's time is a little bit analogous to the non-linear time, there's cycles and phases, and to some extent it's that loaf of time that stuff has already happened in the future, stuff has already happened in the past, and so what are those moments that are going to connect you to those things that have already happened and things that are going in the future, but it's also this phenomenological experience of being on vacation and having no plans and then just sort of like stumbling upon and making a decision where there's all these synchronicities where your internal state is matching the external state of the reality. And I think, again, virtual reality technologies are training people what's it mean to be in Kairos time. Kairos time is when you get into a flow state where all your sense of time goes away and you take away all the zeitgeibers and you're moving through space in a different way. This difference between Cairo's time and Corona's time I think is really important. When I do my interviews, I don't schedule anything, I don't plan anything. I sort of set an intention, and then from that intentionality, I see what sort of unfolds and emerges. And that's basically how I've done most of my interviews. And it's like being at Burning Man or on vacation. So I found that the Chinese philosophy actually has embedded within it all these deep metaphors of time from the yin and the yang, the receptive and the active. You know, you look at the yin-yang symbol and you can see that as you map the motion of the sun over the course of the day, it rises at 6 a.m., it's the peak. of at noon and then it goes down and it sort of forms that yin yang symbol of this is in some sense if you were to take the ecliptic and sort of wrap it out and flatten it this is what it's saying because the sun is sort of going around in a circle here but it's also as it grows in energy you have the peak of the yang energy and then it sets and then you go into the yin and so you have this balance of lightness and darkness. Yang literally means like the light and the yin is the shade and so it's the difference between the solar energy of the day where your energy is being projected outward and the yin is like the moon that is receiving and reflecting that light and it's more akin to those aspects of reality where you're going inward and actually like receiving things rather than sort of putting your energy outward. And over the course of the year, there's a balance of lightness and darkness. If you were to add up all the hours of lightness and darkness for any one given spot on the Earth, they come out to be equal. So that's sort of the deeper lesson of the yang and the yang, is that you have the summer solstice where you have the most sun, and then winter solstice you have the least amount of sun. And if you were to actually plot that out, again you start to see the yin-yang symbol, this is just a radial plot of as you go outward you can see that in the winter solstice there's the most amount of darkness, in the summer solstice there's the most amount of light, and then in the equinoxes you have like equal light and darkness. This is showing the increase of yang and yin over the course of the day. We can imagine that on the left-hand side is the east and the west side west and the top is south where the sun is sort of rising and setting. And you have this yang energy increasing and decreasing over the course of the day. But this is also a very powerful metaphor. The Yang, they consider the Chinese philosophy as heaven, so to a certain extent it's implying that there could be some sort of transcendental realm, like a platonic realm of ideal forms, and so while we're here on Earth, the Yang could potentially represent this symbolic platonic reality. And if you look at storytelling, you have this similar kind of cyclical nature of the hero's journey where it's the same type of going out and going on an adventure and coming back home, it's the same cycle of crossing the threshold, going through some sort of tension and then coming back, and that's the basic fundamental ingredients of all these stories is that consonance and dissonance that happens over the course of the story. And if you look at real life, there's actually many different dimensions of those cycles that are overlapping and happening all the time. You may be finishing one thing while in the middle of something else, but also beginning something else. And so when we start to think about nonlinear interactive narratives, you have to start to think about, okay, we're gonna go away from the singular narrative And what are the overlapping stories that are unfolding here? And how is it gonna be interesting to sort of look at these different scales of stories that are unfolding? In terms of time, the Pythagorean idea is that all is number. And that if all is number, then the Greeks would actually translate that into four different disciplines. So the pure abstraction of number was mathematics. If you put space to number, then you get geometry. And then if you add time to number, you get music, you have the different intervals. That was a big innovation from Pythagoras, is that they discovered that all the music and harmony was just basically numbers of the strings and those different harmonics. And then numbers and space and time is astronomy. So the Quadrivium was about studying mathematics and geometry and music and astronomy. And I see that with a book called The Jazz of Physics, if anybody's checked that out. It's somebody who's been inspired by this Pythagorean idea that all is numbered, but also is starting to sort of look to things like Carl Jung and these analysis of the dreams in order to get these deeper insights and intuitions and starting to add geometry to music. I was inspired by this concept and idea. And you can see that, it's a little hard to see, but you can see over here is a circle of fifths. This is Beethoven's fifth, and so each chord that's being... This is here, every note being played, this is the pitch, and this is the chord structure of that. And it's all the same thing, but you get a sense of time, different dimensions of time here. There's a different frequency of pitch, which is a representation of time, you have all the different scales, and then... You have the consonants and dissonance that's represented in the different geometries that are formed here. So I think that if you were to put this into a virtual reality experience, you'd be able to actually have a spatialized experience of the geometry of time. And if you were wearing a haptic suit, you'd be able to put that all up and down your body and get even more of a deeper intuition of the structure and nature of music. So I think if we start to spatialize music, we start to get... some of these intuitive insights. Now, this is probably the number one experience in virtual reality now, it's Beat Saber. It's the same concept of adding geometry to music. So, Beat Saber, the idea is that you go into this experience and then you start to have somebody who's designed the beats to be able to, like, you're moving as the song is playing, and you get this embodied experience of the song. Now, this is somebody who is... using a Darth Maul setup on his controller, but in playing Beat Saber you start to get an embodied experience of these notes that are coming at you. How many people have played Beat Saber yet? I'm just curious. You definitely need to check this out because... This video has like 1.5 million views. It's the first... It's starting to cross the chasm into going into the mainstream, having these experiences, and so... Yeah, there's something quite magical to be able to step into a song like that and to have that embodied experience. So the other thing that I find really interesting about the Chinese philosophy is it has embedded within it these natural polarity points. And polarities are the essence of story, they're the essence of music, going from consonance to dissonance to resolving that into the harmony and having all the dramatic tension and that getting resolved. And so it's the shady side, the sunny side, the moon, the sun, receptive, active, night, day, cold, hot, intuitive, logical, winter and summer. As I move forward, I'm looking for more philosophies and approaches that are naturally embedding these polarity points, just to kind of help understand the nature of reality. And then if you look at something like the Hegelian dialectic, it goes from thesis, antithesis and synthesis. So that's one example of going from like, at one point you have the opposite and you're trying to basically synthesize those two opposites and then that becomes new thesis and then you repeat that cycle. So this is like a basic model for all of growth and evolution is this process of having some idea, the opposite contradiction, and then trying to resolve it into something that transcends and includes the essence of both. So let's dive into the experiential design framework for virtual reality. I've found that the elements are probably the most powerful metaphors for describing the quality of experiences that I've experienced within virtual reality. And that's the fire element of active presence, the air element of mental and social presence, the water element of emotional presence, and the earth element of embodied presence. And we can go back to how the elements were sort of matched up with temperament theory, where up here there's hot, so the fire and air are the more yang expressions of energy. And I prefer yang than masculine because it sort of doesn't imply that it's male or gender-essentialized in any way. And the more yin elements of the cold are the earth and water, and that's more receptive. And then there's the dry and wet. So between those, you get this combination of the different elements. So the fire, air, earth, and water. So if you look at the communications mediums that are a paradigmatic example of each of these elements, for the fire element it's all about agency and expressing your will into the experience and taking action and pushing buttons, and so you have video games and then for the air element it's all about these abstractions of the mind and so it's about communication and the internet and having access to all the information and knowledge in the world at your fingertips through the internet and your computer, but also being able to call your friends up and talk to them on the phone through the social dimension. And then the emotional presence is the films that encompass everything from visual storytelling to music and mood and color and ambiance, all these things that are invoking your emotions and your emotional engagement. And then finally, the virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are putting the earth element into technology for the first time. Our bodies are now into the experience. We're hacking all of our sensory motor contingencies, and we are feeling like we're actually there into the experience. So the fire element, expression of will, you're exploring the air element of the mental abstractions, and you believe of whatever is happening. And the water element is your degree to which you feel emotionally invested into the experience. And the earth element is hacking all the sensory motor contingencies to make your body feel like it's there, but it's also the environment, so creating a sense of that environment. So you have active presence, mental and social presence, emotional presence, and embodied presence. And I found that as I've gone through well over 2,000 VR experiences over the last four years, that these are kind of like these different ingredients. There's different trade-offs between them as you go into an experience. And so we'll go through some of these trade-offs here in a little bit. But let's just walk through, like Aristotle had a way of organizing the elements where he put earth at the bottom, then water, then fire, then air. And so you can see that the way that these glyphs are made, that the more receptive glyphs of the yin elements are pointing downwards and the more yang are pointing upwards. And you can match this to the cone of experience where you have the most abstraction of the text and verbal, sort of like the air element of thinking, then you start to go on field trips and you're able to actually make choices and take action on a field trip, and that's the fire element agency. And then at some point, if you go and get a guided tour from a docent and they're telling you the story behind that, then it'll allow you to get hooked into your feelings a little bit more with those dramatized experiences in the water element, and then finally the earth element is the most sensory experience, you get the taste and the touch, and once you have all those things connected then it basically is the most rich experience that you can have. Now there's also another interesting sort of metaphor to think about, which is that our thinking mind is probably the least amount of, in terms of percentage, of things that are actually going on. There's so much about our unconscious behaviors and habits and feelings and our body is processing all this data. Our body's like a GPU and it's taking all this data in and it's processing it and converting it into knowledge that our brain can understand. So as I'm saying these words, you're hearing what I'm saying. It's all happening at an unconscious level that your brain is translating that and sending that to your brain, but it's happening at the subconscious and unconscious part of yourself. Now, the concept of embodied cognition is that we have this metaphor that we've been using for a long time that our brain is like a computer. Well, you can say that our whole body is like that computer that is processing all this information so that you go into a VR experience, you have this whole context that you're in another place, you're able to make those choices and take action, and doing all those things at the same time actually trains our brain better than anything else that we've ever seen. And so the applications of virtual reality for training, given the principles of embodied cognition, just becomes obvious that as you have that full cone of experience and all those elements of the making choices of the air element, taking action of the fire element, and have the environment invoke your emotions with the stress and tension of the water element, and then having your body actually take those actions of the earth element, all those things together start to create these rich experiences. Now there's intuition and thinking and sensing and feeling, this is what Carl Jung actually took the elements and was inspired to be able to translate them into these words, and then the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator started to pull some of those cursi temperaments into the overall personality dynamics of the Myers-Briggs, of thinking, intuitive feeling, and sensing. And the Galen temperaments are something that go way back to the history of Western thought, and they're actually still used in different schools, like Waldorf School will use temperament in order to know how to teach different people. So if someone's melancholic, that may be more earthy, and they may have to have a direct experience before they really understand it. And someone who's like an air element sanguine, they may be able to just hear a didactic lecture and get all the concepts without anything more, but someone who's choleric, they may need to have some sort of way that they can interact and participate in something before they know that information. And the phlegmatic, maybe they need a story, or maybe they need some sort of deeper meaning for why this is important before they really pay attention. So you can also look at different models of different intelligences, and I think there's sort of mappings and analogues if you take Gardner's multiple intelligences. And I've done about 100 interviews about artificial intelligence, and Rao Kamaputai, who's the president of the AAAI, I was thinking about intelligence as a left brain, right brain, and he's like, no, no, no, no. There's manipulative intelligence to the degree that you can learn about your environment by interacting with it. Cognitive and social intelligence, emotional intelligence in the sense of AIs needing to interact with other humans, so they have to understand emotions but also mimic emotions. And then there's the perceptual intelligence of being able to actually see what's happening in the world and make sense of it with all these neural networks, and computer vision, and all these things that are going to be essential for the future of augmented reality. So, the future of storytelling is going to be immersive and interactive. So, when we look at this metaphor of the particle-wave duality, there's this tension between the way that we've always told stories, which was like a storyteller writes down a script and that's it, you just passively receive it, well... In the future, telling a story is going to be a lot more about creating an open space of possibility for people to make choices in, and then it's going to be more about designing that possibility space and designing personalities that people can actually interact with. And so there's this tension between, well, how do you do that? How do you balance an authored narrative with a generative narrative? And I think there's many different options on the spectrum here from the fully traditional stories and the interactive stories, multiple endings, the branching path, open-ended sandboxes, and then the fully player-driven stories. So, on the far extreme, we have the traditional three-act structure, that's what we are doing all the time, every day, whenever you see a movie, you just tell the story. And as we start to inch towards adding more agency, then you're adding little slight variations of either this or that. but eventually they converge and it's not really a meaningful decision. It's just giving you the illusion of agency and starting to give you a little taste of having a little bit of control of the experience. But it's pretty much on rails at the same time. And then you start to get into the branching path where you just, it's like a choose your own adventure. In order to do this, you have to basically do a lot of work to write all of those branching paths. So every decision you make sort of exponentially increases the amount of work you have to do as an author to author all those. Then you start to get into more of an open world sandbox where it's more about you roaming around a physical space and being able to take choices, but that's when you start to lose the integrity of the authorial control, it becomes more of a game at that point. But there's things that you can do with adding drama managers and being able to take what people are doing and feed that into an overall architecture of the story, and so you have this sort of combination of trying to take those decisions that are being made and maybe send you on different trajectories and you don't know what choice is going to send you down a completely different path. And then finally this is sort of like a visual metaphor for what the designing stories of the future are going to be. It's going to be more about all these different objects and entities that are related to each other in different ways and how you interact with them and what comes about. And that sort of open probability space is going to be that generative story. And so the challenge is, how do you do that? And it's going to be, I think, much more important about designing artificial intelligence and personalities. So those personalities and characters that you're interacting with. Alright, so the more that I've talked to people about virtual reality, the more this question comes up. Like, what is reality? You're going into a virtual reality experience, you're having all of your sensory motor contingencies hacked, and you have an experience that feels just as real as anything else that you've experienced. So, what is real? What is reality? David Chalmers has looked at this, he's a philosopher, and he's looking at these different questions like, are virtual objects real or fictional? Do these virtual events really happen or not? Are virtual experiences non-illusionary or illusionary? And are experiences in VR as valuable or not as valuable as experiences outside of it? So, depending on your metaphysical assumptions, you're going to answer this differently. So, the current mainstream paradigm, as far as we can tell, sort of really driving our ontological reality of the mainstream is reductive materialism, which is saying that, like, base reality is physics, then you have chemistry and biology and psychology, and then our consciousness emerges from our body. Well, if that's true, and I'd say that these are open questions, like the biggest open question is what is consciousness and where is it at? It could be at some point we have enough visual fidelity to be able to put neural laces into our brains and to be able to find the hidden traces of consciousness, but until we do that, we haven't really found the causal links for what consciousness is and where it comes from. So if this is the model, then the sort of natural conclusion is that virtual objects are fictional, virtual events don't happen, these experiences are illusionary, and experiences in VR are not as valuable as experiences outside of it. I think that what we see in the virtual reality community today is that there's people who believe this, and they're going in there and just trolling people, and treating them like crap, and people are feeling this experience of harassment, and we have this at many dimensions, whether it's on Twitter or anywhere online, this kind of trolling behavior where people lose their empathy that on the other side of it's a human being because it's mediated through this technology. then that sort of begs the question, like, can you get trolled or can you get sexually harassed? I mean, I personally think you do, so it's to some extent, like, there's gotta be some other model that we have to think about, like, what is reality? If we're only saying that something that is objectively real is real, then virtual events don't fit that definition, and so you have this Chalmers irrealism here. So there's other things that I've looked to in terms of like Eastern philosophies that say that well consciousness is like this fundamental field that actually is before physics. Like there's a field of consciousness or intention that before things manifest in physical reality, there's a layer of a general awareness and being that this primary level. And if you have some of these other Eastern philosophies, or transcendental idealism, or hermetic philosophies, then these virtual objects are real, they really do happen, these experiences are non-illusionary, and they're just as valuable as any experience outside of it. One of the things that I've been really inspired by is this Pythagorean idea that all is number. And this book by Max Tegmark goes into our mathematical universe. Now, Tegmark happens to be a little bit more of a naturalist, and he believes that consciousness is emergent. I disagree with that. the main differentiating factor is the quantum measurement problem. And the question is if the quantum wave function collapses. If it doesn't collapse, that spins out many different parallel worlds that are still naturalistic worlds but they're in an extra-dimensional reality. they would rather believe that that happens in these naturalistic worlds that are in parallel than to believe that there's some sort of transcendental consciousness that is somehow interfacing with our reality and then sort of collapsing that wave function. But the main point that he's trying to make here is that when you look at all of the nature of the universe, it all kind of boils down to number and maybe it's possible that all of reality is just a mathematical structure. So that's the Pythagorean idea that the base reality is mathematics, and then from there, everything comes up. The Pythagoreans would also probably put consciousness in between mathematics and physics. And then Platonism allows for this transcendental realm of ideal forms. And with virtual and augmented reality technologies, we are gonna be overlaying platonic realms of reality on top of a real reality. And if there is a platonic realm, that's gonna be able to blaze new neural pathways for us to be able to have a deeper connection to being able to perceive different dimensions of reality. As we go into virtual reality experiences, it's opening our minds to have new perceptions about the nature of reality, like James Blaha was able to cure his lazy eye because it was able to control all the input to his brain, that meant that he's able to rewire the connections and retrain the muscles of his eyes to be able to see in 3D for the first time. So metaphorically, that leads us to potentially extrapolate from that and say, well, what's it mean to potentially have these latent human potentials that we don't even know that we have? Or things that we used to be able to do through our homuncular flexibility, we're going to be able to retrain ourselves to know what it feels like to have a tail, for example. because we come from animals that have tails, and there's people like Mel Slater and Jeremy Bailenson and Jaron Lanier who've had these experiments where they were sending the data structure to the brain from those experiences and that they would actually have the experience of feeling like they had a tail. So as we go forward in virtual reality, there's all these different implications of what we do with our body and how we're gonna be able to figure out things that we've never done before, even adding new senses, and for you to determine which way north is based upon something you've embedded into your body to be able to send that structure of information to your mind. And so the question as to whether or not there's a platonic reality or not is not something that our mainstream science looks at, but it's something that our mathematicians are looking at still in the philosophy of math, which is in part why I did about 40 interviews with mathematicians at the joint mathematics meeting looking at the philosophy of math, because there's this Quine-Putnam indispensability argument, which essentially says that if you're gonna say that science is describing everything that's real, Well, these mathematical objects are crucial for you describing that reality, so we should consider that those mathematical entities are ontologically real. So the opposite is that they're just semantic descriptions of reality, that they're not ontological or really real beyond that, and that the naturalistic disenchanted view that space and time is all that we have, and there's nothing transcendental, consciousness is emergent. So I think these two different debates are being played out in the math world, and that eventually what I see is that there's gonna be the philosophy of mind matched up with the philosophy of science matched up with the philosophy of math. And perhaps some of these spiritual and esoteric and healing traditions Meditation and healing and the mind-body connection, that's probably the area where consciousness has the most empirical impact. But right now, those branches of philosophy are separate. And I think with virtual reality, we're going to be seeing a fusion of all these, that we're going to start to have deeper insights about what the nature of reality is, but also what the nature of consciousness is. So just kind of finally wrapping up, there's these concepts of panpsychism, which is just to say that consciousness not only is fundamental, but it's universal. It's in every photon and electron that's out there that there's an indeterminacy of that, that there's choices that are being made, and that there could be a field of intention that is interfacing with that and somehow collapsing the quantum wave function through the mechanism of something like the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics, or even the Copenhagen interpretation. So what is conscious? I think that this animistic primal worldview that the entire world was conscious and that we live in the anima mundi and that we are interfacing with it in some ways, that we live in an active participatory universe where our consciousness is actually potentially collapsing that wave function is implying that we live in a participatory universe, in a conscious universe rather than something that's inert. So this is sort of our modern disenchanted worldview. And I suspect that with some of these open questions, there's a split as to whether or not a lot of our ecological crisis that we're facing, if we're able to find a deeper connection to our relationship to the earth and each other, that we're gonna stop having this mental model that the myth of the individual, but really seeing like the myth of how we're interdependent and interconnected to each other in different ways. So these are the major options of where is consciousness, it's either emergent, it could be fundamental or it could be universal, and I think that in terms of virtual reality as a medium, we're gonna be able to find different ways of exploring these different possibilities. So just to kind of wrap things up, I think that different frameworks to think about VR, There's the context of the experience, and one of the things that's happening in VR is that we're eliminating the need to have these contexts connected to physical reality. You're able to go into virtual reality experience at home and then now all of a sudden you're at work, or now all of a sudden you're hanging out with friends, or now all of a sudden you're in an entertainment experience. So these domains of human experience used to be very tightly coupled to our environment, now they're not. Now you can go into VR and you can go anywhere and do anything within that context. There's also the qualities of experience with the active presence, mental and social presence, emotional presence, and embodied presence. These are the different spices and herbs that you add to an experience to really hone what the flavor of an experience is. And then, as individuals, we have different temperaments that we are going through and experience, so we have a temperamental balance for what we like to do, what type of ways that we like to express our energy, but that also unfolds over time, and so there's different ways of, like, we may want to do this today, but we may want to do something tomorrow. So there's like these different rhythms and cycles that each of us as individuals have. And this model of consciousness from more of the Eastern approach of the koshas, you start with the body and the outside, and as you go deeper and deeper and deeper, the consciousness is sort of like turned inward, and the Hermetic philosophy sort of does the more geocentric approach, and then it goes from the elements on out to the different mineral, vegetable, animal kingdoms and then all the planets and then from there that's sort of representing of sort of all of our unconscious after that. So these are sort of the two different ways you could think about that, going back to that circle and mandala of being able to map both the sort of cosmos and the psyche on top of each other. So that's all that I have for today and I guess I just wanted to thank you for joining me today, so thank you. So that was a keynote talk that I gave at the Symposium IX conference that was happening in Montreal, Canada. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, well, it's always interesting for me to go back and listen to what I was thinking about like four and a half months ago, because it's a little bit of like this time travel aspect to see how my different thinking on different things of either changing or evolving or growing. I mean, since I gave this talk, I've had an opportunity to talk to Ken Wilber about his integral theory, which I think is kind of fleshing out a lot more of his approach for how he thinks about his philosophy of integral theory as this overarching theory of consciousness. And I think that Because he's been able to have all these altered states of consciousness and to these non-dual awarenesses, I think his approach is actually very insightful in terms of thinking about what the potential of constructing a virtual experience is. What was interesting in talking to Ken Wilber is that he was taking the elements that I was talking about here, these different flavors of presence, and he was metaphorically kind of putting it off into a bit of a suburb of his own integral theory. It was in this, what he called types, or think of it as like a personality type. And I think that the elements actually are a little bit more robust in the sense that you could start from that as a basis in terms of the different flavors of an experience. And so thinking about human experience from a much more phenomenological experience, you're thinking about the different qualities of being that you have. And I feel like that in some ways the elements are kind of the heart of that where you have the mental and social presence, the embodied presence, as well as the emotional presence and active presence. And so the yin and yang actually has a very specific way of talking about either you're putting your energy out into an experience or you're receiving energy. And so the yang being the air and fire and the yin being the earth and water. And so with that, I think that provides a nice bridge into some of these Chinese philosophical frameworks. And I think one of the things I've been reading a lot lately has been a lot of Taoist philosophy and just realizing how much my own process of how I do interviews is a very Daoist approach, meaning I don't try to schedule or plan anything. I'm trying to remain open to whatever the experience is and just trying to read all the different signs and symbols whenever I go into a conference and trying to listen to the deeper story that's emerging. And each conversation that I have is a bit of a pointer that's pointing me to the next either open question or things to be exploring. The other thing is just this concept of time and how I was thinking much more of a perspective of looking at time through a general relativity perspective and Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicist and he's really pushing forward a lot of concepts and ideas about Quantum gravity, but he's written a number of popular science books So one is called the order of time and the other is called reality is not what it seems and he's got his own Interpretation of quantum mechanics called the relational quantum mechanics and I really like his perspective and his views. I feel like his perspectives kind of fits up with this Alfred North Whitehead process philosophy of like looking at things in terms of a process. But I also, since this talk that I gave here, did this interview with a philosopher named Bernardo Kostrup, who's really building off of Carlo Rovelli's work of relational quantum mechanics. And I'll be having an interview with him. We'll be sort of diving deep into this deep level of the nature of reality. It's pointing to some open doors when it comes to these different aspects of idealism, which I feel like is this trend that's happening within certain philosophical circles is to look at idealism and Platonism as this philosophy that's underlying all of reality. So all of these things are I guess in some ways could sound like they're kind of diving into the weeds But as I was sitting down and trying to write the ultimate potential of virtuality book There's a bit of like trying to listen to all the different insights and it was difficult to try to Separate them into any sort of coherent narrative or coherent story and so in some ways I feel like I'm still in this process of trying to Come up with a working theory with the nature of all of reality But also when it comes to a phenomenological direct experience and what are the different? frameworks and models to be able to think about these different dimensions. And I started to flesh it out here and I did another talk at the VRTO conference that was just a few weeks later after this conference in Montreal, where I started to dive a lot deeper into the philosophical foundations of experiential design and a little bit more of an esoteric elucidation of virtual reality from more of a phenomenological perspective. So I'll be putting that talk out there as well after I dive into some of these other foundational concepts that I'll be putting out in the podcast leading up to episode number 700, which I'm going to be featuring this panel discussion that I facilitated at VRTO with all these different psychonauts talking about the nature of reality and working with psychedelics and virtuality in tandem in some way and what we can learn from the nature of consciousness and the nature of reality from looking at them from each of these different lenses. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listeners-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So, you can donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.