This episode kicks off my 18-episode coverage from International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) DocLab, which features the latest innovations of immersive storytelling from the documentary community. Okawari VR is an immersive experience exploring overconsumption, and asks some deeper questions about the ecological sustainability of XR technology.
The co-directors of Landia Egal (Tiny Planets) and Amaury La Burthe (Novelab) are challenging the inevitability of technology evolution and diffusion by asking what the cost to our environment would be if XR headsets become as ubiquitous as smart phones. With the rapid nature of how quickly the VR technology is developing, then each generation of technology is producing electronic waste that doesn’t always get properly recycled.
They’re also starting to try to estimate the carbon footprint of the full technology stack of producing and distributing XR pieces. It’s an ongoing process, and they were able to receive funding from the French government to continue this research. They were also asking audience members at Venice and IDFA DocLab to share how far they travelled to these festivals in order to estimate the carbon footprint of their site-specific exhibitions. Their installation recreates a restaurant by recycling locally-source cardboard materials, and even upcycled components of their immersive experience from a previous experience called Umami.
Their Okawari VR experience was created in order to catalyze some of these deeper discussions around sustainability within the XR industry amongst other creators, curators, and industry leaders. They designed their experience based upon insights from Sébastien Bohler’s book “The Human Bug (Le Bug Bumain)” that explores how the striatum section of the brain is in charge of the reward-based release of dopamine into the body that includes activities such as eating, resting & being efficient in effort expended, receiving more and more information, gaining social status, and sexual reproduction. They were attempting to trigger some of these aspects through gamified virtual eating in order to contrast it some physical mixed reality twists at the end.
But the experience was also a means to a larger ends of facilitating a broader discussion about immersive technology and it’s potential ecological impact, which we explore in depth throughout this conversation.
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So I'm about to embark onto a podcast series that I did a bunch of recordings at the IDFA DocLab. This is the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam. They have this DocLab that's been going for 16 years now, and they're at the forefront of looking at emerging technologies and how these technologies are being used to tell stories. So why documentary? I wanted to read this quote from a book that was being released there called Collective Wisdom, Co-Creating Media for Equity and Justice by Kat Cizek and William Euricchio. I'm going to be doing a whole deep dive onto this book later in the series, but there's a quote that I want to read that says, nonfiction filmmakers have often been at the forefront of innovation with emerging technology. More than 90% of films copyrighted the first decade of cinema were documentaries. That's just to say that documentarians are the ones who are adopting all these new emerging technologies and using it to figure out how to tell stories. So, continuing on, they say that the first color films, the first sound films, the first uses of portable synchronous sound technologies were documentary. So, too, when the cameras came off the tripods, documentarians literally took the technology and ran with it. They followed life as it unfolded in front of the moving camera. So with XR technologies and virtual reality, it's a little bit different in the sense that it's not necessarily always strictly documenting the world as it unfolds, because there's a lot of recreating and uses of photogrammetry and capturing spatial context and putting it into a virtual reality simulation. So there's different techniques that are different than what we may typically think about documentary. But John Greeson's definition of documentary is documentary is the creative treatment of actuality. So that's a broader context of DocLab and IFA-DocLab is that, you know, these are the storytellers that are at the frontiers of figuring out how to find new ways of telling stories with these immersive technologies. So we'll be doing that over the course of the next 18 or so interviews. So this conversation that I'm starting off with, and actually the first four episodes I'm going to be diving into, are all around the theme of our ecology, our climate, and the ways that we are perhaps not always in right relationship to the world around us. It just so happened that there was a number of different projects that were tracking this theme, and the first three or four conversations that I had here were all around that as a theme. So that's what we're going to be starting with, but it gets into all sorts of other issues and topics as well. So the first conversation that I'm having here is with a piece called Okawari, which was actually a piece that I first saw at the Venice Film Festival a couple of times. I saw it here for the third time and had a chance to talk to the two directors, Henri Laborte and Landia Igelle. Landia has actually decided to step away from working with these immersive technologies just because she sees the trade-offs of the potential benefits as well as the costs. For her, the calculus was that she'd rather work in other media rather than continue to support what she sees as something that's going to be fundamentally ecologically unsustainable. Part of what they were trying to do with this piece was to have it as a provocation, to start a larger conversation around the ecological impact of some of these different immersive technologies. As we start to produce these new emerging technologies, they may have a shelf life of a year or two. What's the impact of having all these different minerals and all the energy that it takes to not only produce it, but also to consume different aspects of these pieces? within the context of the metaverse, whether it's in the cloud computing, the infrastructure, just a whole lot of trying to evaluate whether or not we're on a path that's moving towards this path of ecological sustainability or not, and how they start to measure it. Some of the different aspects, we still don't have a lot of data to come up with answers to all these questions, which is part of why I think this project led to the French government funding them to continue this process, trying to assess and come up with ways to estimate things like carbon footprint of some of these different immersive experiences. So they were very conscious of how they were producing this piece of upcycling different aspects of their previous experiences, but also trying to measure and think about how would you actually come up with some metrics to see, are we in the right relationship to the world around us? So this is a bit of a journey for how they came up with some of those different answers, and we'll be exploring that in this conversation. And I'll have some more thoughts here at the end, sharing some of my thoughts on the actual experience that they produced there called Okawari, and unpacking a little bit more the things that they're talking about here. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the voices of VR podcast so this interview with Amore and landia happened on Saturday November 12th 2022 so with that let's go ahead and dive right in
[00:04:43.162] Amaury Laburthe: So hello, my name is Amaury Laburte. I started in VR in 2014 with a company called, at that time it was a company I founded, it was called Audio Gaming and we started from the audio perspective and we jumped into VR because a company and a producer approached us for a project called Knots on Blindness and eventually we started the adventure as an immersive audio experience and then at some point I had some ideas on how we could make it into a more immersive experience. At that time VR was emerging and so we proposed something where you would have audio and visuals and it was at that time for me VR was the perfect medium for this experience so that's how I got into VR and then the whole company renamed and changed and now it's called Novelab and we've been doing immersive experiences since 2014, something like that. So it's roughly eight, nine years we've been doing that.
[00:05:49.072] Landia Egal: Hello, my name is Landia Egal. I started working in VR by accident, more or less at the same time as Amaury, because I was working for a company called Agate Films, ex-NILU in Paris, and I was working with Arnaud Collinard. And Arte approached us to create a project with the audio recordings of John Hurl, who's the narrator of Not Some Blindness. and at first it was supposed to be an interactive sound podcast and it became a virtual reality experience and so this is also how we met. We had worked before but without meeting each other in 2013 on a video game called Typewriter but yeah we only met at the end of Not Some Blindness and then in 2015 I moved to Australia and I started working with StartVR in Sydney and so as a senior producer so we did a few like 360 shootings And then I moved to London after the Brexit referendum because I thought, OK, it's now or never, maybe. And I didn't know it was going to take so long for me to actually need a visa. And then when I arrived in London, I wanted also to develop projects that I had in mind. And so I founded a production company because I knew how to produce the projects. I was keen to be both on the creative side and production side and so I created Tiny Planets. It was in 2017 and then we created another company with the same name in France.
[00:07:13.095] Kent Bye: Maybe you could give a bit more context as to each of your backgrounds and your journey into creating in this space and what led to Okawari.
[00:07:21.378] Amaury Laburthe: I kind of developed a dual expertise. I started to work in research. I worked specifically for Sony in everything related to access to music through digital signal processing. So my background is more of a scientific background. And then I worked for a company called Ubisoft, which is really into video games. And so I really have a mixed expertise between science and tech and the creation of interactive games and products and experience. And I think for me, I do not come from a family where being an artist was an option. It was not an option in any case. But I think at the beginning of 2010, when I started my company, I started to realize that you could actually be an artist and also make a living out of it. It was a kind of revelation for me. And so I think as we went forward with the company, I realized that I could do both, start to be creative, but also live out of that. And when we met, I think we had a very common approach on lots of things, including what's immersive, what's emotional, what makes you react. So I think it was very, very natural for us to start working on creative projects. because we had such a common vision on lots of things and ultimately I think we like the way we work together so that we can try to get some reactions and emotions out of people. For me that's really what drives me. How do you create emotions for people? That's the main driver I would say.
[00:09:07.337] Landia Egal: So I studied at Sciences Po, which is like, I can't say it's an equivalent, but it's the same purpose as Harvard, I would say, in the US. So it's really also to train the politics and high administratives of the country in France. And so I specialize in finance and strategy. So I started my career in investment banking and then I worked for an audit firm and then I quit everything because it was like mainly also to reimburse all the student loans and since I was very young I wanted to write and I was for a very long time very fascinated by the beauty of the words and more literature and so I wanted to become an author at some point but it was only like in my dreams I didn't know how to get there and so when I stopped like working in the financial sector quite quickly after my studies I was ok, so I know how to use Excel, I want to write, so maybe I should work for a production company. And so this is when I met Arnaud, and since he was starting the new media department at Agathe Film Nilo, it was a very small team, it was just the two of us. And so it was nice because then we could work very directly with the authors and also I was able to help with the writing sometimes. So it was a way to use my finance background and what I knew how to do, but trying to take a step like more towards the writing. And then when I decided to create my own company, it was because I wanted to write fully. And I knew I was going to find a producer since I was producing it as well. So it was a way to integrate everything and it worked out well because I think what we have in common is that we both have these two hats, in a way, that we know how to produce but also we really want to create, write and direct experiences. And so it's not very common in the sector and it's something that we want to continue doing. And like a couple of days ago, someone was saying, oh, how did you get involved with the team of Okawari? I say, well, we wrote it, we directed it and we produced it. And he says, yeah, but how did you get involved? We have all these like different roles in the projects. And he was, oh, yeah. So the counterpart of that is that I cannot work on many projects at the same time because it's a lot of different things on the same project. So yeah, I spend a lot of time on the same project.
[00:11:27.051] Kent Bye: Okay, so that gives a lot of context as to what led up to your skills that you're adding into Okawari from the research and to the accounting aspects and the research aspects. So maybe you could give a bit more context as to how this project came about and what came before it.
[00:11:42.581] Amaury Laburthe: I think it all started with Landia during Covid. Maybe you want to explain, because that really originated from you.
[00:11:51.410] Landia Egal: So it actually very very beginning really started with Thomas Ponce who's a graphic author and a 2D animator based in Paris. So he had done like residency for artists at the Villa Kujoyama in Japan which is part of the French Institute. And he came back from Japan with drawings of a character eating and interacting with Japanese food. And then we worked together on Umami to create a virtual reality experience. of this character interacting with food and discovering memories of his own story through the Madeleine de Proust phenomenon. So he was interacting with a dish, the dish was revealing a memory from the past of the character you were embodying. And so it was the last meal of someone sentenced to death in a Japanese prison. So it was a restaurant becoming slowly an execution room. And so this is where the design of Okawari, actually, of the tables come from, because you have this red square, which is the tape that was on the ground in the execution room to signal the trapdoor. So, since Umami was evolving slowly from a restaurant into an execution room, because Okawari, yeah, it started really in 2020, I would say, Because we also had much more time with COVID to try to understand all the impacts, environmental impacts I mean mostly, related to the creation, production and distribution of VR experiences like the ones that we were doing. And so we were like, really, should we do another VR experience? Because for that, you need to dig for metals and refine them. You create toxic muds and pollution. You need a lot of water. You need a lot of energy. We're contributing to the democratization of new use in the digital sector, which already has an exponential growth of 9% per year, and it's not really controlled in a context in which we have less and less raw materials, resources, and we are fighting climate change. and we are losing the biodiversity, and so does it really make sense to try to have, even if they're like a really engaged project trying to raise awareness, does it make sense to do it on this platform? There was a moment when I received, I knew too probably, an email from Kaleidoscope. It was end of 2019, asking if people had immersive projects about climate change, to go to Adelaide in Australia to pitch them. And so at that point when I received the email, Australia was burning because they had like huge fires all over the country. And I had lived there because I worked for StartVR in Sydney. And so if I had a project about climate change, I wouldn't travel 17,000 kilometers, 7.18 tons of CO2 emissions to pitch a project in a country which is already burning. to pitch a project about climate change on a platform that so little people have. Not so many people have VR headsets at home. So in terms of platform to raise awareness, it's not the best one. You will raise awareness for, I don't know, a thousand people more, if you're lucky. So I was like, okay, it doesn't really make sense and I wouldn't choose this platform for that. And so this is when it started like really a process of reflections. Okay, so what are all the positive and negative impacts of making a project like this one? In the end of the day, is it more good or bad? And is it really worth to do that? And so this is when we decided, okay, so I wanted to stop working in VR after the end of this reflection process, because my conclusion was probably no, we should stop. And it wasn't just a light conclusion. I'm certified to certify carbon footprints of companies, so I did all the training. I'm an animator in associations like the Climate College, the Digital College, which I started in France, but they are spreading quite quickly around the world. But then I was, OK, if I stop now, everyone else is just going to continue doing the same, because all the links that I have made through this process, nobody else, not many people have made them. So we should at least make a conference about it. So I had a chat with Michel Riac to say, OK, can we, so it was summer 2020, can we do a panel or talk about all the links between resources, pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions and our work? And he was already struggling with managing things with the COVID, saying, oh, we already have too many problems with COVID, so I don't want to add that into the discussion. And then I was, yeah, well, but if we don't talk about it, is it something that's going to help us adapt to it, or is it just denial? And so I was, okay, if we want to have a mic, maybe we need to have a project in selection. And so we say, okay, so maybe we can reuse Umami, which was already selected in Venice in 2018, and see what we can upcycle from this project. What 3D assets, music, to see, okay, since the creation of all this already had some environmental impacts, we might as well reuse them and make them last as long as we can. And so, yeah, this was the origin, I guess, of the project. And so you can continue, but...
[00:16:58.263] Amaury Laburthe: Yeah, I mean you said most of it, but somehow at some point when you started to connect those dots, I was having a slower but kind of similar path. I was following a similar path and then you kind of accelerated my path a lot. And so we started to connect more together. The idea of upcycling Umami, I found it was great because that's something that not valued at all. I mean, in the digital industry, reusing an old project is often badly seen. It's not something you do. And I like this idea of, OK, we've got this. How can we turn that into something totally different? And also, because I was connecting gradually the same dots, that accelerated my process a lot. And we came up to the same conclusion of, OK, let's start the discussion. Let's, as an industry, let's talk about that and see how we can process that information and see what we do. Because that's really an issue. We need to talk about that. There are so many questions that need to be addressed. And you can see people starting to talk about it. And we're talking about safe place in Metaverse and everything. But nobody has ever questioned the way it should develop. Right now, we feel that there's only the Mark Zuckerberg version of it, which is headsets in all the homes. Nobody has discussed that. The same is true for AI. AI gets discussed a bit more, but not really in its principle. Are we all together choosing the best allocation of resources, materials and everything? And are we pushing the right use? Should we push the use of VR at home? Well, it's not sure. Should we push the usage of AI for this or that application? We haven't discussed that. So we feel that we haven't discussed the fundamentals behind all of these technologies. You have a great phrase about that. Usually technology is not about why, it's more about why not. If we can do it, we should do it. But no. It's not because we can do great AI. It's not because we can put headsets in every home that we should do it. We should question that because the world is not going to be sustainable if 8 billion people have headsets in their home. There's no way it's going to happen. It's just a physical limitation. The earth is not expendable. It's as simple as that.
[00:19:22.827] Landia Egal: So the quote is from a TV series called Salvation, and so we heard about it from an astrophysicist in France, Aurélien Barrault, who said like, yeah, okay, so technology is not about why, it's about why not. There is no other field in social interactions that works this way. If I can insult you, it doesn't mean that I have to insult you and that I will do it. If I can write a book with a list of excrements, it doesn't mean that I have to do it. and that I should do it. So it works almost the other way around. There is this Indian parable, which is really old, of the six blind men and the elephant. And so you have illustrations more modern of that, where you have six blind men, so they're blinded with something on their eyes. And they have an elephant and they're touching different parts of the elephant. And so one of them is touching the trunk and says, oh, it's a snake. And the other one touches a leg and say, oh, it's a wall, it's a fan. And they're all right with their perspective in describing what they're touching. It's actually that. But we can see that they're actually touching parts of an elephant. And so as therapist, I was saying, okay, so what we should do probably is to have like in our sector, people see the trunk. So commercial opportunities, creative opportunities, how you can maybe create safe places that avoid some of the problems of the real world, how you can use like all the let's say, the value that immersive technology and VR can bring. But then, if you talk to a geologist, a mining engineer, they're going to tell you about the problems linked to metal extraction, which ones are critical, all the uses we need them for, and how some of them are really starting to become critical, and we're facing, like, penuries, like when we miss something and we're short-aged. And that doesn't really work well with the exponential growth that we think the sector will have, because it's a curve that's going the other way, it's going down. And then if you talk with an hydrologist, he's going to tell you about water, and if you talk to a philosopher, he's going to tell you the simple fact that we're doing something, not a problem today, because we're all thinking, okay, we need to find a solution to climate change. But maybe the problem is just we're doing too much, and we don't need to find solution, we just need to stop doing certain things. and digging holes in the ground is one of them because any biodiversity loss, it's non-human lives we're talking about and what's the value of a life that we're destroying to extract. And so to have the vision of the elephant we should probably put all these different expertise and people around the same table and we will probably end up agreeing on what we should do if we had the complete vision of it. And so I was saying that at a roundtable at Stereopsia like a month ago, and one of the people who was in the roundtable said, I really know this parable very well of the six blind men of the elephant, but I think the elephant is yet to imagine. We don't really know the finality for immersive technology and we need to imagine the elephant. And so this is when I said, yeah, but if we have a technology and then we need to imagine the finality for it, it should be the other way around, especially today. We know what we want to do and then we find a way to do it. So it's like we probably need to think a bit more about that.
[00:22:37.322] Kent Bye: Well, I see that your project has three main parts of, you know, the recycling, installation part, and then the actual immersive experience. And then when I saw the version at Venice, you had a whole lecture that you're going into a lot of these different aspects that you're talking about here. In this iteration at IFADocLab, you cut out that last teaching lecture style, and it's more of an interactive Q&A. You're still talking about some of the same things. But when I saw it for the first time in Venice, you had talked about this aspect of how over the last 10 years originally oculus and then facebook and now meta has created 10 different headsets over the last 10 years on average it's like one a year with the dk1 dk2 the cv1 the rift s there's the quest 1 quest 2 there's a quest pro and then there's the the gear vr and the oculus go so there was all these different iterations of these different headsets, but on average it was like maybe one or two years of a shelf life and then there's the next iteration and there's not a full like recycling of those. So there's that part, but then I guess in the process of talking to over 2,000 people over the last eight years, there's this vision that the virtual manifestation of some of these experiences could actually have less environmental impact than the existing consumeristic model. So I see that there could be a potential trade-off that, yes, there may be some short-term impact, but if you look at the types of things that could be offset from things that would have even a greater environmental impact, let's say traveling, if you have more of a virtual reality expression of that, then it could be potentially less. So I think there's a potential crossing of those where it could actually over the long term be more efficient, but in the short term, you're dealing with trying to scale up a technology that's still emerging and iterating quickly, and having almost like this planned obsolescence of things that have a one to two, maybe three year shelf life before the next version comes out. But with cell phones, we kind of have this state now, at least, where they're a little bit more stabilized, where the new versions of the phones aren't so drastically different than the previous ones that there's not as much of an incentive. So maybe something similar will eventually happen with VR. So those are some of the things that at least I think about. So maybe I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on trying to evaluate those different tradeoffs.
[00:24:45.725] Landia Egal: So as far as I know there are no studies proving that virtual reality would replace some commutes and the thing is like everyone says oh yeah no but COVID has proved that if we cannot travel as much we can still interact thanks to the digital technology. But there are a couple of things to take into account. So for example, if I have an experience location-based and people travel from quite far away to see the experience physically, okay, if I do it on headsets that people have at home, first one is it, I will give a precise example, maybe you can describe this one. So I was approached by a cultural place in France. So they want to develop a virtual reality version of their programming. And so they said, we need you to prove that it's going to avoid transports. They say, okay, so then you're going to stop showing the programming in the physical place. And it's not only going to be, no, it's going to be shown in the physical place, but also in virtual reality everywhere else. So then the people who come to your place to see the programming and the works that you have will still come, but then other people will also be able to access them remotely. So in most cases, it's not replacing, it's adding. And it's the same with energy. So you have fossil energies, and then you add electric and nuclear. And so you add, but you're just increasing the overall consumption of energy. You're not replacing anything. And it's the same with digital technology. And then the second thing is like you also grow the number of people who can access your experience. So if you have like a football field you can have I don't know how many like 100,000 supporters for example. Let's say you give access in virtual reality or any way to a lot of people who are not actually in the football ground. Then you can have like millions of people. What's the impact of having millions of people seeing the game remotely compared with traveling to that place? And so yeah, some of the questions is, is it adding or really replacing anything? how many people will access it from their homes versus how many people would actually travel to the place and then becoming better because currently it's not easy to measure the environmental impact linked to accessing these projects remotely from a device that you own because there are so many things to take into account because it's not only like the smartphone or the VR headset there's also like the underlying infrastructure and the data and so all that requires like resources and energy so
[00:27:22.141] Amaury Laburthe: It's a great question and what Landia describes, it has a name, it's the rebound effect. Because new technology is never coming with a restriction of other things, history and study proves that it never replaces, it always adds up. And the same is true with energy. We've added renewable energies and we've added all sorts of energies. And if you look historically what happened, it always added up. Nothing ever decreased. Even the conception of, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the conception of coal today has never been higher. So it always adds up because there's no restrictions coming with it. So it's a new usage that's adding up to all the other usage. So people won't stop traveling. They will just add another device to what they have. So that's one part of the problem. If you look at what's happening in hardware, it's a very good example. Phones today, they have reached a state where they are really very good at what they are doing. Still, they get updated every year. We get a new Apple conference every year saying it's a revolution. So we have a revolution every year where it's a new wonderful device that is doing much better things than the year before, which is obviously not true. And if you compare that to planes, for example, or other industries like consoles, they get renewed very, very infrequently. And it's not a problem to anybody. Just look at the console market. They get now updates every three to five years. And the material, the hardware, is used up until its limit. So at the beginning, people don't know how to use it correctly. And three, five years after, the developers have made lots of progress. They know the hardware very good, and they can use it in a very, very efficient way. And they can do things they were not able to do at the beginning of the platform. And it's a problem to nobody. So what is the logic behind iterating so quickly when it's generating so much waste? There's no real logic apart from being able to sell a new generation each year. That in itself is a problem. Why should we go so fast? We should try to answer. The Earth is going to be there for, I don't know, how many million years? Why do we have to go so fast so that we don't even take care of the resources we have? We don't even reflect on how to have a sustainable system. Now we reached the number of, you know, how is it called? Jour du dépassement. The day where we have used all of the resource that can renew in one year. You know, it's becoming earlier each year. Why should we go so fast? There's absolutely nothing that tells us that we should be faster and faster and faster. Yeah, private interests.
[00:30:09.351] Landia Egal: Private interest. The fact that some companies need to sell more cell phones to just grow their revenues. But it's a good reason for them and for those interests, but doesn't mean that it's a good reason for the citizens, like the vast majority of people actually living on the planet.
[00:30:27.966] Amaury Laburthe: In short, what we're saying is we're not saying we should never develop VR. We should just do it in a very conscious way and precocious way. And it's okay if VR is not as fast as we would like it to be. And it's okay if it takes 200 years to develop to a state where it's very light, it consumes as little energy as possible, as little resources as possible. Or maybe if at some point we reach a state where we say, OK, maybe you should use those resources for this or that application and not for VR. Maybe, I don't know. But there is literally nothing that is demanding that we develop it so fast without taking care of all the waste we're generating.
[00:31:11.140] Kent Bye: It sounded like this project originally started as a pitch to the Venice immersive to have a panel discussion. And so because that was rejected at the time, you created this piece to be able to reflect on that. And so you've done a certain amount of accounting on your own of trying to keep track of the footprint of this project, not only in the production, but also of the distribution and the showing. And so maybe you could talk about that aspect. And then I also want to just mention that, you know, when you think about all the infrastructure of the cloud architectures and the hosting, and then there's all these servers that are in the back end that is a little bit of out of sight, out of mind. We don't always know what's happening there, but in order to have infrastructure to do this type of real-time showing, there seems to be another ecological impact to the overall XR industry that may be something that's not discussed. This project in particular is not doing too much around that type of cloud computing, so you may not be directly looking at it. But I'd love to hear about your reflections of your own project, but also reflecting on the wider industry of trying to assess some of the ecological impact of some of these XR technologies.
[00:32:12.580] Landia Egal: Yeah, so you're right like the idea of the project came from the rejection of a panel that we want you to do and so I say okay if we have a project in selection and then we will have a microphone and we'll be able to talk to everyone else in the industry about that. And so what we try to do is minimize as much as we could the environmental impacts related with the production, manufacturing and distribution of the experience, but only if it wasn't interfering with our will to also grow the positive impacts linked to that. So for example, going to an immersive festival like Venice or here, well the positive impact is that we can talk to a lot of our peers, people from the industry and public about this. But we know that the carbon footprint is just going to go... because people travel from very, very far places to attend this festival. And so we knew that it was going to have a huge impact on the carbon footprint, but we did it anyway. Because if the only goal is to reduce the environmental impacts, then you don't do the project at all. But then everything continues to be the same. So what we were thinking is like, okay, maybe it's going to be a little bit of carbon emitted, but maybe much more avoided thanks to that. So that's at least what we try to do. And so when we had a conflict between the two, we were choosing to have environmental impacts to try to convince and raise awareness because otherwise you don't do anything, but nothing changes either. The things that we did to try to limit our impact for the Prussia was upcycling previous experience. We didn't take any flights and I don't think we took the car. Like you see, one member of the team comes to work with his car two days a week. So we really tried to, we didn't have much transportation during the production. Then everything that we didn't really know how to reduce, we were at least trying to measure it. Because one of the problems is like if we reduce everything, then we don't have much to measure. And the measurement part is really important because today we, like if someone wants to make, for example, if I'm only talking about carbon, if someone wants to make the carbon footprint of its work, There are no real tools that apply to this kind of content and technologies because we don't have the data. So we also need to create the data. So we have, maybe I will let you talk about it a bit more. And then for the distribution, we're okay. Is it better to distribute it in a location-based way or online? What's the impact of the first one? What's the impact of the other one? And we didn't really have the answers. And most of the time, it depends. How many people download the project if it's online? It depends how many people come and where they come from. What's the distance? So one of the questions is, OK, what's the distance of commute that makes it worth distributing it online? So of course, we think that distributing it online, unless it's to millions and millions of people, it's probably better than showing it in Venice at the Venice Film Festival because the air travel is like really quite carbon intensive. So most of the time the answer is it depends so for that we need to be able to measure and for that we lack data in the digital sector in general but more specifically and it's even more problematic for new users in the digital sector such as VR.
[00:35:26.298] Amaury Laburthe: The lack of data is really a problem. It's super hard for anybody to understand what's the weight of what they're doing. As a studio owner, we are using online versioning of things. For example, I'm not able today to tell you how much exactly, precisely it is consuming and what's the impact, what's the CO2 equivalent of this online thing, because I need to ask data to either AWS, Amazon, they won't give me precise data. I don't know today, even as an individual, I don't know today if it's better to store my photographs on a Google Drive, for example, because it's mutualized and optimized, or on a cold storage that I rarely start at home.
[00:36:10.420] Landia Egal: But we know it's better to have less photographs.
[00:36:14.852] Amaury Laburthe: But we know it's better to have less photographs. She says that because I'm taking too many pictures. No, but it's a real question. And when you're developing a project, there's so many things you don't see. All of the network that you're using when you're having an online versioning system, you don't know where the servers are. You don't even know what's powering the servers. There's so many information you're lacking that you can't make informed decisions about that. And we do that every day. You don't know what are the infrastructures used by your cell phones. You don't know how much 5G is going to be more efficient in terms of data transfer. But because everybody is going to be able to have their cat videos and their Netflix on their phone, they're going to watch 4K videos on their cell phones, which is a nonsense, an absolute nonsense. And so again, we're going to have an explosion of the bandwidth used. for no reason. So all of that is super hard, because nobody has precise data. Now in France, when you're not that much, I mean, as a consumer, as an individual, and even as a studio manager, I don't have enough information to make very informed decisions. And this hidden side of digital is really... I find it hard to apprehend, to make conscious decisions, when you do not agree.
[00:37:32.381] Landia Egal: No, I agree. I think it's very easy for people to say, ah, but we don't have the data, so we can't do anything because we don't know. And I think we always have enough information to make certain choices, like having less pictures, for example. And so for the car, thermic or electric, the question is not so much thermic or electric. We need less cars. And so you can have less versioning. You can make these decisions.
[00:37:59.483] Amaury Laburthe: That was kind of my conclusion. It's an interesting discussion. The conclusion we came up with is, OK, because we're not sure what's the impact associated with that, let's start to minimize everything we can so that we're going to try to version less things, all the binary data, all of the Code is easy. It's not taking a lot of space and it's easily you can store previous version and it's very useful in the development process So it's less of a problem, but anything that's related to pictures textures 3d assets and everything you do not want to version that because it's taking so much space you need to version every iteration of So we tried as much as we could to lower everything we could. Work from the start with the good resolution of the textures, for example, because it's going to end up on a headset where you're going to have a very tiny vision angle, so you probably don't need 8K textures for most of the elements. So you can really start by reducing, minimizing everything you can. Even if you don't know the impact, you can at least minimize everything you can.
[00:39:13.898] Kent Bye: So just a quick note about your experience that you created here because there's a way in which that you're talking about trying to be aware of the perhaps overconsumption of or pushing the limits of what resources we have and how we're using them in the context of creating these XR technologies, but in this experience, you're in a restaurant and you're almost encouraging people to play this eating game where there's a goal of eating as much as you can. So basically indulging in the overconsumption of all this virtual food. And then at the end, you sort of have that contrasted to eating the virtual food is different than eating something that's actual, like one single raisin and having like a mindful experience of eating this raisin. So you're creating this contrast between overconsumption versus a singular paying attention to the stuff that is right in front of you. So I'd love to hear about a bit of your process of trying to take all these larger issues that you wanted to talk about, but then translating into an immersive experience that then would be at a launching point to be able to speak about all these other aspects.
[00:40:11.026] Landia Egal: I think it's because we read a book called The Human Bug from Sébastien Bolleur, who's a journalist and specializes in neurosciences. At the moment, we had to game design the project, and so the book is really interesting. It's very simple, maybe too simple for people who are actually neuroscientists, It says that we have a primitive part in our brains called the threatome, who liberates dopamine, like a reward hormone. Every time you do five actions which are instrumental to the survival of the species, which are like eating because you need to survive short term, having intercourse with other members of the tissue because it's how you transmit your genes and it's the long-term survival of the species. Like less effort because you need to have more calories coming in than getting out. Having more and more information because being able to recognize the footprint of predator or prey, it's really important to survive. And the last one is social status and have some power because it helps you having more food and more sexual partners for less effort and more information, which is really great. So this is the main one. The problem today is that the cortex, the rest of the brain, has done such a good job in transforming our environment that we pretty much can give satisfaction to our 3 items all the time. We have so much food that today we die more of obesity than lack of food. We accumulate information everywhere, we need to know what's happening at any second, everywhere in the world, and we can't stop consuming information. There is the explosion of pornography online, so it gives the same satisfaction to your striatum than making love to someone. and then less efforts to problem with sedentary and then the status, social status can be linked to the likes on social media or having a bigger car or a bigger smartphone and so it's all that and so now we have like striatums which are really like super like have high doses of also dopamine so we are very like drug addicts with big big shots every day And our cortex apparently is becoming a bit weaker because it doesn't need to do so much to provide the tools and anticipate and stuff to give satisfaction to these three atoms. So the part of our brain which is really in control today is this one, which is very primitive and has only these five goals. And so we're okay. Our first thought was to try to make the brains of the users liberate as much dopamine as we could. So we are going to recreate like a more or less consumerist system and the users will be put in contest to win one another because this way they're going to fight for social status and recognition so we reward the one who's winning at every chapter. We are going to give them access to as much food as they want because the dopamine is released first when you, for example, if there is like a monkey or a rat and you have a ring It says, bim, and then they know they will have food. The first shot of dopamine they get is when there is the ping. And so it has nothing to do with food, but they just know it. It's by anticipation. And you only have dopamine if you get more than what you expected. So you need more and more and more and more. and so we created this restaurant system in which we were giving like rewards and creating the competition and giving food to people and then we were okay because this is taking us into like it's going to make us hit a wall at some point because we won't have enough resources for all these people like doing the same thing and so the idea was for the users actually to like drive faster into the wall until the restaurant collapses and they find themselves in the sea of waste which they have created during the meal and then they're faced with the final choice between two society options that in a way we have much more than two but it's like two big caricatures I would say of the options that we have left once we've destroyed everything and so One is the idea of, you know, you go to the metaverse, it's a metaphor of denial, it's like you're not in reality anymore, but we include in that part the fact that the metaverse is not going to last forever because it also needs food, which is copper, energy, cobalt, lithium, water and stuff, and so we're also running out of that. So it seems like a paradise, but you know that it's glitching a bit and not... And the other option is a mindful eating experience with very, very small resane, which is a real resane. So it has a lot of taste and offers you more sensation, but with less. And this comes from, it's a real experience, which was also tried with people who suffer from obesity and need to lose weight, is instead of eating too much in front of our screens, not paying attention to what we're eating, which is one of the problems that makes us eat too much. we take more time and we really pay attention to what we eat. And you can find society with just like a resein, a small resein, if you do it properly. And so for us, it's one of the solutions to this three atom problem that we have in our brains. So, yeah.
[00:45:20.301] Amaury Laburthe: Of course, it's exaggerated for sure. But if you look at real life, we haven't had to look that far. If you go to McDonald's and you take the XXL menu, it's $1 and you get so much food. It's just ridiculous. There's so much waste. In France today, and it's probably true in most developed countries, you have 30% of the food that is ending up as waste. That's such a huge sign of we are having too much. We are being not precocious enough. We're not taking care enough of what we have. So we haven't had to look that far to find crazy examples. I mean, life today is really full of crazy examples of us not paying attention to what's surrounding us and not paying attention to what makes our life easy today. So... But yeah, it's a bit exaggerated, but not that much actually.
[00:46:16.170] Landia Egal: We always say, like, striatum sur patte, which is a striatum on legs, especially when we refer to you kids, because children are more sensitive to the injunctions of their striatums. they don't have like a huge counter power to what they want like if they want food they want it right now and they cannot wait so there's something called like delaying gratification so it's okay you will have the marshmallow but you need to wait five minutes and then we will give it to you So this way, the cortex gets a bit stronger and can say to the three times, okay, just wait a bit. It's like you don't need to have it right now.
[00:46:52.494] Amaury Laburthe: If you look around, there's so much signs in society that we have lost these patients. Why do we have the Amazon one day delivery? I mean, you can get anything you want the day after, which is just already crazy. And now Amazon is working on one hour delivery. Why? And if you want food, now you just need an Uber Eats and you get your food half an hour after. Why do we need all that if it's not because we're giving too much space to our striatum? We're giving it way too much control over our life. And the problem with that also is that it leaves us very unsatisfied because then you get your food, you eat it very quickly, it's not really good, it's not really bad, And you end up with a kind of void after that because you didn't take care of your food, you didn't prepare it, you have no connection with what you're eating because it's just appearing magically thanks to an app you have on your phone. So you removed everything, you removed all of the magic of cooking something for the people you love. choosing the vegetables, choosing the correct ingredients, mixing everything, trying your own little variant to have your own recipe and serving that with care and to the people you love and have shared this moment. That's a great feeling. And when you're finished with the meal, you end up very satisfied. And if you do the same with an app, with Uber Eats, then you get nothing out of it. And so, there's so much, I don't know, void because of the way we work. Because the striatum is never gonna be satisfied. It's always gonna want more. So that's not the way to go.
[00:48:34.310] Kent Bye: Yeah, I think the description that you gave about those five things, I think, makes a lot more sense as to what you were trying to do with the immersive experience part and then how that ties into the different parts of trying to bring awareness to all these things. You know, as we reflect upon all those, just how much of our society is driven off of those, you know, five desires, it seems like it's hard to imagine what is going to be the thing that is going to be restricting people to slow down this exponential growth on all these different dimensions. I guess as we start to wrap up here, you've created this project. You're starting to work with different researchers and to reflect on things. I'm curious to hear, like, what's next as you continue to show this around. It sounds like you're perhaps forging new partnerships and other coalitions to have other people think about this as an issue. And so I'd love to hear about where you plan on taking this in the future.
[00:49:21.050] Landia Egal: The answer is easier for me. So I'm probably walking away from virtual reality in general, apart maybe from distributing Okawari and a project I've been carrying for a very long time, so we are not 100% sure of the shape it's going to take in the end, called Welcome to Savoy, but the first non-segregated ballroom in New York. And so I'm moving towards, I want to keep working in the culture industry because one of the things we're really convinced is that if we cannot imagine the world in which we want to live, we won't be able to build it. And so the role we have in this transition is to create alternative imaginaries for people to rely on and try to fight for. And so because like the consumerist or like accumulation capitalist imaginaries and advertised by brands and stuff is not taking us in a world in which we really want to live or even our kids could grow. So yeah, I'm going to keep working on engaged projects for climate, environment, social justice. But for different platforms, so platforms people already have at home, at least we can think like it would be safe to ask for maybe a moratory on certain new developments in the digital sector. At least until we know what the impacts are. That would be like, it's not an unreasonable thing to ask, like if the French government puts like 400 million euros In the development of the immersive technology in the cultural sector, at least it would be nice to have a couple of millions just to measure what the impacts, environmental, democratic, social, would be, and what's the contribution to the project of private interests. But it's probably going to be complicated to ask people to put back their smartphones. Since people already have smartphones and TVs and stuff, we can create content for these platforms that are different than the ones that already exist and take 90% of their screen time. So that's one thing and then if at some point like I wanted to go a bit further or if lack of certain resources make the smartphone a bit harder to have then I will do theater or write books or it doesn't matter but I'm staying like really in the cultural sector to try to promote new narratives that I think can make sense given all these aspects.
[00:51:43.860] Amaury Laburthe: And in terms of projects also, Okawari has been the ignition point now to a new research project. This research project is funded by the French government, which is great news. And so this research project is going to enable us to look out for all of the, apart from the CO2 equivalent, for the production of such piece. Then we're going to research also 11 other negative aspects, let's say, of creating such pieces. so that we hopefully are going to end up with tools and methodologies for people to evaluate their own pieces. So hopefully it's going to be open source to everybody, so all creators will be able to enter some key data and get an estimation, evaluation of all of the negative outcomes of their projects, so they can make better informed decisions. And that's also why it's great to show Kawarin lots of different festivals, that it's starting collaboration with lots of different festivals, entities, groups of people, production companies, and so a lot of people are starting to think of the issue and see how we can collaborate together to get more data.
[00:52:52.383] Landia Egal: And some things that we didn't anticipate but which is actually really interesting with Okara is that it helps us collect data from other actors in the sectors that we wouldn't have access to unless it was with a project like this one. Like for example, I was mentioning yesterday in a session the Dépôt Légal in France, so the fact that we are obliged to archive our productions for future generation researchers if they're interested in what we're doing today. And so one of the questions was, OK, but for how long is it going to be archived and in how many places? Because it's archived, I think, in four different places in case of terrorist attacks on servers that are connected to the electricity. So it has an environmental impact. And when I asked, yeah, but for how long? And they say, like, for centuries and centuries. That's what's written in the law. But then my cobalt footprint is unlimited, it's infinite. So no matter how many positive externalities I am having, the negative ones will always be bigger, since it's infinite. And then they were like, yeah, but you know, it's very important to preserve the patrimony for future generations. Yeah, but now, like currently, we're wondering if there is going to be a future generation and if there will still be humans on the planet in the 22nd century. So maybe it's even more important to make sure that we have these generations to then look on our projects. But since we are obliged to do that, but we also have this carbon footprint measurement, then we can ask them, okay, but we need to know how many servers, where they are, And we need to make these calculations. Same with the festivals. We ask them, OK, how many visitors are you expecting for this edition? Where do you think they come from? And then we find out that sometimes they don't have the data. And then we can ask people the questions ourselves to try to make it progress. And so it's quite interesting to start with a small case study like this one to start to dig into this bigger research.
[00:54:37.770] Kent Bye: And the final question I usually ask is what people think the ultimate potential of VR is, but since you're deciding to leave VR, I'd love to hear any final thoughts you have for people that are still in the industry for them to reflect upon either the ultimate potential of what the medium is able to enable or worst case scenarios of VR.
[00:54:55.451] Amaury Laburthe: When I started working into VR, I started to realize that it's a medium where you can actually build new worlds. So it's not a surprise that Metaverse is coming right after that. And it's not a surprise that Meta is renamed Meta. Because as soon as you start creating VR experience, you start to think in terms of worlds. So if I'm immersing people, if people want to feel the immersion, then they need to feel the world react to their presence. And if you need the world to react to their presence, then you need to build a world. And you need to build rules, and you need to build something that's coherent, at least from a human point of view. So it's no surprise that Metaverse is really just the next thing coming, because that's the correct environment to make the VR shine. So if we forget about what we talked about before, which is not easy, but I would say VR is going to be the ignition point to create lots of different worlds. What kind of world could emerge or could be the consensus? I don't know, that's a question in itself. It's hard now to reflect because I'm in full cognitive dissonance. My studio is actually winning its money creating lots of interactive experience. So it's hard for me to have the same answer as Lenya's one, because I have one fit in each position. But yeah, I think it can become a way to connect differently or to create a different relationship with reality. Meaning that if you think about the Ready Player One or things like that, which is a problem in itself, but a lot of people are unhappy with the way life is spent today and so it can at some point in a kind of dystopian view become something where all of the rules are different and you can be what you want to be and you can have the rules you would like to have in this world. So ultimately we could end up with worlds populated with evocations of people, like they feel like they're real people, but they react the way you want them to react, so that you feel kind of super comfortable in this world. But if we all do that, we are all going to live in a parallel universe, and nobody's really going to talk to anybody. So it's I realize that as I'm saying this it's kind of scary and very dystopian Like what is a world where everything behaves the way you want and there's no more any surprise. There's no challenges everything behaves the way you want that's kind of scary because So I think to try to summarize I think We should be more careful about changing the real life, probably, because that's what is going to bring most of the satisfaction, I think. Because if you push the VR scenario up to the end, I don't see really how it could be super satisfying in the end.
[00:57:44.456] Landia Egal: I think everything I said about stopping working in VR is like I don't want to keep promoting a massive use of VR technology in people's home mainly for entertainment. It doesn't mean that there aren't any like use for this technology that makes sense. I think like everything that is related to simulating things before we make them happen in the real world, there are interesting applications. And so, of course, for training purposes, and I think it also comes from the pilot simulators, and it makes sense, you know, to try it first in the virtual world before trying it in reality. So it's very compatible with more transition approach. You know, if you need to learn how to cut trunks, trade trunks, maybe it's better to just do it in virtual reality instead of working with real ones. And I met someone in France who used VR to go in the Parisian suburbs or in places where people are only here thinking that they're going to live and their vision of success and accomplishing their lives is just to leave this place. And so he brought famous games that the young people of these areas knew, Minecraft and Fortnite and stuff. And he used these games to make them create a version of the neighborhood in which they were living, in which they would actually like to stay and be part of. And so, since, you know, it was fun and they already knew the games, they did like social urbanistic experiments that were very interesting. And I think as a simulator or an experimental space, there can have interesting applications. Otherwise, we had a discussion with Kasper as well. Does everyone need to have a TV if we have a cinema? Does everyone need to have a Vigar headset if we have a place like IDFA, but maybe with people not coming from so far, more local IDFA? And then we can still have some projects shown as very location-based distribution mode. So I'm not saying that we should absolutely remove all... It's more like techno discernment, how do you say in English? Which use of the technology do we want to keep and which ones should we maybe temporize or have a monetary or actually renounce to be able to discriminate between the uses that we want to keep and how we want to keep them. and the ones that we probably shouldn't have at the moment, or we shouldn't deploy on a large scale, we need to be able to make conscious decisions. And for that, what we say is like, OK, everyone's going to say, well, we don't have enough data to make this decision. Well, OK, we're going to help with that if we can. But yeah, we need to have the vision of the elephant. What's the finality we're pursuing? And in which context, from also the environmental perspective, we are pursuing these finalities? Because we have a huge challenge, which is just try to restore a world in which other species and ourselves we can still live. So it's probably more interesting than, you know, more important than having fun in the metaverse, in the metaverse partying. So like, what's the main goal?
[01:00:45.530] Amaury Laburthe: But as you said, it doesn't discard some of the great usage we could have with VR, definitely.
[01:00:51.713] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, lots of really profound questions. It sounds like we need a lot more data. And I'm glad that you're doing the research to help find ways that we can be more in right relationship with all this stuff. So thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast. So thank you.
[01:01:03.840] Amaury Laburthe: Thanks. Thanks a lot for coming here.
[01:01:05.641] Landia Egal: Thank you. And even if we don't have the data, we can still make decisions because we have enough information about the situation.
[01:01:14.673] Kent Bye: So that was Amaury Lagbroit. He's the CEO and creative director of Nova Lab and co-director of Okawari, as well as Alain D'Aigle. She's the founder of Tiny Planets and the co-director of Okawari. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, well, I have to say that this whole conversation kind of set the tone for my trip here out to Ifadak Lab and also is this general re-evaluation of where we're putting our energies as we're making these technologies. The fact that Landia, after looking at all these different questions and asking whether or not this is the right path that she personally wants to continue working on, she decided that she's probably going to be walking away from VR in general and working on other aspects of cultural projects. For me, it's a little bit of the jury's out. I think Landia, for her perspective, she's seeing that just with all these different larger trends, if we extrapolate out and say all eight billion people on the planet have access to these immersive technologies, what's the ecological impact of that? One of the things she was saying was that even though we don't have enough data to know for sure, there's still enough there to make some judgments around all of this. There are some other documentaries that we're showing at IFFIT that I had a chance to see with my press access. One of them was called The Oil Machine, which was investigating in the North Sea of the UK and all the different ways that their government has invested into these oil futures and sold off these different plots of land to these different countries to extract all the oil that's there. One of the comments in that piece was that than an oil machine, not only from the ways that we are running our economy and the energy, but also just all the other secondary infrastructure when it comes to our finances and what we're investing in and the plastics and how much of our critical infrastructure is based upon these carbon-based methods of fuel and how much existing infrastructure are we going to upgrade into all these new modes of energy and technology. One of the arguments that Omri was making was in the rebound effect, which is, I'll just read this definition from Wikipedia and Thielsen et al. from 2008. It says, The rebound effect deals with the fact that improvements in efficiency often lead to cost reductions that provide the possibility to buy more of the improved product or other products or services. You gain efficiencies and people end up still buying even more of it because of those increased efficiencies. They were taking that rebound effect and applying it to whether or not these immersive technologies are going to replace existing modes of communication, travel, stuff like that. Is it going to really actually replace that, or is it just going to be added on top of that? Are we going to continue to do all the different things that we're already doing, and is this just going to add on top of everything that we're also doing? I think there's a good chance that it is going to be an addition rather than just fully replacing. Historically, we haven't ever really seen any precedence for a technology that completely replaces all of the previous technologies. But there is a bit of a shift, a lot of times, in terms of what the center of gravity of things that are going to be happening. I think it's entirely possible that enough people are doing different types of telepresence activities with these immersive technologies that does reduce some of the impact of like say flying across the country just to have a face-to-face meeting to a certain extent you already have some of that with zoom and the existing remote technology but sometimes you still need to make those trips or you know there's ways that even though there may be an augmentation or a supplement that it's not always like a full replacement And part of their outcome for this project, they wanted to start these different conversations and it was originally a panel discussion and that didn't get accepted. And so they created this piece to bring this conversation to different festivals and to talk directly to the other creators and makers and festival programmers as they're starting to evaluate what is it that we're doing here. It's certainly been successful in that point, in terms of catalyzing these different discussions. At the end of the day, they're going to be trying to gather more data for some of these different things. As they have their project that was funded by the French government, they're asking things like, if they want to be able to archive this piece forever, what's the ecological impact of having something digitally archived for an indefinite period of time? What is the overall carbon impact of that type of proposition? For me, there's just a lot of things that need to shift with our existing behaviors. I see this as a potential for, as this technology continues to get distributed out, is it going to be able to bring deeper philosophical shifts of different worldviews, things like process philosophy, for being able to understand how Things are related in a relational context. When we're able to have a direct embodied experience of something, are we able to bring about these larger shifts in consciousness or these larger paradigm shifts? For me, that's where I stand in terms of why I believe so much more in the potential of these technologies, is that it could bring about all these other deeper shifts in consciousness that we need to have in order to bring about some of these other behavioral shifts that are going to really make a big difference, and all the different complex of things that are being added together for why the things are the way they are. I did want to read a couple of different things that came up as I was thinking about this. There's a book that was by Kevin Kelly that was called What Technology Wants, and there's this line in there, he says, with very few exceptions, technologies don't die. In this way, they differ from biological species, which in the long term, they inevitably go extinct. Technologies are idea-based and culture is their memory that can be resurrected if forgotten and can be recorded by increasingly better means so that they won't be overlooked. Technologies are forever. They are the enduring edge of the seventh kingdom of life. These are some pretty big claims from Kevin Kelly based upon what we've seen of technology. The basic argument is that once a technology has been created and it's been propagated out into the culture, very rarely, if ever, do you see that technology be completely eradicated. It's something that is added into what people expect. To take away some of these tools, for one, once it's out there, it's hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Once you establish all these different behavioral techniques, As much as I want to believe that we can have things shift or change, there may be a fundamental truth of this idea that once things are out into the culture and shifted things, how much can we really pull things back? Now, we're looking at living in this oil machine and then we have all these different things that we're basically not living in a way that's sustainable, so something obviously needs to change. I talk about the Planet City VR as a piece that is this provocation for trying to see, OK, what kind of drastic things we need to do to say, you know, put 10 billion people into one geographical location? And what are all the different infrastructures? And can we let the rest of the Earth go back to seed? And would that be something that would be able to kind of bring back some deeper balance of relationship with humanity to the Earth? Obviously, that's an extreme thought experiment, but it's this deeper question of what needs to actually shift and change for us to get back onto the right track. I don't know if it's going to be behavioral, if everybody stops using the technologies, or if these technologies are out there, that there is a bit of an inevitability. That's what Omri was saying. With technology, we don't ask why, we ask why not, because there is this inevitability that happens with the technology. What needs to change for us to really think about all these things that we've created with all these cloud infrastructures, with all these services, and asking these deeper questions around, what is the ecological impact of all of this? To what way are we able to really sustain this all indefinitely? I think this conversation is asking those fundamental questions, trying to reevaluate all the ways that we've been doing things and saying, Are there ways that we can do it different? Or are these assumptions that we have, this inevitability, something that we have to live into? It's a deeper question that I've been confronted with, honestly, and just really thinking about a long time. This was kind of the first conversation that I had from DocLab. Like I said, it was kind of coloring all these other conversations that I had throughout my time there. I don't have any final answers as to how this is all going to play out. If nothing changes, then we have this technological inevitability and nothing ever goes extinct and we're on our merry way of continuing to progress down these inevitable technology diffusion curves and innovation cycles and capitalism in the way that the growth and everything else has its own logic. In that institutional logic of our economy, There is no way that the Earth is accounted for. It's an externality. It's not something that is in the calculations, not in the equations for how we're figuring out all this stuff. And that's a problem, because at some point, it's going to come back and bite us. And so, yeah, just taking a step back and trying to ask some of these deeper questions. I guess the actual experience of Okawari was that they're trying to recreate this feeling of overconsumption. I remember in my takeaways that I had in my discussion with Paula Weiss with all the different experiences that were at Venice, the two times that I did it in Venice, it actually kind of crashed and I wasn't able to see the full experience and just kind of run through the beginning. And I've also been kind of adapting the ways that they've done it with each of the different iterations. And so even the three times that I did it, they had different things that were different on the onboarding and offboarding and everything else like that. But I was able to get a full run through all the technology at the IFADOC lab and The one thing that I was really struck by was hearing the explanation for the book that really inspired a lot of how they were designing the actual experience to be able to convey all these things. It was a book called The Human Bug. It's actually written in French. Sebastian Buller, he's a journalist looking at aspects of neuroscience and looking at this stratium, which is different parts of the brain, one of which includes the mechanism that is releasing dopamine into the brain into this behavioral reward system. Some of those things that we get rewarded for are eating, having intercourse, resting and being efficient, and the effort that we're expending, having more and more information about the world around us, and social status. And so, with each of these things, you kind of see how our brains have been hijacked by the releasing of dopamine from social media and all the ways that we have all this explosion of information and this abundance of eating and pornography online and having this leisure way that we are minimizing the way that we're exerting our energy in the world and being able to survive. With each of these different aspects, they create an immersive experience that is trying to give you this sense of overconsumption. It's very easy. There's a gamification there that has a leaderboard that if you are consuming the most, then you get to the top of the board, and then they stop it there at the end. And then they have a choice where either you go off and have your time in the metaverse, which is kind of seen as, for them, a metaphor of escapism. But then you have a mindful eating experience where you're really focusing on eating a singular raisin. And they're walking through this guided meditation that is having you really focus on all the little subtle nuances of just eating one single raisin. And they have the whole mixed reality aspect, as well, that kind of overlays and you see the raisin and stuff. So, you're kind of in virtual reality, and then you have this kind of mixed reality path through using a Quest 2. So, it's just more of a singular camera using a black and white, and you're just picking up raisin and eating it, essentially. But most of that point, it's just the guided meditation of you focusing on all the different sensory experiences of eating a singular raisin. That was just trying to contrast this overconsumption of all the things that we're doing and trying to really stop and slow down and appreciate the real simplicity of just eating a singular raisin. The first time I experienced this, I didn't get what they were trying to do and how that was connected to the deeper message that they were trying to give. The first times that I saw it, it was really the VR experience, and they would launch into a whole didactic lecture explaining all these different things. It was basically two separate experiences for me, where they had the immersive experience, and then they launched into more of a lecture, where they were going through a lot of these different data points and graphs and explaining it. In later iterations that I did, they started to dial back on that didactic part and then turned it into a Q&A and have them talk about their process of recreating this whole restaurant with all the different recycling and become more about what people were interested in rather than trying to convey some of these more specific points because I think they found other methods that they can start to talk about some of those other stories that they were giving in the first times that I saw this piece. So yeah, it doesn't sound like that's going to be traveling around too much because they're really trying to minimize their ecological impact. Maybe they'll have some sort of online exhibition of this. They're still trying to figure out based upon this being a piece and minimizing their ecological impact. But yeah, for me, it was definitely impactful and helping to start a broader conversation about some of these issues to people that are, you know, really the core of the immersive storytelling community. Like I said, it was premiering at Venice Film Festival, and then it was showing there at the doc lab because Casper Soner wanted to bring these discussions to that community as well. So that's all I have for today and thanks again for listening to the Voices of VR podcast and if you enjoy the podcast then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listed supporter podcast and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you could become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.