The Machine To Be Another
Yesterday afternoon I think I got to know, not just feel, the real sense of gentle empathy women must be lucky enough to express with each other all the time.
I have never sensed or felt the emotions of sheer peace which I lived for an all-too-brief half an hour at FACT Liverpool’s latest learning space.
I described the feeling afterwards as akin to what it must be like to be a toddler – or even a rapidly growing newborn – all over again. To see and touch oneself – in the body of the unfamiliar – with a total bewilderment and curiously intimate engagement; to dance with another kindly through wheeling fingers and slow-motion movements; to synchronise one’s being whilst watching another wearing your previous body, now shed like cocoon no longer required … oh, the people from @beanotherlab (website here) have achieved something massively constructive as far as bringing humanity together is concerned.
Just a half hour of being the woman sat opposite who was actually, seamlessly me; and to touch her/my lap, and to move her/my hands, and to see her doing the same with my heavily middle-aged body – and yet, at the end, for us both to be looking at each other with hugely accepting and fabulously calm smiles on our faces … and where at the start we kinda didn’t look at each other at all; and then by the end, once the Virtual Reality (VR) gear was removed from each of us, we were eye-to-eye contact with no awkwardness nor embarrassment in any way … oh, wow what a feeling it was! Truly, what a wow …
This was clearly an experience not to be missed; an emotional journey towards something so essentially human and humane, and yet – in the awful latterday worlds of cold and emotionless relationship we often have to inhabit – so characteristically unexpected as to actually make you love in some seriously transcendental way – without sex crossing your mind a single once! – the person you’ve so closely and privately, although only temporarily, merged into.
To be so near to another human being as this; to share oneself with a person you never really met before … there is nothing which cannot be achieved with such tools.
One day conflict shall be eradicated from the planet: without pills, without violence, without weapons or other mechanical extensions which are not those of peer-to-peer creativity, empathy, imagination and connection.
Technology can change the world.
I now know this from personal experience.
The previous day I was in dissertation meltdown. I was close to doing away with myself. I’m not joking, here.
I had also come to realise I had been rejected finally, awfully, decisively by the dearest woman you ever could get to know.
And yet stumbling across the enchantment of this VR environment has turned my life around.
It used to be ER that went and saved lives.
The POV Machine / The YouMake.news project
In 2013, I briefly thought up an idea. The idea I called the POV Machine. In this text I suggest:
Which is why I wish, perhaps by using Twitter and other social-network outputs, we could all appreciate better how each of us is perceiving the world: the pain, the glory, the happiness and joy; the misery, the fear, the certainties and hopes. From high-and-mighty governors to humble barely-surviving governed, the world would surely become a better place if only we could see it properly through each other’s eyes.
So my question must be: is anyone out there at all interested in creating a Point-Of-View Machine?
Or are you all far more interested in setting up monolithic positions of revulsion and non-cooperation?
Further reading: I wonder, quite sincerely, whether the Google Glass project (more here) – rather than inspire our fear of a final assault on all our privacies – should make us more hopeful in the ways I describe above. If the POV streams resulting from all those users were made available and accessible in a structured way, we would understand much more easily how each of us experienced life. And from that understanding, perhaps a kinder governance would emerge.
For many reasons, mainly personal (I didn’t have the balls at the time, to be honest), I never got round to presenting at Google’s Digital News Initiative. I did then later present to an arts organisation in the North West of England the following document:
It didn’t quite have enough of a wow factor to get development space, but then I wasn’t in a place to push it as I should have done.
Now is different.
The VR technology to help run the POV aspirations of this project is clearly now well developed by @beanotherlab. Isn’t it then time to start speaking seriously about who might want to join me and present to Google’s next round of funding? I have over the past year acquired both the gumption as well as the research and writing skills to allow me to want to go to challenging corporate places, and ask for money in exchange for carefully wrought concepts.
This wasn’t the case two years ago. Two years may not seem long, but to a man who had stopped driving his own car and had never been able to stand flying, meeting my dearest Claire last year in Dublin on my Bloomsday birthday absolutely did turn me into a completely different person. Either that, or it began at the very least unpicking the real me below the oft-embarrassing surface.
And so if the challenge now before me is to convince you to want to accompany me on a journey back to corporate funding and all that might entail, in exchange for doing something really rather magnificently imaginative, then why not hear me out? It’s a curious life, is this one. But not all too different to the times of Michelangelo, no? If you want to paint the Sistine Chapel, you need money. And if you want money, you have to promise something in exchange.
I get that now.
And I want money – not to sit on it baldly and uselessly, but personally to live acceptably & meaningfully, and societally to also work productively: with social justice as my goal, and a much better future for us all as an ultimate end.
One final by-the-by: when you search the POV machine-idea on my legacy blogsite attenshn.com, another post comes up alongside. It’s this one. This is me, in 2009. And I quote:
Meanwhile, although for the life of me I can’t remember where I read them (Facebook? Twitter? Next Left? Liberal Conspiracy? A Skype chat? A text message? A Goggle AdWord? Or perhaps, God forbid, even my own original thought?), a number of articles recently published in the blogosphere have reminded me that the truly free market and democratic socialism go together like peas in a pod. As the article quoted above shows us, open standards work if the Microsofts of this world are not allowed to tarnish the ideas of openness and make them dirty words. Similarly, democratic socialism needs only the sincerity of a fairly operating hidden hand in order that it may function as it should have done long ago. The big spunk of a lie we’ve all been swallowing, like poor sad whores on the edge of awful poverty, is that capitalism is the best exponent of those free markets we so highly covet – and if only we could redeem its cycle of boom and bust, everything would be perfect in the garden of economic Eden. But the truth of the matter is that socialism has almost always headed directly towards the knacker’s yard of political ideologies precisely because it has attempted to integrate and assume as its own capitalism’s monopolistic tendencies, its giganticism and its perversion of tools which otherwise could serve to liberate entire populations.
The truth of the matter is that democratic socialism and truly free markets are the Holy Grail of modern politics. Neither has ever been implemented. A whole generation is now suffering the consequences of monopolistic capitalism coupled with a total absence of economic freedom. And what’s more, the concentrations of wealth which have led to financial meltdown in an economic context have direct corollaries in the political world, where a standardised approach to marketing craven wants as if they were basic needs has served to support a threadbare intellectualism which should really make us feel all ashamed – but, in reality, has simply been allowed to serve to cover up the cracks.
In reality, our battle-cry should not be “Down with capitalism!”, understanding this to mean anything and everything relating to free markets.
In reality, understanding that truly free markets should be central to everything we believe in, our battle-cry should be “Up with democratic socialism!” – as we covet everything and anything that releases us from the overbearing and overarching disgracefulness of lazy wealth.
It doesn’t read all that bad eight years later, now does it? It doesn’t read bad at all.
And as neoliberalism finally crumbles around our ears, isn’t it time to finally do something about it …
… I mean, of course, together?