Sunday, March 18, 2018

Driving Around While Floating In A Vacuum

            As most of you probably know, we are moving toward the time when autonomous vehicles will start filling our roads and highways.  But what has not been discussed a lot is that Intel and Warner Brothers are working on new kinds of “immersive” entertainment experiences to fill the time of passengers who no longer have to worry about driving.  In an online article on Dec. 2 by Jade Teran for Bleeding Cool:  “Warner Bros. and Intel Want to Turn Your Car into VR Batmobile While You’re Driving”, there is a discussion of using virtual reality and augmented reality to replace looking out the windows into external world reality using new fabricated experiences such as driving through Gotham as if your car was a Batmobile.  Of course there will also be options to watch movies and television programs as well as advertisements – how could we live without advertisements with all the free time being given to us by autonomous vehicles?

            But what really concerns me is the need to create artificial immersive entertainment experiences.  This totally disconnects the former driver/passenger from any observation let alone participation in the space-time trajectory of the trips that he takes.  Driving a car has never been a very effective way of making organic imprints on a field of experience.  It’s too frictionless and too mediated.  Unlike riding a horse, a camel or an elephant.

            But now we are going to have additional frictionlessness and mediation, as a result of surrendering control of the very process of driving: of guiding and conducting the car.  With immersive entertainment, a person will have even less experiential traction from driving, less of an opportunity to make organic imprints from guiding and accelerating and braking his car.

            But people will be given the illusion of making imprints as they ride around through the illusory scenery of Gotham in a car that gives the illusion of being a Batmobile.  We can pretend to be Batman, a superhero who makes and preserves super-organic imprints in the process of saving the lives of the good people of Gotham.  And yet in reality Batman is an imaginary super-hero, who is making and preserving imaginary super imprints on the field of experience in which he lives.  And to the extent that passengers in an AV (autonomous vehicle) merge with him, they are merging with a vacuumous entity that in reality does not support their own need to make and preserve organic imprints.  Batman puts these passengers into a dream state, an illusory state where they, on one level, think they are making and preserving super imprints, but, in reality, they are wasting time that could be spent making and preserving imprints in external world reality.

            The sensory distortion involved in riding in an AV gets magnified with the addition of these artificial immersive entertainment experiences.  On the one hand, the frictionlessness is increased, the sense of being in an experiential vacuum increases as a result of being sensorily separated from the external world.  On the other hand, the tension pocket abrasive friction increases as a result of visualization of being Batman and riding around having super friction-filled adventures fighting villains and saving innocent people.  It would be hard to simultaneously experience both understimulation and overstimulation without completely shutting down.  So what’s likely to happen in an AV with an artificial immersive entertainment experience like Batman, is that a rider is going to alternate his focus quickly, going back and forth between vacuum and tension-pocket.  This quick sensory alternation is going to end up leading to sensory disorientation – a total inability for a person to connect in any way with his physical environment, a withdrawal into himself that is based both on extreme numbness and extreme burn out.  Going back and forth between understimulation and overstimulation will make each one seem more extreme to the rider.

            In traditional driving, a person is taking control of a situation, is responsible for a situation.  The advocates for AV say that it will provide a much safer form of transportation, because humans, after all, make mistakes and cause accidents.  The truth is that we don’t have enough evidence from actual use of AV.s to say definitively that AV’s are going to be safer.  But this brings us to a larger question.  Are we going to try and eliminate risk in every area of our lives?  The result of eliminating all risk would be to create fields of experience that are totally free of opportunities to make, receive and preserve imprints, totally free of opportunities to have rich vibrant life experiences and meaningful life narrative, totally free of opportunities to create a surrogate immortality in order to prepare for death.

            What is so insidious about artificial immersive entertainment experiences is that by identifying with the artificial narrative being created, let’s say by pretending to be Batman in the Batmobile riding through Gotham, a person is given the illusion of taking risks and by extension of making, receiving and preserving organic imprints, having rich vibrant life experiences and meaningful life narratives and preparing for death with a powerful personal surrogate immortality.  But when one is separated from external world reality through the double layer of mediation of riding in an AV while immersed in an artificial immersive entertainment experience, the question is whether or not the person is really fulfilling the requirements for what constitutes really living.

            Once we effectively separate ourselves from external world reality, and we live in ongoing sensory distortion, we are constantly trying to balance out our levels of stimulation.  So first, in the name of safety, we make driving a totally frictionless vacuum experience such that now we won’t have to participate in driving the car.  But then we see ourselves becoming numb from such understimulation, so we add another level of stimulation that involves the abrasive kicks of living the life of batman in a Batmobile driving around taking enormous risks saving other people’s lives.  And so we bounce back and forth between understimulation and overstimulation, trying to operate within levels of stimulation that we can manage, levels of stimuli that we would be able to maintain more naturally in a more organic natural living environment.

©2018 Laurence Mesirow

No comments:

Post a Comment