Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution

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How do The Matrix, Avatar, and Tron reveal the future of existence? can our brains recognize where "reality" ends and "virtual" begins? What would it mean to live eternally in a digital universe? Where will technology lead us in five, fifty, and five hundred years?

Two innovative scientists explore the mystery and reality of the virtual and examine the profound potential of emerging digital technologies

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Overview

How do The Matrix, Avatar, and Tron reveal the future of existence? can our brains recognize where "reality" ends and "virtual" begins? What would it mean to live eternally in a digital universe? Where will technology lead us in five, fifty, and five hundred years?

Two innovative scientists explore the mystery and reality of the virtual and examine the profound potential of emerging digital technologies

Welcome to the future . . .

The coming explosion of immersive digital technology, combined with recent progress in unlocking how the mind works, will soon revolutionize our lives in ways only science fiction has imagined. In Infinite Reality, Jeremy Bailenson (Stanford University) and Jim Blascovich (University of California, Santa Barbara)—two of virtual reality's pioneering authorities whose pathbreaking research has mapped how our brain behaves in digital worlds—take us on a mind-bending journey through the virtual universe.

Infinite Reality explores what emerging computer technologies and their radical applications will mean for the future of human life and society. Along the way, Bailenson and Blascovich examine the timeless philosophical questions of the self and "reality" that arise through the digital experience; explain how virtual reality's latest and future forms—including immersive video games and social-networking sites—will soon be seamlessly integrated into our lives; show the many surprising practical applications of virtual reality, from education and medicine to sex and warfare; and probe further-off possibilities like "total personality downloads" that would allow your great-great-grandchildren to have a conversation with "you" a century or more after your death.

Equally fascinating, farsighted, and profound, Infinite Reality is an essential guide to our virtual future, where the experience of being human will be deeply transformed.

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  • Jim Blascovich & Jeremy Bailenson
    Jim Blascovich & Jeremy Bailenson  

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
“An exhilarating book ... Blascovich and Bailenson are ideally situated to write this guide to the new world ... Infinite Reality a must-read for anyone who wants to prepare for the coming revolution.”
Kirkus Reviews

Enthusiastic exploration of how virtual reality is impacting human consciousness, perception and social interaction.

Humans have been engaging with virtual realities since the dawn of storytelling, write the authors, experiencing them as printing, theater, radio and film and other mediums. Blascovich (Psychology/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) and Bailenson (Virtual Human Interaction Lab/Stanford Univ.) focus on digital-technology–based immersive virtual reality, 2-D and 3-D environments that the mind buys into and responds to as "real"—although the authors are clear in their distinction between "grounded" (the natural or physical world) and virtual realities. While they provide an illuminating introduction to the processing cycle that generates today's virtual realities, and an overview of appropriate social theory used therein, they hit their stride with their discussions of shaping and using avatars: digital representations of ourselves. The experiential possibilities of avatars are vast: "virtual worlds offer an unprecedented opportunity to separate people from the physical identity, and to role-play in a variety of manners." Virtual classrooms help eliminate such problems as overcrowding and lack of direct teacher contact. Creating an avatar is also a step toward immortality: Your biological self may not be present, but future generations can engage with your likeness, where 3-D digital modeling sculpts your face and body, motion-capture technology acquires your gestures and soon-to-be artificial-intelligence technology will frame your personality traits and idiosyncrasies. On the downside, there is the spooky idea of someone pirating your avatar; indeed, the authors introduce a number of serious virtual-reality pitfalls, from over-identifying with your avatar to privacy violation through tracking. And there is a serious weakness with the lack of touch in the virtual world—yet behold forthcoming teledildonics, "sexually stimulating devices that can be controlled by others via the Internet."

A sweeping presentation of virtual reality's ability to create new and multiform experiences and perspectives—likely to beguile more than a few skeptics.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061809507
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Blascovich is the director and co-founder of the Research Center for Virtual Environments at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is Distinguished Professor of Psychology. Professor Blascovich has served as the president of international scientific societies, including the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and he has been invited to lecture on social neuroscience and virtual reality topics worldwide.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Dream Machines 9

2 A Museum of Virtual Meadia 24

3 Mirror, Mirror on the Wall 37

4 Winning Virtual Friends and Influencing Virtual People 65

5 The Virtual Laboratory 83

6 Who Am I? 95

7 Re-creating Yourself 109

8 Street Smarts 122

9 Eternal Life 138

10 Digital Footprints 154

11 The Virtual "Jones" 169

12 Virtually Usefull 191

13 Virtual Yin and Yang 227

14 More Human Than Human 256

Acknowledgments 263

Notes 269

Index 292

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Customer Reviews

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