cover image Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

Jaron Lanier. Holt, $30 (368p) ISBN 978-1-62779-409-1

Alternating between personal memoir and the history of virtual reality technology leading up to take, computer scientist Lanier (Who Owns the Future?) transports readers to the experimental, obsessive, and even messianic intellectual tech guru circuit of the 1970s and 1980s, where he first spawned the idea for virtual reality. Writing with a performative style of prose that switches between self-help book and self-involved philosophical treatise, Lanier spews optimism about human potential and cognitive enhancement, alongside stories of long-held grudges and bitterness about situations around the early history of his startup, VPL Research, and his frustration around the field’s disinterest in what he feels ought to be the current focus of VR, somatic and haptic experience. Lanier’s insights on the human parameters of VR experiences, the relationship between minds and bodies, and even the art of perfecting the tech demo suggest that he understands people well, but his stories of relationships—both professional and personal—gone bad imply otherwise. With this cleverly crafted autobiography of sorts, Lanier convinces readers that he’s both brilliant and inspiring enough to keep the podium in a field that’s gone from fringe to corporate. (Nov.)