Today we have two improbable virtual realities, each more mind-blowing than the last.
The first is Walden:The Videogame (probably not the actual title). This virtual simulation of Henry Thoreau’s book of the same name, wherein he lived in the woods to escape from too-busy society, has stirred up a predictably snarky/cranky reaction.
But I would play it. I also read books and go out of doors from time to time. They are not mutually exclusive, snark notwithstanding.
Next up: 2Pac, the virtual personality, and others to come. The age of the virtual person may be upon us. Let me be the first to point out that The Onion saw this coming a mile away.
Roger Ebert, whose specially-developed artificial voice software is discussed in the SmartPlanet article, proposes an interesting variant on the Turing test – to create a synthesized voice capable of telling funny jokes.
File under “ju-whaaaa?”: Amy Kraft reports at SmartPlanet that students at Cornell have created a watch that measures its user’s perception of time. (!) Let me be the first to point out how appropriate it is that this happened at Kurt Vonnegut‘s alma mater. And if that weren’t enough, the watch’s creators provide instructions for making your own. It’s relatively cheap, but you need access to a 3-D printer.
And on the subject of perception and reality, and also (since I’ve invoked Vonnegut) depression, I’ve begun reading a book-length essay entitled “Against Happiness”, by one Eric Wilson. In it, he argues, not against joy or real happiness, but against the manic “I’m doing great have a nice day” brand of American happiness that he considers soul-killing. He makes a lot of disclaimers near the beginning that preclude most of the knee-jerk objections provoked by the title of his essay – for instance, that debilitating criminal depression is not the same as the inspiring melancholy he’s arguing for.
Brings something Kafka said to mind – that literature (Wilson is an English professor) should affect us like the death of a close friend; that it’s “an axe for the frozen sea within us”.
This is very cool – a Polish firm has been commissioned to build the world’s narrowest home by one of the world’s hottest short story writers.
Etgar Keret has commissioned Centrala to build a home that will be wedged between two buildings and measure less than 133 cm at its widest spot.
Although Centrala describes the house as an art installation, it will contain a bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen, and the plan is for it to serve as a residence and studio for young creators.
The house is slated to open in Warsaw in June. Poland is now on my list of places to visit.