Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pooky Amsterdam’s Talk on Virtual Worlds and Science Fiction

On September 15th, the Constellation sim hosted a talk by Pooky Amsterdam. She IMed her friends, “Greetings and salutations. I will be giving a small talk on the use of Virtual worlds for science fiction. Hope you can make it.” Getting to the SURL she provided, the location was a small auditorium with some Star Trek banners around.

Pooky addressed the audience, “As it has been said that we didn't create the universe, so we can not fully understand it. Yet we have created the virtual world, in which we can create anything imaginable. This is done with what are free building tools, here n the 3D world of Second Life. While much is recreated to reflect the outworld reality of the residents lives, there are opportunities for fantasy, science fiction and historic role play which are met. Enthusiastically talented, the creators of Second Life's vast and stunning array of virtual goods and content contribute much.”

“The legacy of science fiction has inspired many people to carve out tracks of the grid for space bases, futuristic cities and to sell everything from starships to transporters. All while wearing the latest 2520 fashion. While books give much for our minds eye to describe, it is thought out before us. Being able to immerse in a 3D world with other people provides a level of visual storytelling which is unique to us. And that can be unique every day.”

“A number of traditional media programs have spawned new virtual worlds like the upcoming BattleStar Gallactica, Star Trek, and Star Wars – Clone Wars. What Second Life provides is a way to create a new vision and interpretation, not just re-create and to role-play within it. There is a pool of resources within peoples minds that can and is crafted into being. That they can also be manifest virtually & sold is an incentive and this encourages a new way of investing in the future here.”

“There are designers and builders in Second Life creating assets and adventures which reflect the same design traditions of classic sci-fi, yet made out of prims, sculpties or now mesh. They also provide a great backdrop and wealth for films. Films can not be made without sets, costumes, props and all that makes for great visual story-telling. I feel lucky to be part of this kind of creative world which inspires.” Pooky then gave the audience a link to her own work in science-fiction, “Time Travelers” -

Pooky continued, “Science Fiction has allowed us to dream the future in ways that go beyond a somnambulist experience. The future set apart from now allows us to see our humanity from a distance, recognizing where we are heading, and how we are getting there. Writers such as Huxley, Orwell, Asimov and Heinlein have sometimes expressed it's darker side to a wide audience which has embraced these warnings, recognizing our weaknesses, along with our strengths in them.”

“I believe we are fairer people for having been exposed to those writers who can target our inherent humanity within any and every futuristic scenarios imaginable. Science Fiction has long served as a place where intelligent creation of mental experiments – the way a writer can create a word image to have the reader “experience” - what the writer is talking about. Has flourished, allowing us to lose ourselves in a world to which we don’t actually belong, but can actualize!”

“As we live our lives within worlds where the infinite is possible, and we are no longer grounded by physics of a gravitational sort, as we create literally out of electricity, our imaginations are unleashed. We are able to see ourselves not in just the minds eye, but in an actuality we feel because we are immersed in it. Is there more value in a story that is outside of ourselves, a book as it were that you can put down? Or is it in an actualization of a story we put ourselves into each day, allowing that story to be molded and shaped by the others we encounter during it. Both are valid, both are immersive as well, and you put down the book, or turn off the computer. We are writing the stories of our lives, and within the spaces we both carve out and inhabit in Second life, we are preparing for this future.”

“Now we can play and act out in public through roleplay games that are intensely personal and private. Where books can reach millions with concepts and ideas, our daily activities on the grid might not have the same reach, but honestly who cares? This is a form of exploration in story line, in allowing the reader to become the creator as well. As we read the text others generate, we incorporate them into the plotline we are actually living. When you roleplay in a Science fiction universe like Second life, the tools for creation go beyond the text -”

“When we recreate our adventures in a science fiction world as an ensemble we are crafting a collective story, a shared one that we replay not again in the solitude of our study, but in the arena of our friends and relationships. I don't see a time when the private reflections and true luxury of enjoying a novel or story alone will fade. We are cerebral creatures us humans, and do like to be mentally engaged. The stories we live daily – the trip to the doctor, the job we must attend to, the calls from our families we don't put on hold- this is the fabric of what will wind up to be the novel of our lives, and the pages we turn are the ones we fill up everyday. Our keepsake memories are on an interior roll of film we can play endlessly, or until another memory takes its place somehow.”

“We engage in science fiction here though in a way that would have been impossible 100 years ago because of what we can see and do here, because of the amount of projection of self into the daily film of our lives, for surely we are starring in our own cartoon movies everyday. Where what we saw was generated by masters of Hollywood special effects in the past has now been replaced by a much much broader contingent of creators, people we know. People who might not be working for Pixar, or Lucsfilms, but who are working and creating the components of a vision they have. And all within an expertise they develop.”

“Where what we saw was generated by masters of Hollywood special effects in the past has now been replaced by a much much broader contingent of creators, people we know. People who might not be working for Pixar, or Lucsfilms, bu who are working and creating the components of a vision they have. And all within an expertise they develop. Often training themselves, at all hours of the day or night to put that extra touch on that which our community sees and uses.”

“We don’t have one person writing the scenario we all act out upon. We aren’t really Keanu Reeves, or Laurence Fishburn, though we can get avatars who look just like them, and we can inhabit them as if they were really speaking. Then again Keanu Reeves is an actor, his part in the Matrix while replayed in Netflix and millions of DVD's is a finite story. Ours do not have to be, ours are evolutionary because they are scripted by us. We make this transformative jump into an other here, and our imagination is forced to deliver more upon the text – than we are when we read and our minds are compelled to imagine what we read. We are not following a narration, We are the protagonist, we are the hero or anti-hero.”

“Here we are seeing & being what we read – and so with these visuals intact, both a part of us and in front of us we must take our imaginations to the next level. This kind of role play experience, and dynamic venue creation and participation undoubtedly leads to story telling in a vast and dynamic framework. Then there is storytelling for those who rent as engaged let’s say.”

“A new computer program has been proposed called the The Infinite Adventure machine which generates fairy-tale plots. Based on structuring Russian folk-tales to 31 basic functions, TIAM aims to question the limitations and implications of attempts at programming language and narrative. Because the program is unable to deliver a finished story, rather only a crude synopsis and illustrations, users have to improvise, filling the gaps with their imagination and making up for the technology's shortcomings.”

“Sounds like another day in the life of lag on a role play sim. The story and narrative are part of the history of humankind. Without the great writers of literature, among them Homer, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Isaac Asimov, Vonnegut and so many many others we would not be able to examine the kind of human relationships we have through the characters of great story-telling.”

“What we have now is the ability to become those heroes in a fiction of our own making, allowing for the belief in our own romantic heroism to upgrade the fabric of our daily lives. And when we dream at night, we dream of this future we share with one another daily. As we can lose ourselves in the story we are acting out, we can gain value in the epic tales of battle or the smaller private moments we find illuminate the larger picture – Such is the attraction because we can and do project larger image of ourselves and in the world everyday. It is critical that we hold onto authoring these narratives for ourselve, and not allow others to dictate them to us. This is a great freedome and draw for virtual worlds in this arena of science fiction.”

“What if stories could tell themselves? A see an electronic billboard glowing in the darkness, with a massive auto generated section of news that no one is reading. Recently – I found Narrative Science, a tech start-up based in Evanston, Ill. that can take data from a wide variety of sources and turn that data into newspaper and magazine articles. The technology application generates news stories, industry reports, headlines and more — at scale and without human authoring or editing. Narratives can be created from almost any data set, be it numbers or text, structured or unstructured. And of course thought of - SF great Philip K. Dick who foresaw this development in the 1960's. In his short story If There Were No Benny Cemoli, he describes a vast underground computer system called a homeostatic newspaper which is computational journalism.”

Philip K Dick was a genius writer, who was recreated as an android after his death, with an eerie likeness to the author, the robot featured award-winning artificial intelligence that mimicked the writer's mannerisms and lifelike skin material to affect realistic expressions. The voice software loaded with data from Dick's vast body of writing actulaly allowed the robot to carry on natural-sounding conversations, with biometric-identification software and advanced machine vision allows the robot to recognize people -- even in a crowd -- read their expressions and body language and talk to them.”

“Until the head was left on a plane during the junket for Through A Scanner Darkly – He was missing for years. The missing head of the Philip K. Dick android was discovered in St. Petersburg, last year and confiscated in an Interpol sting against the Russian software piracy syndicate ‘ Little Bear.’ “ (chuckles in the audience) “They were using the head basically as a portable hard drive to transport pirated ebooks, movies, games, and data between Russia and South America," said Detective Andrei Supernov. ‘ I think they thought it was funny.’ The head will be returning to the United States next week, where it will be rejoined with the body.”

“These are folk lore tales in a sense of heroes whose afterlives will generate stories to come because they were authors who reached many. We are also authors and our stories ring true with our authentic journeys. We are authoring them, we are actively in them - we are using new technology to tell us the story.”

“Innovega is working on display technology using contact lenses that enhance human vision to directly see near-to-eye objects like electronic micro-displays. This technology can be used to make see-through augmented reality displays using transparent OLED and LCD displays. With the abilities we have to create an unlimited array of virtual objects, and with the cost effectiveness that allows for legions of people to have access to the tools of creation there is no doubt that we will be using this 3 Dimensional space to advance prototypes outworld. While we have recreated much of the past, those of us on the frontiers of science recognize the value of these tools.”

“While I believe in butter more than guns, and ploughshares, more than arms, I understand that the Military has been responsible for advancing technology on many levels, and we have a debt to that. My greatest hope Is that the underlying deep nature of our humanity finds the positive, creative and beneficial to humankind as we can meet across borders within virtual worlds, eliminating hatred which comes from the fear of the unknown, and increasing our levels of tolerance and patience for eachother. Allowing us to live through our technology in peace and fulfillment.”

“Combining the various creative talents of us all, and that sounds like a good ending to the story we live every day.”

Pooky took a cew questions after her talk. Gandalf Nakamura asked, “How do you think that virtual worlds will envelope? Will they become more of a social network, or a place to gamble and to relax? Pooky answer included, “I think of virtual worlds as providing an antidote to loneliness … I think work is being done in that field.” Urza Flux asked, “How has Second Life developed your interest in Science Fiction Ms. Amersterdam?” Pooky answered, “It has helped me develop an interest in past sci-fi ... I've always liked sci-fi … can live as futuristically as we want.”

Bixyl Shuftan


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