Virtual Reality Was Intended as a Complement to Physical Reality, Not as a Substitute

(p. A17) The illusion of presence is what drove Mr. Lanier from the start. He envisioned VR not as an alternative to physical reality but as an enhancement–a way to more fully appreciate the wonder of existence. More conventional individuals, their senses dulled by the day-to-day, may be drawn to virtual reality because it seems realer than real; he considered it a new form of communication. “I longed to see what was inside the heads of other people,” he writes. “I wanted to show them what I explored in dreams. I imagined virtual worlds that would never grow stale because people would bring surprises to each other. I felt trapped without this tool. Why, why wasn’t it around already?”
“Dawn of the New Everything” is full of such self-revelatory moments. The author grew up an only child in odd corners of the Southwest, first on the Texas-Mexico border, then in the desert near White Sands Missile Range. When he was nine, his mother, a Holocaust survivor, was killed in a car crash on the way home from getting her driver’s license. The tract house they’d bought burned down the day after construction was completed. The insurance money never came, so Jaron and his father lived in tents in the desert until they could afford to build a real home–which turned out to be a mad concoction of geodesic domes of Jaron’s own design. They called it Earth Station Lanier.
. . .
Lacking a degree from high school, never mind college, he nonetheless parlayed his virtual-reality obsession into a company, VPL Research, that for a few years in the late ’80s made VR seem real, if only in a lab setting. Then came board fights and bankruptcy, and VR disappeared from public view for more than 20 years.
What went wrong at VPL? Unfortunately, you won’t find out here. Mr. Lanier warns us he isn’t going to deliver a blow-by-blow; instead we get a disjointed sequence of half-remembered anecdotes. What does come through is his ambivalence about going into business at all, and his even deeper ambivalence toward writing about it.

For the full review, see:
Frank Rose. “BOOKSHELF; The Promise of Virtual Reality; The story of VR, the most immersive communications technology to come along since cinema, as told by two of its pioneers.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, February 6, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Feb. 5, 2018, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Review: The Promise of Virtual Reality; The story of VR, the most immersive communications technology to come along since cinema, as told by two of its pioneers.”)

The book under review, is:
Lanier, Jaron. Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2017.

Reporters Celebrate Union Before Losing Jobs

(p. A23) A week ago, reporters and editors in the combined newsroom of DNAinfo and Gothamist, two of New York City’s leading digital purveyors of local news, celebrated victory in their vote to join a union.
On Thursday [November 2, 2018], they lost their jobs, as Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who owned the sites, shut them down.

For the full story, see:
ANDY NEWMAN and JOHN LELAND. “DNAinfo and Gothamist Shut Down After Workers Join a Union.” The New York Times (Tuesday, November 3, 2017): A23.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 2, 2017, and has the title “DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize.” The online version says that the page number of the New York edition was A21. The page number of my edition, probably midwest, was A23.)

The Politically Correct Fight Against the Leprechaun of Notre Dame


Source of image:

(p. A17) So it’s come to this: Leprechauns are hateful.

Not just any leprechauns, mind you. This particular one–hat cocked, chin out, dukes up–happens to be the mascot for the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame. The little, green-suited man is now in the same politically correct crosshairs that recently locked onto the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo. And ESPN’s Max Kellerman has called on Notre Dame to follow the Indians’ lead and send this leprechaun back to the end of the rainbow where he belongs.
“Many Irish-Americans are not offended, but many are,” Mr. Kellerman said.
. . .
. . . , Mr. Kellerman understands the zeitgeist well. His argument that the 34 million Irish-Americans who are mostly untroubled by the Fighting Irish leprechaun must be forced to yield to the demands of one outraged Irish-American friend is as current as they come.
But in the case of Notre Dame, the more interesting question may be the one the ESPN analyst never asks. Each week on national TV, especially during football season, the Fighting Irish offer their own lesson in diversity. Instead of condemning a cartoon leprechaun, perhaps America ought to be applauding the healthy cultural appropriation that happens every time African-American, Asian-American and Latino athletes compete together wearing jerseys or helmets proudly proclaiming themselves “Irish.”

For the full commentary, see:
William McGurn. “Are Leprechauns Racist?; Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish offer some healthy cultural appropriation.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, February 6, 2018): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 5, 2018.)

Entrepreneur Claims Intel Is Not “Doing What Comes Next”

(p. B3) SAN FRANCISCO — Over 28 years at the giant computer chip maker Intel, Renée James climbed to its No. 2 position, becoming one of Silicon Valley’s prominent female leaders.
Now she is taking aim at Intel’s most lucrative business, one that she helped build.
Ms. James, who announced in 2015 that she would resign from Intel, on Monday revealed a start-up backed by the private equity firm Carlyle Group to sell chips to handle calculations in servers. Those computers run most internet services and corporate back-office operations.
. . .
Ms. James emphasized her respect for her former employer and played down potential competition. She said her new company, Ampere, was designing chips for new, specialized jobs at cloud services that aren’t Intel’s primary focus.
“I think they’re the best in the world at what they do,” Ms. James said of Intel. “I just don’t think they’re doing what comes next.”
. . .
Ms. James learned management skills from Andrew Grove, the acclaimed former Intel chief. Before he died in 2016, she said, Mr. Grove encouraged her to follow her dream of a chip start-up — a plan with parallels to the 1968 founding of Intel as a breakaway from a chip pioneer, Fairchild Semiconductor.
“He said, ‘I just want you to know, this is a really hard job,'” Ms. James recalled. “I said: ‘I know. But it’s so much fun.'”
Her venture is the latest in a series of largely unsuccessful attempts, dating back more than seven years, to shake up the server market with technology licensed by ARM Holdings that is used as a mainstay of smartphones. One selling point is reduced power consumption, a hot topic in data centers.

For the full story, see:
DON CLARK. “Intel’s Former No. 2 Aims At Lucrative Chip Market.” The New York Times (Tuesday, February 6, 2018): B3.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 5, 2018, and has the title “She Was No. 2 at Intel. Now She’s Taking Aim at the Chip Maker.”)

Obstacles and Conflicts Were Too Much for Lanier’s “VPL Research” Startup

(p. 11) Lanier’s book is, . . . , intimate and idiosyncratic. He carries us through his quirky and fascinating life story, with periodic nerdy side trips through his early thinking on more technical aspects of virtual reality. If you liked Richard Feynman’s autobiographical “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” but thought it was rather self-indulgent, this book will prompt similar reactions. You could almost say that Lanier’s vivid and creative imagination is a distinct character in this book, he discusses it so much. Midway through, Feynman himself makes an appearance, and it seems as if we’re meeting an old friend.
Lanier has been credited with inventing the term “virtual reality,” and he founded one of the original companies to produce it, VPL Research. He goes over the technology’s history in detail, outlining not only the obstacles to getting consistent hardware but some personalities and interpersonal conflicts that ultimately led to his company’s breaking up. He also demonstrates the role personal connections and interactions play in Silicon Valley.

For the full review, see:
CATHY O’NEIL. “Enter the Holodeck.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, February 4, 2018): 11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date JAN. 30, 2018.)

The book under review, is:
Lanier, Jaron. Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2017.

Technology Increases Time at Home, Reducing Energy Use

(p. A15) A new study in the journal Joule suggests that the spread of technologies enabling Americans to spend more time working remotely, shopping online — and, yes, watching Netflix and chilling — has a side benefit of reducing energy use, and, by extension, greenhouse gas emissions.
. . .
Researchers found that, on average, Americans spent 7.8 more days at home in 2012, compared to 2003. They calculated that this reduced national energy demand by 1,700 trillion BTUs in 2012, or 1.8 percent of the nation’s total energy use.
. . .
“Energy intensity when you’re traveling is actually 20 times per minute than when spent at home,” said Ashok Sekar, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author on the story.
One of his co-authors, Eric Williams, an associate professor of sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology, made the point a different way. “This is a little tongue in cheek, but you know in ‘The Matrix’ everyone lives in those little pods? For energy, that’s great,” he said, because living in little pods would be pretty efficient. “In the Jetsons, where everyone is running around in their jet cars, that’s terrible for energy.”
. . .
. . . , the study suggests that workers are spending less time at work because faster and better online services make it easier for us to work from home. As a result, we’re spending less time in office buildings, which use more energy than our homes, and employers are consolidating office space.

For the full story, see:
Kendra Pierre-Louis. “Tech Creates Homebodies, And Energy Use Declines.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 30, 2018): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date January 29, 2018, and has the title “Americans Are Staying Home More. That’s Saving Energy.”)

The “in press” version of the article mentioned above, is:
Sekar, Ashok, Eric Williams, and Roger Chen. “Changes in Time Use and Their Effect on Energy Consumption in the United States.” Joule (2018).

“We Have to Entrepreneurialize Society”

Economist Klaus Schwab is the founder and organizer of the annual Davos gatherings of government and corporate insiders.

(p. R15) MR. BAKER: There has been a tremendous growth in industrial concentration, big companies getting bigger. Small companies are essentially being squeezed out. There’s a concern that it’s not just bureaucracies and supernational institutions, but companies themselves, are just too big and too remote. What can be done to address those concerns?
PROF. SCHWAB: We have to entrepreneurialize society. If we look where jobs will come from, they will come mainly from new enterprises, from medium-size enterprises. So companies and countries have to create an ecosystem which allows young people to create their own companies. We have to create new Facebook s, new Googles, and so on. Then we have the necessary dynamic situation which maintains a certain degree of competition in the economy.

For the full interview, see:
Gerard Baker, interviewer. “Nationalism vs. Globalism: A Question of Balance; Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, on how to deal with a fractured world.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018): R15.
(Note: bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has a date of Jan. 22, 2018.)