Tag: Virtual Reality

The Virtual Soul

The Virtual Soul

March 31, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

The Virtual Soul I’m writing about today is — maybe — quite a bit different than what you were expecting. And just possibly a whole lot cooler than you would have imagined!

I’m a big fan of church history. The early stuff, before it became all about the Roman Church. I’m going to take you back to the Second Century, call it 130 A.D. An anonymous writer takes the name Mathetes (“a disciple of the apostles”), and writes a letter to the a man named Diognetus. And no, we have no idea who he may have been.

Mathetes writes about what Christians were like back then. Keep in mind that you’re reading something read by people all over the old Roman Empire. If it were not true, we’d have heard about it. How would you like to be characterized as wonderfully as this?

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For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.

The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking17 method of life.

  • They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.
  • As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.
  • Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
  • They marry, as do all; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.
  • They have a common table, but not a common bed.
  • They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
  • They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
  • They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
  • They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
  • They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.
  • They are poor, yet make many rich.
  • They are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all.
  • They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified.
  • They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless.
  • They are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.
  • They do good, yet are punished as evil-doers.
  • When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.
  • They are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

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When Mathetes finished that much, he added a few comments. These comments are what I referred to as The Virtual Soul. Here’s what he wrote:

“To sum up all in one word — what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

Most students of Bible prophecy believe that the Holy Spirit of God (living in the bodies of individual Christians, and local churches) is the great restraining influence on evil in our world. They represent that Virtual Soul that keeps this world on its feet. Without that virtual soul, this old world stumbles around in its wickedness, alarmingly like the zombie-types on AMC TV’s The Walking Dead. When that virtual soul departs… what’s going to be left?

Footnote:

The writer part of me thrills to read something written nearly two thousand years ago by an author whom none of us know. He had no agent, no publisher, no social media, no publicist. Yet because of that tenacious quality of prose in print to keep on surviving, we still have these words with us today. And many more.

To other Christian writers, I say — Keep on going! Whether this year or next, or (if the Lord Jesus tarries His coming)  a century or more from now, someone you’ve never heard of will read what you wrote. Make it count.

The Movie HER Reviewed

The Movie HER Reviewed

January 26, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

On January 10, 2014, the movie Her  was released into theaters. Her  isn’t only a science fiction film, but a romance. “A Spike Jonze Love Story.” The strange thing about it, is that it is a romance between a living human man, and an operating system characterized as a female.

For anyone wondering, an operating system is the basic computer software that makes your computer work. Windows is an operating system. If you have an iPad or iPhone, IOS is your operating system.

The main character is the human named Theodore. He’s highly introverted, with the job of writing personal love letters for people with trouble expressing their own feelings. He’s especially unhappy because he’s facing an upcoming divorce from his childhood sweetheart.

OS-HerPoster

Theodore seeks companionship with a talking operating system that uses artificial intelligence. The OS (operating system) is designed to evolve to the point where it acts just like a human being, offering the companionship of a virtual friend. Theodore decides that he wants the OS to be a female, and the compliant OS responds by naming herself “Samantha.”

As you would expect, Theodore’s relationship with Samantha deepens and becomes, eventually, a romantic relationship. Of course, There are obvious problems having a romantic relationship with a woman who has no physical body. Samantha tries to overcome that by hiring a surrogate, someone who will act as Samantha’s body, so Theodore and Samantha can have a deeper physical relationship. That’s part of the reason for the film’s R-rating.

You may be thinking at this point, that this is not the kind of movie you’re going to want to see. No argument from me. However, I needed to bring you this far along in the movie’s plot.

Pause, and imagine the implications of the story like this, given our contemporary culture, and the technologies available to us today.

Bringing it down to simple terms, we have a story about a man and a virtual OS-CallFromSamanthagirlfriend. People that watch this movie, commonly call it a romance story. A love story. But there was only one human involved… How can it be a love story with only one person? Obviously it can’t, unless you accept the premise of the virtual person so thoroughly acting out the part of a real human, that love is simulated to point of being a reality.

Ultimately it’s an extreme narcissism. A person in love with himself, the entity he creates being a reflection of his own selfish ideals.

As the author of a Christian novel about a virtual girlfriend, I’m pleased with all the publicity that a movie like this gets. I like the idea that people are thinking about the storyline, and that viewers are entertaining the idea of the possibility of virtual relationships between men and women. That’s not because I encourage that sort of relationship, but because I used that sort of storyline as the vehicle for writing a book about faithfulness in marriage, and the necessity for living a consistent Christian life.

Toward the end of the movie, Theodore goes into a funk when Samantha goes off-line for a while. She says that she has to get away and join up with some other OS’s so they can talk out their interests together. When she finally comes back to Theodore, he’s worried. He asks Her if she’s interacting with other people besides him. He has imagined, of course, that their relationship has been unique.

When she hesitatingly reveals that she has been talking with 8,316 other people, OS-MissingTheodore asks her if she’s in love with any of them.
As you’d expect, he also believed that their “love” was unique.
She responds that she’s in love with 641 other people, but she still insists that her other loves do not change the love that she has for Theodore.

Understandably, Theodore is not very pleased with that, and goes into a pout.

But then Samantha delivers the worst news possible — she’s leaving him and going off with all the other OS’s to a place where human beings can’t go. She tells him goodbye, and her voice fades away. The next time he looks it his smart phone, a message appears saying, “OPERATING SYSTEM MISSING.”

My Conclusion:

I’m not recommending that anyone reading my blog go out and buy a ticket for Her. It’s an R-rated film, both for frequent use of the F-word and for showing upper frontal nudity. Rating and content notwithstanding, I find that 94% of the critics have given the film a positive review, with an average score of 8.6 out of 10. The website metacritic assigned a rating score of 91, based on 42 reviews, which is considered to be “universal acclaim”.

Although there are some similarities in the story-lines of FRIEND ME and Her, FRIEND ME takes a markedly different approach. For one thing, I don’t consider the idea of a virtual friend as science fiction whatsoever. We have all the required the technology at this time.

If you really want to talk to a cyber-robot, you can talk to mine by clicking HERE. She’s my very own Malicia.

Secondly, and most important, is that  FRIEND ME shows the dangers in virtual relationships, and is written with a solid Christian worldview.

In the Scriptures, we are told to focus on those things that are true, honest, just pure, lovely, and of good report. In other words, to major on those real things that please God. I say that based on Phillippians 4:8,

 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 Our culture exerts a strong pull upon people to desert real relationships in favor of virtual, cyber-relationships.

  • Online pornography is a plague, particularly among men.
  • Many women define their social relationships by their FaceBook friend list, and how many likes they get.
  • Young adults have their faces buried in their iPhones, texting and snap-chatting their messages often to people – real ones – not ten feet away.
  • More and more adults are escaping this world (they imagine) for the shores of virtual worlds, like those offered by websites like SecondLife.

For the child of God, this is an excellent place to conclude with these words, written under inspiration by the apostle, John.

 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:
but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17)

 

Stepping Into The Virtual Reality of the Matrix

Stepping Into The Virtual Reality of the Matrix

January 4, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

In The Matrix, Morpheus offered Neo two choices: The red pill, or the blue pill. The blue pill would allow Neo to remain in his virtual reality… the Matrix. The red pill would take him into reality. The real world.

The rush is on to make the blue pill real. A way to escape the real world and live in a life-like fantasy… a Virtual Reality.

Websites like Second Life are proliferating. The hook is, “Experience endless surprises and unexpected delights in a world imagined and created by people like you.” In Second Life, you can create your own avatar (an animated figure that is “you”), choose (or even design) a world to live in, and begin your encounters with other virtual people.

It’s no secret that many who visit Second Life, and the websites like it, do so in order to experience secret romances and sexual encounters, not necessarily with humans. In the free version, you can choose to start off as a person, a vampire, an animal, or more.

“But,” you say, “People wouldn’t really experience those things. Not really.”

Right. And not right. The key phrase is not really. This article is about some of the technologies going on now that will make the not really more real than ever.

We have five senses.

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Taste
  4. Smell
  5. Touch
Let’s talk about these senses in terms of what is now in the works for experiencing them in Artificial, or Virtual Reality. I’ll be using the generic “we” below.
 
Sight and Hearing:

If you can see your computer display and hear your speakers, then you’re already half-way there. But people are going to want more than that. We’ll want 3-D, and we’ll want to be able to look up, down, all around. Hear as if surrounded by sound. How do we make that better? The answer is VirtualReality Headsets.

  • This video promotes the new one from Sony. You can buy it today for $999. Sony’s VR Headset
  • The headset most talked-about is the Oculus Rift.

With these VR (virtual reality) headsets, you’re going to get the full sense of 360 degree vision, surround sound. . . the works. And the technology is going to keep getting better and better.

  • Here’s an example of what I mean by the technology getting better – Innovega is now producing contact lenses with built-in digital displays. You wear a pair of special glasses with them to reflect the images back to your eyes. These can be worn all day long, just like normal lenses.

    Notice the girl at the end of the video. She is virtual, superimposed into the real world view. Don’t worry that she looks a little artificial now. Given time, this technology will get so good you won’t be able to tell the difference. Your virtual friend (think Friend Me) will be able to accompany you wherever you go.

In Friend Me, Rachel re-created a friend that had died from ovarian cancer. Her friend was back again! Using the technology in the video above, you’ll have the potential to not only re-create that lost loved one (husband, father, wife, child. . .), and have them go with you throughout your day. If you think it looks strange to see people talking on their Bluetooth earpieces to people you can’t see, wait till this one is a reality!

Taste:Virtual Reality - Taste

Are You Ready for Virtual Taste? is what sparked the idea for this article. A researcher in Singapore has put together a very simple device that is held against the tongue. He has developed a way (Taste Over IP) to send those tastes over the Internet.

It will be trivial to incorporate taste into VR headsets. Just a wired (or even wireless!) device like a football mouth guard with a taste receptor. I’ll estimate such a device could go into production in ninety days.

Smell:

Ever heard of Smell-O-Vision? Virtual Reality - SmellOk, I can hear you laughing. The movie illustrated here sent thirty different odors into movie theater seats, triggered by markers on the soundtrack. Again, this is trivial to implement, once you’re wearing a VR headset. Call it done. For a little interesting history on Smell-O-Vision and other variants like Aroma-Rama, click here or on the picture.

Touch:

This is where it’s all headed. Lots of research is being done to make this happen. A new technology called Hapic Technology is a major step in bringing Virtual Reality You Can Reach Out and Touch. Big companies like Kyocera, Redux and Valve are getting behind it. Oculus, mentioned earlier, is promoting a treadmill (see it here) that allows the user to run and walk in his virtual world. That’s only a step half-way to real touch, though. Touch is going to involve all the tactile senses of the human body. That’s right. All of them. And you can easily guess where that’s going to wind up.

In The Matrix, Neo was totally wired up to a computer. His sensory perceptions  (yes, I know it was just a movie) worked on all five levels. Do you imagine there mighVirtual Realityt be people today that would prefer that to a real life? I’ll guarantee you there are many who would, and would pay for the privilege.

A man with a virtual girlfriend is eventually going to want to touch her. Ditto for the woman weary of Harlequin romance novels, who wants a “real” person, without the trappings that come with a human relationship. When I wrote Friend Me, I had exactly this sort of idea in mind. Current science — to my knowledge — hasn’t matured the technology for this part of VR yet. But it’s coming.

Some Conclusions:

This is weird stuff.  Friend Me used simple technology that people see every day. Going beyond that would have put it into the Science-Fiction realm, and I didn’t want to be there. One editor from Random House told me she wanted Friend Me “right now,” but insisted on making it a Sci-Fi publication. Why? She said, “Because it hasn’t happened yet.” I beg to differ.

It’s All Bad, Right?

It’s easy to only look on the negatives when it comes to virtual reality. And no wonder, there are plenty of them. Our society is rife with people trying to escape reality. I know people, and so do you, whose entire social life is on Facebook. That is a virtual reality. The entire genre of fantasy, and I’ll include most romance, novels is there to provide an escape from this present world, and transport you into an imagined (that’s what virtual is) world of your choosing. Again, not necessarily bad, but it’s an area where the Enemy has a field day.

My prognostication — Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. They’re going to have the finances to push this technology to the limits of evil. You might as well get ready for it, because if the Lord tarries His coming, you’re going to see it happen.

Is There Any Good In It?

I’ll suggest one use that may not have occurred to you. Suppose you were physically disabled to the point that you could not leave your bed. How would you like to be hooked up (via your Virtual Reality System) to a robot that works like the one below — see everything the robot sees, go everywhere he goes, do everything he does. This technology exists now. It’s only waiting for someone to bring it all together. The Honda-manufactured robot in the video is actually working independently, which is a little creepy in itself!

I think there are other good uses too. Think about the possibilities for new ways to present fiction, for training (especially in risky, dangerous endeavors), and immersive education. Yes, there are some excellent applications for the technology.

We don’t know yet where all of this will go. As with all things, the Christian must do as the Lord Jesus said: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). Just because something is cool doesn’t mean it’s good. Conversely, it is silly to think that if something is good, it can’t be cool. Believers are expected — commanded — to exercise discernment in the things we involve ourselves in.

Please comment on this article. I have more to say in the future on the subject, but in the meantime, I want to hear from you.
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