By on July 18th, 2020

 

‘Liberty Bell’ Tolls for Sites Where History Is Alive and Kicking, by Nancy Baker Cahill, via the New York Times

 

How Can You Augment Reality?

 

A conundrum ensnarled with an enigma. Reality is tub water too hot to step into, augmented reality turns the tub in your viewfinder pink. As far as I understand, augmented reality requires a viewport — technically-equipped goggles (you swim, the software counts laps in your field of view), the digital camera in your smart phone (responds to local wifi and delivers an artistic effect over your view of a whirlagigging wind farm. Lady Madonna? Cute kitten? Mobius strip?)

The turbines twirl, real wind energy is translated into real electricity. Reality. What plays out in your viewfinder at the same time? Dealer’s choice.

Or, a step into another level of consciousness, you the viewer get to choose whether the bathtub looks pink or pea green. Whether you are color blind leads to a maze that certain philosophers enjoy exploring. I leave it to them.

Humanity also recognizes visions that appear to certain people. Calls some miracles. If Mr Wobbles suddenly finds he’s in a field of sunflowers, then is he? Is he even though we’re standing and talking to him and we’re at the seashore?

Reality on the grass, alas. Gertrude Stein becomes apt here. Reality is reality is reality.

I imagine as humans get more used to augmented reality that some people will accept it the same way they do the experiences of psychedelics. They’ll lose the sense of separation between normal and created. I remember a friend talking about driving on LSD. Suddenly the car was driving along upsidedown so, ok, he figured he just had to keep driving. No other option.

Last I heard, he’s still alive.

Many of us have negotiated these metaphysic roadways. Castaneda, drug-augmented visuals, the soggy dormouse in the teapot. If we’re lucky we never have a bad trip. I was delirious for three days after surgery in 2017. I discovered that an artist had been in the room before me and left marvelously clever kinetic sculptures all over. Afterward I wrote:

Part of me (an itty bitty but real part) still believes in those artworks. In La-la land. In what I connected with. Like Dorothy and Toto after Oz. They knew the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch. They knew the Ruby Slippers. They didn’t make those up. But no one back in Kansas will buy it. They’re in a place of knowing what other people don’t, real people don’t. Because they can’t, they didn’t go there.

 

They stayed home.

 

As we stir augmented reality into our routines something has to shift. The credulous may start believing the inserted material. A horrible tale in recent news about a teen who attended a giant church party, contracted Covid, and was dosed twice by her parents with hydroxychloroquine. She’s dead. Some people will always drink the Kool-Aid.

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