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Change 2004 Interface Debate: Will Wright vs. Jaron Lanier on Technology,
Simulation and Humanity
CA (October 27, 2004). The Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF) presents Accelerating
Change 2004: Physical Space, Virtual Space, and Interface
at Stanford University, November 5-7, 2004.
Change is the world’s first conference dedicated
to exploring the implications of accelerating technological change.
A weekend gathering of 42 leading futurist
thinkers, AC2004 also features capstone debates in each of its three
themes: physical space (tangible things and networks),
virtual space (simulations and virtual life), and
interface (data management systems and convergence).
The final debate,
between Will Wright (creator of The Sims)
and Jaron Lanier (Pioneer of Virtual Reality),
is particularly noteworthy:
Wright vs. Jaron Lanier on Technology, Simulation and Humanity
Humanity in the Interface: Capacity Atrophy or Augmentation?"
As our digital
interfaces get continually smarter, how do we keep them from dehumanizing
us? Can we avoid the world of MT Anderson's masterful
Feed (2002), where the internet-jacked, childlike teens
of 2030 speak pidgin English and live primarily as vehicles for
sophisticated, automated corporate marketing and political programming?
Should we be
concerned that U.S. youth have had forty
years of declining math, science, and analytical reading skills?
Do we need 1960's math skills in a world with ubiquitous calculators,
or reading skills in a world with digital cable? Or thinking skills
in a world with intelligent text analytics and avatars?
the Millennial generation reaches maturity earlier, communicates
in new nonlinear ways, and has a strong facility to adapt to new
technology. But are we in danger of losing our perspective, independence,
and global vision? What are our most important priorities as we
enter a world of increasingly sophisticated interfaces and simulations?
Join us as interface
legends Will Wright and Jaron Lanier discuss and debate this and
related topics in a fun, heated, and fascinating exchange. As Jaron
says, "All that we need is a little humility, honesty, and
the very hard work of designing computers for the sake of people
instead of the easy fantasy work of designing computers for the
sake of computers."
Wright is Chief Designer and Co-Founder of Maxis (sold to Electronic
Arts for $125M in 1997). He released his first game SimCity:
The City Simulator in 1989, an instant hit which has won 24
domestic and international awards. Sim City brought complex,
realistic simulations to desktop PCs, a capability previously only
available to military, scientists and academicians. Using an easy
graphical interface, Sim City opened the world of simulations
to consumers. SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 3000 Unlimited,
and SimCity 4 Deluxe have continued the tradition.
SimEarth, SimAnt, and SimCopter have explored
other facets of the natural and technological world.
His social simulation
game, The Sims, was released in February of 2000. With
over 9 million copies worldwide, 7 expansion packs, and numerous
"Game of The Year" accolades, The Sims has become the
best-selling PC game of all time. The Sims Online and The
Sims 2 (released September 2004, to critical acclaim) are moving
The Sims toward an increasingly realistic world where you
choose your role, attitude and destiny. He is now working on a "third
generation" simulation project at Maxis.
Wright has become
one of the most successful designers of interactive entertainment
in the world. In 1999 he was included in Entertainment Weekly’s
"It List" of "the 100 most creative people in entertainment"
as well as Time Digital’s "Digital 50",
listing of "the most important people shaping technology today."
As one of his hobbies, Wright (along with his daughter) takes part
in the annual Battlebot competition broadcast nationally on Comedy
Lanier is well known among developers as the co-inventor of "virtual
reality," a term he coined in the 1980s as founder and former
CEO of VPL Research. In the late 1980s he lead the team that developed
the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head
mounted displays as well as the first "avatars." While
at VPL, he co-developed the first implementations of virtual reality
applications in surgical simulation, vehicle interior prototyping,
virtual sets for television production, and assorted other areas.
He lead the team that developed the first widely used software platform
architecture for immersive virtual reality applications.
As a musician,
Lanier has been active in the world of new "classical"
music since the late seventies. He is a pianist and a specialist
in unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments
of Asia. Renowned as a composer, musician, computer scientist, and
artist, he has taught at many university computer science departments
around the country, including Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia and Penn.
He recently served as the lead scientist for the National Tele-Immersion
Initiative. In 1993, he predicted that virtual reality would be
accessible to consumers by 2010. He still thinks that's true.
debates at AC2004 include:
David Brin (Author, The Transparent Society)
vs. Brad Templeton (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
"The Cost and Benefit of Transparency: How Far,
How Fast, How Fair?"
Moderated by Steve Jurvetson (Managing Director,
Draper Fisher Jurvetson)
Jack Emmert (Lead Designer, City of Heroes)
vs. Steve Salyer (President, Internet Gaming Entertainment)
"Real Money in Virtual Economies: The Future of
Moderatored by Cory Ondrejka (VP of Product Development,
Linden Lab/Second Life)
For more on
the debates see http://www.accelerating.org/ac2004/debates.html.
For more about the conference, see the AC2004 homepage at http://www.accelerating.org/ac2004.
AC2004 is presented
by the Acceleration Studies Foundation (ASF). ASF is a
nonprofit community of approximately sixty board members, associates
and advisers, and a subscriber network of 3,200 executives, technologists,
systems theorists, and futurists.
the accelerating development of special domains in science and technology,
and examines their impact on business and society. In particular,
we consider longstanding accelerating scientific and technological
trends in computation, communication, storage, digitization, simulation,
sensing, energy density, energy efficiency, miniaturization, autonomy,
and others, and the way these developmental trends interact with
business and social agendas. We seek to use this knowledge in service
to greater personal, executive, and professional development.
ASF can be
found on the web at http://www.accelerating.org.
Until November 3, conference registration is $350 for regular admission
(using the $100 discount code "AC2004-DEBATES"), or $150
for student admission. Express registration is available at http://accelerating.org/ac2004/registration.html.
for more information. The official conference blog can be found