Jaron Lanier’s memoir recalls a life spent in virtual reality

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Dawn of the New Everything. By Jaron Lanier. Henry Holt; 351 pages; $30. Bodley Head; £20.

WHAT is virtual reality (VR)? Over 21 chapters and three appendices, Jaron Lanier, a tech pioneer, puts forward 52 definitions. Some are geeky: “a media technology for which measurement is more important than display”. Others are poetic: “the technology of noticing experience itself”. And a few are terrifying: “a training simulator for information-age warfare”. VR is all of these things and more besides. Yet at a time when the malign influence of social media is grabbing headlines, it is the last of these that seems most urgent.

Mr Lanier is a Silicon Valley grandee. In 1984 he started the first VR firm, VPL Research, which sold early headsets and accessories, and is widely credited with popularising the term “virtual reality”. He has seen the tech industry go from being a bunch of start-ups run by counterculture idealists to global companies….Continue reading

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