I like it when art becomes it’s own medium of response to itself, rather than leaving it to prose. I have always like Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” and Don McLean’s “Vincent” (YouTube | Wikipedia). But Robbie Dingo’s recreation of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night in Second Life, making a video of the process of creation, then setting it to Don McLean’s song does it all one better (Au, Wagner James, “Remake the Stars,” New World Notes, 18 July 2007).
Schema of the arts and sciences aside, I like this for what is suggests for the future of virtual worlds. Hitherto our imaginations have been stunted by continuous exposure to the narrow Newtonian world of the macroscopic everyday. Witness, for example, what happens when people try to imagine fantastical animals. All that we can come up with is combinations of existing animals: griffins, mermaids, centaurs, dragons, Cerberus, et cetera.
Once we start to live in a regular way in virtual worlds of our own creation, a dynamic will form where each feat of imagining will establish a new norm and a new developmental environment from which each subsequent foray of imagining and generation of imagineer will be capable of going a little further beyond the forms of this world. As we increasingly live in worlds not constrained by the same limits as the material world, our imaginations will become completely unmoored from the forms provided to us by macroscopic nature. The true, autonomous nature of the imagination — throughout all of history shackled by the relentless, overwhelming conditioning of the narrow forms presented to us by dull matter — will be liberated.
And owing to neuroplasticity, inherited or induced, maturing and living in radically different worlds will allow us to develop new modes of being and new understandings. In the future we will live in our dreams and our nightmares. Science has laid the groundwork for our art to become the more fundamental reality. The direction of humanity is a retreat from the material world into a world composed entirely of mind.
Politically, for all of human history the Earth has provided the unified point of reference for all humanity. With a proliferation of possible environments, the hitherto more or less unified character of the human world will gradually degenerate. The dissolution of our political order, multiculturalism, neo-primitivism, the turning away from master narratives and the dawning of the postmodern era are natural consequences of technology.
As Vernor Vinge said of the coming of the singularity, “I can see us becoming weird — before my very eyes” (“My Apocalyptic Vision is Very Narrow,” 13 June 2008).