The Mirrorworld


(Douglas Duff) #1

“THE MIRRORWORLD DOESN’T yet fully exist, but it is coming. Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world—every street, lamppost, building, and room—will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld. For now, only tiny patches of the mirrorworld are visible through AR headsets. Piece by piece, these virtual fragments are being stitched together to form a shared, persistent place that will parallel the real world. The author Jorge Luis Borges imagined a map exactly the same size as the territory it represented. “In time,” Borges wrote, “the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” We are now building such a 1:1 map of almost unimaginable scope, and this world will become the next great digital platform.”


Kevin Kelly has written an article that opens up a whole new can of worlds. Many of us have spoken of the harms and more-of-the-same stirrings of the muck that VR and AR would place upon our world. One can easily dismiss such projections into the techno-future as head-in-the-clouds thinking or silly games people like to play (the article describes Pokemon GO as one of the first crude examples of an engaged AR mirrorworld.) “Failed” attempts such as Google Glass have many critics dismissing VR and AR technology as an expensive and disappointing luxury. Kelly reminds us that such techno-waves never die…they just find a way to creep into the hands of the big guys, or the little guys looking to make big bucks. Google Glass is “making quiet inroads into factories.” VR and AR tech is making its way into the the military, the work environment, just as most any new tech will tend to do.

The title refers to the “Next Big Tech Platform.”

The first big technology platform was the web, which digitized information, subjecting knowledge to the power of algorithms; it came to be dominated by Google. The second great platform was social media, running primarily on mobile phones. It digitized people and subjected human behavior and relationships to the power of algorithms, and it is ruled by Facebook and WeChat.

We are now at the dawn of the third platform, which will digitize the rest of the world. On this platform, all things and places will be machine-­readable, subject to the power of algorithms. Whoever dominates this grand third platform will become among the wealthiest and most powerful people and companies in history, just as those who now dominate the first two platforms have. Also, like its predecessors, this new platform will unleash the prosperity of thousands more companies in its ecosystem, and a million new ideas—and problems—that weren’t possible before machines could read the world.

So, now what? What do we do about this? Jump into the race and invest time and money? Is the best we can do is sit back and curmudge? Make pointed efforts with pins and needles as our envisioned worlds are sliced into pieces by virtual swords? Perhaps there is nothing to worry about and to devote our attention to such games would be a deviation of our precious time. But something about this relates to our explorations here: new forms of embodiment; “second order culture;” a creative platform (the literal Earth world) for artists to create a reality on top of a reality:

Artists might create future versions of a place, in place. The verisimilitude of such crafty world-building will be revolutionary. These scroll-forward scenarios will have the heft of reality because they will be derived from a full-scale present world. In this way, the mirrorworld may be best referred to as a 4D world.

Such technology is being used for good things (medical advances, future potentials, environmental/green technology) and neutral or volatile things (military, work-related tech)…depending upon your stance of what’s good and whats bad. We can all agree that it is complex and will hover towards deep, complex creative work in either direction.


We can envision three worlds:

  1. Our “matrix” vision, that of standard human perception from the collective standpoint, the world that we sometimes wish was not so real, yet we remain enmeshed within its web. This is the rat-race to the top, the playing of more capitalistic games for individual benefit.

  2. Our “mirror” vision: that of a world augmented by technology, as presented in the article or in our Zoom chats, a world that augments and suspends our reality, similar to engaging with a movie.

  3. What I will call our “anarchic” vision: that of a world Emerson depicts. That world that envisions a “self-reliant” search for a deeper reality. The “transparent eyeball” is not the “embedded billion eyes of the matrix” that Kelly mentions when referencing. It is the attempt to break free from the stories of religion, governance, culture and seek out an infusion of the truest nature that few of us are able to see.

In the Matrix (movie), there is perhaps only two worlds, the matrix and the dystopian reality behind the matrix. Since I am assuming we do not live in the matrix already, the “matrix” world (#1 above) is a metaphor for the world we wish to remove ourselves from, going towards a vision of a world that steers away from big money, environmental degradation, etc.; the “mirror” world is the potential Matrix-like sheath, which at this point, according to Kevin Kelly and other optimists, still has a chance to go either way (more utopian leaning or more dystopian leaning); and the “anarchic” world would be that world which would seek a new way life from within the old shell of the complex world we have created + include Nature. Transcendance has many different meanings. Will we choose the techno-colored vision on the left, the standard vision on the right or carve our own path?


From “Works and Days” by Emerson:

Machinery is aggressive. The weaver becomes a web, the machinist a machine. If you do not use the tools, they use you. All tools are in one sense edge-tools, and dangerous. A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days. A man has a reputation, and is no longer free, but must respect that. A man makes a picture or a book, and, if it succeeds, ’t is often the worse for him. I saw a brave man the other day, hitherto as free as the hawk or the fox of the wilderness, constructing his cabinet of drawers for shells, eggs, minerals and mounted birds. It was easy to see that he was amusing himself with making pretty links for his own limbs.

… The days are made on a loom whereof the warp and woof are past and future time. They are majestically dressed, as if every god brought a thread to the skyey web. ’T is pitiful the things by which we are rich or poor,—a matter of coins, coats and carpets, a little more or less stone, or wood, or paint, the fashion of a cloak or hat; like the luck of naked Indians, of whom one is proud in the possession of a glass bead or a red feather, and the rest miserable in the want of it. But the treasures which Nature spent itself to amass,—the secular, refined, composite anatomy of man, which all strata go to form, which the prior races, from infusory and saurian, existed to ripen; the surrounding plastic natures; the earth with its foods; the intellectual, temperamenting air; the sea with its invitations; the heaven deep with worlds; and the answering brain and nervous structure replying to these; the eye that looketh into the deeps, which again look back to the eye, abyss to abyss;—these, not like a glass bead, or the coins or carpets, are given immeasurably to all.