Recent developments in both digital technology and societal trends have led to a world of multiple realities: you can “be” somewhere you’re not really, and fake news can “be” real. (And of course the reverse has also been argued—that real news is actually fake.) Many consumers of technology and news media alike are struggling to discern what to believe and how to keep reality straight. This is an admirable endeavor, but with the pace of digital transmission today, the truth is that human beings simply can’t keep up with the endless categorizations of real or fake, dependable or suspicious. And we’re getting to the point where artificial intelligence can’t keep up either. This brings us to what Norwegian philosopher Swen Ekaf calls “the end of objective reality.” Is this a bad thing? Many tech leaders are starting to say: no, it’s not.
The Evolution of Fluid Reality
“If you think about it, we are designed to process multiple fictional realities,” says virtual reality developer Josh Enround. “From the beginning of human history, storytelling has been a central part of our being. Even today, people prefer to be immersed in a good book or film rather than doing their laundry or washing the dishes.” He goes on to state more boldly: humans aren’t meant for an objective reality, and it’s time to let such a notion go.
Kate Prevaric, Editor in Chief at the New Jersey Times, agrees. She points out that fictional footage was considered normal material for news coverage in early journalism. “This is where we came from, and we need to restore journalism to its foundations.” Hers is a more conservative position, but others also argue that the idea of video footage adhering to any one particular reality is misguided, because there simply is no “one reality” that we can all agree on.
A Burgeoning Movement
A growing group of technology leaders is embracing this approach, spearheaded by a team of cloud researchers at the Montana Institute of neo-Technology (MInT). “Disruption is at the heart of innovation, and the ultimate disruption is one that shatters a single reality into multiple realities, which are much more accessible to users regardless of their location,” says Joe Custer, Chair of Computer Sciences at MInT. He aims to dismantle the concept of a mono-reality, a term he coined at the First Annual Conference of Technological Truths (FACTT) last month. The conference, held virtually, garnered attention from nearly 300 online attendees around the world.
“It’s incredibly freeing when you realize that you don’t have to commit to a limited mono-reality,” says Custer. His outlook has begun to catch on with private companies as well, where leaders see a lot of potential in such novel vision. Fu-Lin Yu, CEO of Embolden Technology Advisors, is one of the movement’s strongest proponents. He predicts that this will be a majority mindset by 2025, “if not by the end of this year.”
Curious about how you can get onboard? Join the discussion or ask questions at Custer’s proxy conversation room. Other things you can do:
- Sign the FACTT pledge to support reality diversity.
- Follow news sources that produce original or imaginative material, such as YouTube. (Alignment with other news outlets is not necessary.)
- Share this article on social media.
A Return to the “Real”
In case you haven’t noticed, this is one big April Fools’ joke. While it is true that 1920s journalists created their own film footage to portray distant news events, all other people and organizations listed here are fictional. If you didn’t fall for it, congratulations! But chances are, you would fall for some of the fabricated images and videos that can be produced with machine learning today. Stay tuned for our next (real) blog post on deepfakes and the technology behind them.