• Toby Sinclair

Future Presence by Peter Rubin Summary | Virtual Reality Book

Updated: Dec 7, 2021


Future Presence Peter Rubin Book Summary

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⭐ Toby's Rating: 6/10 - Recommended For: Everyone


3 Big Ideas from Future Presence 💡


Future Presence by Peter Rubin helps you change anyone's mind:


  1. VR driven by science has an incredible potential to support psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

  2. The technology mostly generates intimacy, not empathy.

  3. With this technology, you have the ability to deprive someone of power, and that feeling can have real psychological harm. The sting of being rejected by virtual humans is as visceral as if it had happened in real life.


2 Best Quotes from Future Presence by Peter Rubin 💬


In ten years we won’t even have smartphones anymore.
VR might just prove to be the single most significant contributor to inner peace since Snoop Dogg’s favorite plant.

Tobys Top Takeaway


The metaverse is now a big buzzword. I was eager to understand more about the potential for this technology. Future Presence was written in 2018, so the technology has moved on a lot since then. However, the foundational principles are the same. Future Presence focuses on how VR opens new potential for human connection


My takeaway: 4 Types of Metaverse Realities

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Big Ideas Expanded 💡



Virtual reality (VR): The illusion of an all-enveloping artificial world, created by wearing an opaque display in front of your eyes.


Augmented reality (AR): Bringing artificial objects into the real world—these can be as simple as a “heads-up display,” like a speedometer projected onto your car’s windshield, or as complex as seeing a virtual creature walk across your real-world living room, casting a realistic shadow on the floor.


Mixed reality (MR): Generally speaking, this is synonymous with AR, or at least with the part of AR that brings virtual objects into the real world. (I know this sounds like a cop-out, but it depends on who you ask.) However, some people prefer “mixed” because they think “augmented” implies that reality isn’t enough.


Extended or synthetic reality (XR or SR): All of the above! These are both catch-all terms that encompass the full spectrum of virtual elements in visual settings. You won’t hear people using them all that often, but as we’ll get to in a moment, it’s bound to happen in the coming years.

When VR is working well, your physical senses tell your brain that you’re really experiencing the thing you’re virtually experiencing, and your brain prompts your body to respond in kind. That’s presence.


VR technology, driven by science, has an incredible potential to support psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being.


Imagine that your office included a meditation room, or even just a multipurpose quiet room you could sign up to use for ten or twenty minutes. There’s a headset in there, some sensors that can read your heart rate and breathing, and a VR activity designed to get you into a flow state far faster and easier than just sitting down to meditate.

The challenge is VR technology is not quite there. VR can sometimes be all runway, no takeoff.

Empathy: The ability to identify with and understand others, particularly on an emotional level. It involves imagining yourself in the place of another and, therefore, appreciating how they feel. Intimacy: A complex sphere of “inmost” relationships with self and others that are not usually minor or incidental (though they may be transitory) and which usually touch the personal world very deeply. They are our closest relationships with friends, family, children, lovers, but they are also the deep and important experiences we have with self (which are never exactly solitary): our feelings, our bodies, our emotions, our identities.

Empathy necessarily needs to involve other people; intimacy doesn’t. Empathy involves emotional understanding; intimacy involves emotion itself. Empathy, at its base, is an act of getting outside yourself: you’re projecting yourself into someone else’s experience, which means that in some ways you’re leaving your own experience behind, other than as a reference point. Intimacy, on the other hand, is at its base an act of feeling: you might be connecting with someone or something else, but you’re doing so on the basis of the emotions you (or both of you) feel.


VR doesn't necessarily induce empathy, but instead “intimacy.”

VR opens the risk of digital assault:


“As VR becomes increasingly real, how do we decide what crosses the line from an annoyance to an actual assault? Eventually we’re going to need rules to tame the wild, wild west of VR multi-player. Or is this going to be yet another space that women do not venture into?”

VR has the ability to deprive someone of power, and that feeling can have real psychological harm. The sting of being rejected by virtual humans is as visceral as if it had happened in real life. Conversely, a study found that people who had become “superheroes” in VR, flying through the air and saving a child, were more likely to help pick up pens in a similar situation—just as alienation can be induced, so can altruism.