Synthetic Pleasures: Treatment & Script


Film Treatment:

Mankind’s ability to tap Nature’s power has recently achieved such success that a new world is suddenly emerging, an artificial reality.
— Benjamin Woolley, Virtual Worlds

The fantasy is that we can somehow transcend our horrible condition of being human through these shining black boxes.
— Jaron Lanier

Synthetic Pleasures begins with a montage of images which takes the viewer on a high-speed trip through natural landscapes, cultivated landscapes, simulated theme park jungles, indoor beaches and ski slopes, etc., before finally penetrating a computer screen to reveal a digitally-enhanced virtual landscape, a glowing simulation of the natural forests and beaches which initiated the sequence.

An opening narration considers the human drive to control nature and to overcome the limitations it imposes upon us. Some of the film’s key interviewees are introduced, each elaborating upon the idea that we have recently entered a new technological era, an historical phase where technological innovations have given us access to seemingly unlimited powers of transformation. These powers include the ability to transform:

    • Our environments: virtual reality, synthetic environments from the
      shopping mall to Biosphere, etc.
    • Our bodies: genetic engineering, plastic surgery, etc.
    • Our identities: smart drugs, mood-altering drugs, etc.

The final section of Synthetic Pleasures deals with broader perspectives on our relationship with technology, where this relationship is taking us and what its implications will be for the future.

This four-part schema will serve as a guide for the greater part of the film, a loose way of organizing the film’s investigation of often inter-connected, cutting edge technologies. Interviews will provide technical information, but will emphasize the influence of technology on human experience and question the implications of having access to so much transformative power.

Synthetic Pleasures relies extensively on both images of technology and
technologically-produced images. Ambient and techno music will provide the soundtrack.

Film Script

You know, I think the thing that sets human beings
apart from other creatures is a built in
dissatisfaction. There’s an itch that we have that
can’t be scratched.

Our efforts to scratch it have created civilization,
which is essentially the practice of trying to adapt the
environment to us rather than adapting ourselves to
the environment.

We decided long ago that we were terrified by nature
and that we needed to be more powerful so that we
weren’t threatened by nature so much … and
technology means power to us. It symbolizes
potentially immortality. This is the fantasy: that
somehow we can transcend our horrible condition of
being human through these shiny black boxes.

You become a god. You have the power to change
reality. You have the power to create reality. When
you look on the TV, is anything you see real? Nobody
knows anymore. With some of the digital imagery,
with some of the retouching, some of the 3D
animation – what you see, it isn’t real. And with
this technology, it lets me be a god and it lets me
create my reality.

We like the idea of a controlled environment, only
because you can control whether there’s pollution,
you can control what’s in the ocean … control what’s
on the sand, the beach. It’s just a cleaner
environment, they’ve had a lot of experience
to change things.

In a sense, tourism begins as a kind of controlled
environment. Middle class people could now travel
and see the world. It used to be that going to exotic
places required a certain hardiness of spirit, and
now it was a more controlled experience, less
random, with guides to take you. And now that’s been
brought home … I mean, you don’t have to go to the
pyramids anymore, the pyramids can come to you.

At Epcot Center, at Disney World, or in Las Vegas,
you can see reproductions of all those things, and
they’re ever so much nicer than what you can see in
the real world.

I mean there, you can have a nice sort of dinner in a
Mexican pyramid and watch the volcano explode at
just the right time. And, you know, you’re
guaranteed of having the experience that you are

It seems to me that now what we have is the capacity
to literally create the environment that we want to
be in. That is, to make available environments that
would not be normally available to most people.

I mean, it’s an extension of something like a shopping
mall, or something like the Metrodome.

We create a microscopic representation of nature,
optimized and sanitized so that it is precisely as we
want it, and it becomes exceedingly available.

It’s all packaged for me. Our world is packaged. I just
have to consume it.

In a sense what you’ve done is filtered all the
hazards out of the natural experience, and just
distilled those parts of the experience which are
pleasant, positive, danger-free … I guess the next
step is literally to sit in a booth and not be on skis
at all, not wear a parka.

The virtual reality issue is tremendously seductive,
fascinating. You know, you can create not only an
indoor environment that replicates this, but you
have a kind of virtual reality where you sit yourself
down in your chair and somehow or other you’re
strapped in … and you enjoy the experience of
skiing without ever skiing. You never mastered a
technique; you just gained the experience.

We’re trying to figure out ways to reduce the sense
of separation that having bodies gives us.

If we start to inhabit an environment where we
can’t take our bodies, I think the difference between
mind starts to go away and I, you know, personally,
view that as being a positive development.

The term was originally defined to mean that thing
that you could create that would become immersive,
through the use of computers, eye phones, and some
kind of physical mapping system like a data glove or
body suit.

I always tell people if they want to understand what
virtual reality is, they should take a look at Las

Las Vegas is a real clear case of the map having
gotten so substantial that people can walk around in
it and feel like they are in full, immersive,
three-dimensional reality even though the whole
thing is created.

Hello, my name is Charlotte Richards, here at the
Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’ve been performing weddings for the last
thirty-five years, and as I see technology
advancing, I decided a drive-up wedding window
would be a very up-to-date way of getting married.
My next step is by television, where I will be
sitting at a television monitor and the couple will be
monitored, and … I think television’s great, don’t

There’s this odd blurring between the reality of
marriage and the simulation of Elvis impersonators.
It sort of blends in some strange way and creates
some sort of hyperreal environment.

Is this a natural thing? Well, not much about our society
is natural anymore.

The town square has been replaced the mall, and the
friendly, neighborhood coffee shop has been
replaced by the fast food outlet. A lot of things have
contributed to the kind of rootless, alienated society
we live in.

We are in an era in which the natural world is
threatened by human activity.

We can’t drink from our rivers, the air is polluted,
the food chain is suffering.

At the same time we can retreat into a synthetic world,
in which we have artificial trees and artificial skies
and artificial animals.

I think the day might come when some of those worst
science fiction fantasies come true. Uh, the
electricity goes off and you discover you’re not
living in paradise, you’re living in hell.

Let nature take you away
from the real world …
experience something beyond
your wildest dreams …
come and escape from
everyday life …
come and visit paradise …
Phoenix Resort, Seagaia,
Oceandome in Miyazaki.

I’d like to be able to get the sun on a beach and all
that, but not have any of the pollution, and any of
the bad things that are on there. Not have to worry
about the sharks, or the jellyfish, or anything like

I think there’s been a long standing dream of
rediscovering paradise. So that if we have urban
space which has sort of separated us from nature,
then our dream of technology will be about
technology giving us a pristine natural environment
again within the city.

Typhoon 7 is now approaching …
heavy winds and rain will hit

Miyazaki around 5 pm.

It’s really a kind of manifestation of our capacity to
control the world, and to control nature. Outside, we
don’t have that control. Nature still shows that it
can do us in at any moment. Inside this encapsulated
reality, we are in control.

I guess there are interesting questions that arise as
a result of this. I’ve always thought in some ways,
that the ecological problems, problems of ecology,
are essentially problems of transformation … we
might in the end transform the world in such a
way that we won’t be able to adapt to it … that is, we
literally won’t be able to live in the world that we

With Imax films and computer data bases and the
unbelievable ability we have to store information,
in a sense we can set about cataloguing nature. And
my dark nightmare of that is that once we’ve
catalogued it, we won’t need nature anymore,
because after all, we can always summon up an
image of these great extinct species, so that, you
know, I will never miss them when they’re gone. I
won’t even know about it.

If we do get the ability to have complete control over
the structure of matter, will we in effect become

It sounds like this is true because if we can build
anything that we want to build, then what is going to
stop us from doing just absolutely anything at all?

Technology doesn’t mean any one thing in that it’s
not giving us a flawless universe, but it’s allowing
people to create what it is they want to create. Some
people may want to live in a space station in which
everything is controlled down to the last molecule.

There’d be no bugs, rats, mice, anything … there’d
be nothing up there that you didn’t want. And not
everyone is going to want to do that; however, I
certainly wouldn’t. I tend to like planet earth with
all of its imperfections.

Life on earth has always been very boring for me.
That’s why I started going to the clubs, ’cause it
gives me a chance to be whatever I want. And that’s
why I hope in the near future, there will be, like,
colonies on other planets, where hopefully there
will be other people like me. Where everyone is
accepted no matter what they are.

I think we need a new Enlightenment, a new
humanism or a trans-humanism, as I prefer to call
it. A humanism which looks beyond current human
abilities and limits, and applies reason and science,
and objective truth and research to improving
human’s possibilities.

I personally think we’re gonna have to wait until we
have cheap space transportation so we can get off the
planet and into space where there’s plenty of room,
and then we can start whole new societies.

Not having the physical bounds of the earth and the
excuse of limited space, people will want to try all
kinds of different social experiments.

In the absence of geography, since we’ve explored
the world, now there’s a construction of new
geographies through the computer, or through
simulation, or through digitalization, or through
replacement of the body.

My work is really a fight against nature, the image
of God, the inevitable, the programmed, DNA based

And that’s why I went into cosmetic surgery, not looking
to enhance or rejuvenate, but to create
a total change of image,even of identity.

The most avant-garde thing I did for Orlan was to
put implants in her forehead-temple area. This is
not something that’s described anywhere. It’s
something that she and I devised. She wanted to have
a prominence there that looks like the forehead of
the Mona Lisa. And they look actually very
interesting, and not quite anatomically like
anything, but it was part of this sort of
work-in-progress that she and I devised.

I claim that I gave my body to art, the idea
is to raise the issue of the body, its role in
society and in future generations,
via genetic engineering, to
mentally prepare ourselves for this problem.

I think a lot of the questions that she asks are very
troubling. You know, what exactly is a body? How
much can you change it? What is the relationship
between the mind and the body? These things upset
people and disturb them, and so people say ‘Oh, this
nonsense, she shouldn’t be doing it.’ But without
advocating that everyone should go out and do
performance art, I think that it plays an important

One of the issues here is turning the body into a
controlled environment, and of course the ethical
questions become massive. I mean, if we can control
the body, does it necessarily mean that we should?
In a way it becomes a moot point: if we can, we
will. But where does that stop?

And of course this has found a massive popularity
with adolescents, who are casting themselves as
mutants who somehow need to control their own
bodies through mutant-stigmata of piercings and
tattooings and ways of turning the body into a sign.

I guess I’m a body artist because I always change,
like, the way I look and the way I, like …. whatever
I do to myself, I just change all the time.

I do get bored with how I look. Like, one day I look in
the mirror, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I looked like that
yesterday.’ So then I change. Change is an art form, I

This is my art. I live it every day. I’m a walking
work of art. If you saw what I really look at, you’d
agree (laughs). I’m actually completely plastic.
Here’s my battery pack! But as long as someone
replaces the batteries once in a while, I’ll be okay.

My favorite piercing, by the way – in case you’re
wondering – is my tongue. I have it pierced twice.
And my most hide-able face piercing is my nose. It’s
right there. It’s all sneaky, hide-away, but I
usually, actually wear a big silver ring in it, but
I’m job hunting today.

It’s the ‘cyborgization’ of humanity. We’re taking
the machine inside us and uniting with it. And on
some level, we would all like to have replaceable
parts. We already do. We have artificial hearts,
kidneys, and so forth that … we’re waiting for the
time when those things are actually improvements
over the original, and you’ll be able to … put your
parts in and take your parts out at leisure. Perhaps
experience being the opposite sex without making
permanent, surgical changes, and so forth. Yes,
love of technology, love of those hyperreal surfaces,
and so forth, is a major theme of these times. It’s a
love/hate relationship, too.

Our skin is disappointing, but that’s all we are given
in life. It is unfair because one never is what one has.
One always feels odd when
looking in the mirror, and at times
feel odd when looking at ourselves in the mirror, and at times
this feeling grows into estrangement. By changing, one attempts to minimize
these odd feelings

When I was very young I started on female
hormones, and that changed my body to what my
mind thought it should be. I all along wanted to
become a woman, and I had a boyfriend pay for my
sex change operation. And I had that done and I’ve
been happy ever since.

It’s very important for a transsexual and people of
‘gender confusion’ to have a way of escaping being
trapped in a body. But I personally would like to
remain as natural as possible … and be gorgeous.

Nothing is natural; nothing is naturally occurring.
Everything deals with the chemicals in your body,
and the way you are programmed from the time you
are a child. Everything you saw, everything you
heard programmed you just like a computer … that
programming can be undone.

The mind is changing, through the computers,
they’re artificial. The mind itself is expanding, like
through virtual reality through other projects …
you are experiencing new experiences. It’s not, it’s
not drugs–

… at all.

It’s just, like–

… smarts.

It’s just … in genius


And we … and people like us understand that. And

–we’re like, so far beyond.

We try to, like expand other people.


If I was, say, to become a woman in some sort of
virtual reality, then I could perhaps bring some of
that experience back with me so that I would be a
more full individual, if you will. And I think the
whole thing about life is to be illuminated, to see
what’s really going on around you, and to illuminate
others as well.

Extropians are people who want to push back limits
of all kinds. So we tend to challenge not just things
that other people challenge, like political limits, or
the limits we can see today, but we’re interested in
any kind of limits that humans have traditionally
accepted. One big one, of course, is human life span.
We want to push back the limits to human life so we
can live indefinitely long, which will mean
removing, getting rid of these human bodies and
becoming post-human, as we call it.

I don’t think there are any liberations from reality.
I mean, the only liberation from reality that I’m
familiar with is death. And even that, you know, it’s
just that we don’t have any reports from the field

Well just think of how long it takes to learn what
you need to in order to get by in life. It takes a
process of primary school education, which is ten
or twelve years, and high school, and college, then
graduate school. So finally at the age of forty you
have what you need to go through life. And you may
have twenty years in which you ply and practice
whatever it is you learned for the first forty years.
And then you’re dead. That’s not the way to go.

What we’re asking people to do is to change their
world-view, change their whole outlook on life.
People grow up expecting they will die, their
children will then grow up and they will die, and
their children will grow up and die; but suppose it
suddenly dawns on you that your children may not
die … and they may not.

All together, there are about fifty people frozen
now, I believe. Here at the cryonics institute we
have eleven. And who were they? Well, as I said, one
was my mother, one was my first wife.

I’m very interested in immortality. I’m much older
than I look, and the way I stay that way is I take
some of the substances that have been discovered
that prolong life.

When it’s time for me to go I will be all taken care
of. I’m looking forward to being brought back and I
don’t know exactly what’s going to be there.
Whatever it is, I’ll be glad. I mean it’s better than

We have, at the present time, two cats and one dog at
the cryonics institute. The other organizations also
have pets in suspension. And of course the prices
are proportionately lower, price goes more or less
according to size. A lot of people are interested in saving
their dogs and cats.

I like cryonics because I’m dating a
seventeen-year-old boy. I’m twenty-eight. And I
wanna like, wait for him. (laughs) I wanna wake up
when he’s twenty-five.

Well, I guess you could say, freezin’ somebody’s
body, we’ll be able to preserve it. But …

Wakin’ ’em back up is the problem.

Yeah, because when you wake somebody back up, I
think that the age is gonna, you know, come after
’em harder. They gotta …


They gotta watch out for the age difference.

Like Walt Disney. Look how old he is now. Know what
I’m sayin’? And when … if they ever do find a way to
unfreeze him and bring him back to life, he’s just
gonna die again. ‘Cause how old it is, know what I’m

Obviously, patients who have suffered considerable
damage, whether by freezing or through old age or
through some terminal disease or injury, will need
considerable repair before they can be made young
and healthy. And this means that we will need
detailed control over human biology, and one way of
looking at this is that all you have to do to make a
person healthy or young or both is to rearrange his
atoms and molecules a little bit. And there’s a word
that has come into use recently, referring to
molecular engineering or the manipulation of
matter at the atomic and molecular level, and that
word is ‘nanotechnology’.

Nanotechnology is this plan for gaining complete
control over the structure of matter. So if you have
a person with a damaged heart, for example, you can
have little robots stream through the blood stream,
under computer control or under some kind of
human control, and they could effect the repairs
that were necessary.

So in a sense you have a sort of, a type of
omnipotence. I myself don’t worry about whether
this is blasphemous, or we’re trying to play god.
We’re simply trying to gain the control that we are
able to over nature and over our own selves.

People who are most offended by the results of
mechanistic technology, are also the ones who most
vehemently oppose biotechnology and
nanotechnology, which are really the options, which
are really nature-based technologies. This is, you
know, we are moving from the industrial model to
the biological model.

Well there are individuals who think that
cyberspace is unnatural and that computers in some
sense are artificial. But you have to realize that our
brain is in some sense a tremendous computer. And
it may take many centuries before we have true
robots that can simulate the functions of the brain,
but there is a continuum.

We will get to the point where we can
simulate a person and their reaction so well because
we’ll understand the chemicals, the formulation of
the body, and all that so well that maybe we will
have computers that are basically people.

The reason why we don’t have mechanical butlers
and mechanical maids, the reason is something we
take totally for granted – pattern recognition.
Computers can see, but they don’t recognize, they
don’t understand.

I don’t think robots are going to replace human
beings. I think, what we’re going to see is more of a
merger of human beings and robots to become some
kind of combined organism.

In the next few years we’re going to start seeing
household robots appear. And they have to be fairly
sophisticated, they have to be able to move around a
house without bumping into things and knocking
things over, and they have to learn their
surroundings. So we’re going to see a spectrum from
very stupid to very smart.

I definitely think that artificial intelligence is …
it’s already starting. It’s already happening.


And it will take over. It definitely will take over.
And I don’t think that man is really ready to
accept that.

The idea of transferring human consciousness
from the brain to a machine of some kind
puzzles many people because they tend to
think of themselves, because of religious
ideas, as essentially a soul. They think there’s
some non-physical, spiritual matter inside this
human body. And so if you talk about
transferring personality from the brain to a
computer, they don’t see how that’s possible.

The brain is a combination (unless you’re a
deeply religious person and you believe in the
spirit of something other than the human
existence) is biology, chemistry, and
electronics: combined in a very unique way.

The brain is a finite system of neurons. Once
you figure it out, once you’ve got a template
for it, it’s just a question of runnin’ the map …

… piece o’ cake.

Obviously, in a human life there’s too much
information to full assimilate, but you can
make a good, educated guess. That’s what
artificial life’s all about too – a good, educated
guess. So, can we download our
personalities? Yeah, maybe. Uploading them
is a different story, though. Downloading them
– I think so, we’ll get there eventually.

Right now we’re not in very good control of our
impulses. We tend to get angry and envious
and jealous and have wars all the time.
Maybe we should make some changes to our
genetics and our neurochemistry, we might be
able to control those things. And we’re
beginning to see just the bare beginnings of
that in some of the chemicals people are
using, like prozac is a very crude example of
something which moderates personality. But I
think we’ll see far more sophisticated chemical
control of our brains which we can choose
ourselves as individuals and choose who we
want to be.

At the edge of our culture, people are starting
to view drugs as information. You take a
particular combination of chemicals to create a
particular response in your brain and your
nervous system. And you find that response
perhaps useful in getting a different view of

If you take ecstasy, it takes your ego away so
you have a better time relating with people
and understanding what people have to like,
say or do … like, even if it’s just for a little
while, that experience can change like, your
whole life. The first time I took ecstasy I saw
people in a whole different light. I saw them
like, all as good. And like, everybody else was
on ecstasy too, so they were all good.

I like optical machines that sorta like tap into
the visual cortex and sorta like stimulate your

When you high itıs like your mind over —— itıs
like it plays. What you see you exaggerate. Everything
you see is exaggerated.

Chocolate, lot of chocolate, sugar, white,
synthetic sugar, MDMA, ecstasy.

The key to a human psychology is to know
how to operate your brain and that means
being able to expand consciousness and … In
the past, they, the psychiatrists and the
ministers and priests that were either sane …
or you’re crazy. And throughout human
history, they, the controllers that wanna scare
us … there’s sanity and what’s real, and that’s
what’s we’re in charge of, and anything else is
sinful, psychotic, evil, daft, hallucinatory …

The mind itself becomes a controlled
environment. As we move in and begin to
understand it more and map it, this terrain
becomes something we can handle.

We’re just beginning to understand the
human brain. Brain chemistry started in the
late 1970’s, and it’s moving very quickly, in
fact, the computer modeling and so forth. And
there are new synthetic drugs being made.
Both … uh, psychedelic and intelligence



We’re Mike …

and DMT!

And we’re the bartenders.

Smart drinks.

Smart drinks-‘r-us.

We make these drinks …

… which have vitamins, minerals, and amino acids …

… out of juice and fresh fruit. And we put them
in cups.

Big cups.

And we also offer ..


And we .. well, we do a lot of experimenting.


Fructose, choline, chromium (?) ..

… or ginkgo. This has ginkgo in it, which is a
chemical that like …


… clears the mind and focuses it.

This has choline in it and it’s good if you
smoke a lot of pot. It works very well.

Yeah. If you do, in fact.

It’s very good for you.


No alcohol?

No alcohol.

We have no alcohol at the bar. Alcohol is a
sin. And that’s our job.

That’s what we do.

And we do that at every single rave in
America. Every day – day-in, day-out.

Mike and DMT, worldwide.

Yep! Woooooooooo!

Smart drugs – sometimes called ‘nootropics’
from the Greek ‘noos’, meaning mind – are
drugs which are able to increase human
intelligence, concentration, and other cognitive
abilities without unpleasant side-effects.

It’s not getting high. Smart drugs are not
about that. It’s giving you an edge. And a ten
percent edge when I’m sitting down at the
keyboard, when I’m making animation, or
when I’m writing or something: the edge that I
get from that is very much worth it.

Although it’s not very safe to prescribe them to
yourself, in some cases I do anyway. I’ve used
myself as a pharmaceutical guinea pig quite a
bit. And I’ve never … with the exception of one time
where I was a little nauseated by hydergine, as a
matter of fact … it’s never hurt me yet.

There’s a whole paradigm in medicine which
says that what doctors are there to do is to
cure disease, to remedy problems, fix things.
They don’t have any idea that medicine
should be there to increase human abilities
beyond the norm. Therefore, the FDA won’t
approve drugs for increasing human
intelligence, increasing concentration or
memory … only for giving those people,
people with cognitive deficits, people with
senility, to try and remove those problems and
bring them back to normal. But you can’t get
drugs approved to make you better than

The last person in the world you want giving
you drugs that’ll change your opinion and your
mind is a government authorized scientist. It’s
a nightmare. So we … glorious victory of the
sixties. We took the power to change your
consciousness away from the medic– And
even today with prozac, it’s no longer the
psychiatrists that do it, it’s the general
practitioners. And even the idea of self-
medication … you know, sure, get a friendly
doctor … yeah.

Hear these people talk about prozac – I’m not
pushing prozac, never had it – but it’s
interesting that they’re saying now what we
were saying about LSD in the sixties. You
have to learn your own rhythm, how it affects
you. It raises your self-esteem , it confuses
you, so. Well it’s gotta be you in charge of
your brain.

The people who change, the people who
make the difference, are reprogrammed. You
can do that through drugs. You can do that
through meditation. You can do that now
through virtual reality – computers are helping
us with that. To assimilate another existence,
to become somebody else, somewhere else,
is a fantastic experience.

Hi. My name is Sarah and I’m twelve years
old, and I’m blonde, five-feet-four, and really,
really cute. What do you look like?

When you’re dealing with people in this
environment, you’re just dealing with their
words. In essence, you’re just dealing with
pure, abstracted mind, and the impression
that you receive from that is really quite
different from the one you get when it’s being
projected against a face and a body. I mean I
talk to people on the phone, and when I meet
them physically I’m not particularly surprised. I
am always surprised by physical encounters
with people I’ve previously met virtually.

This thing makes it possible for me to be
everywhere, in a sense. I mean, I have
communications with people that I’ve never
met, all over the world. I mean, we are
together in this virtual place called cyberspace,
where there isn’t any time and there isn’t any
distance. Of course, when you’re in a place
where there isn’t any time and isn’t any
distance, it’s kinda like being nowhere at all.

ROBERTS (answering machine)
Hi this is Steve Roberts, Nomadic Research
Labs. Youıve reached the cellular phone
aboard Behemoth, the networked recumbent
bicycle. Iım not on the bike at the moment, so
please leave a message, and when Iım back
on the road, Iıll find it and call you back. Thank

Itıs allowed me to redefine home as
something virtual. In the old days, before I
lived on the Net, I had homes in places like
Louisville, Kentucky and Colombus, Ohio, and
the thought of moving and wandering
involved a tremendous amount of disruption
in life. And that whole issue has just
disappeared, because I treat the network as
home. So my physical location is irrelevant.

This is the control console here. The main
screen is a Macintosh, and thatıs where I do
most of my work. All my electronic mail and
writing and things like that take place there –
mapping software, I use a program called
Geo-Query that brings up a map of the area
that Iım in.

If I was ever stuck on an island someplace, the one
most important thing I would want would be a
computer with a ‘net connection, after the basic
resources of, you know, water and food of course.

I don’t wanna be in a non-space. I wanna be in a
public, physical space, with nice people around,
having nice drinks. I just … I think I need that kind of
environment far more than the kind of disembodied,
on-line, cyberspace, community.

Coffee shops, they tend to draw in people who are not
that familiar with computers, are not so
technologically oriented.

I think it’s really great that they position the
terminals in, actually in cafes.

Often, it’s very shy people who use this, you
know. Not entirely, it tends to be either very
shy people, or very, very gregarious people.

People will come out of their shells a lot more,
because their not forced to represent
themselves in a physical form and they know
that you will be forgiving to have a few more
seconds to think out what they type. It’s not as
intimidating and not as immediate of a
situation when you’re really just on a text-
based universe.

Is it any more unusual to meet someone
through a computer system than to go to a
public place where alcohol is served and strike
up a conversation with a stranger?

Of course, people are not always what they
represent themselves to be, whether that’s in
a bar or on a computer bulletin board system.
So I think the same warnings apply, but that
doesn’t preclude the possibility that they could
become a friend, or a lover, or even a spouse.

‘Netters’ tend to move in together and live in
the same houses. And they call the houses
that they live in ‘shacks’, you know like, there’s
‘nerd shack’, and …

Nerd shacks are great. The first place I moved
into in San Jose was a nerd shack and it was
really a blast because there’s seven people
moved into this house and they’d all met each
other over BBS’s. So every one of them had a
phone line and a computer, and whenever
like, Domino’s pizza or something would come
by to deliver us a pizza … We had set up all of
the machines in the living room. They were all
set up. I mean, the guy thought he’d walked
into like, NORAD Center or something.

Think of the earth as a shell of computers all
hooked up by internet. A living, thinking shell.

What’s interesting about the internet, or the
so-called ‘information super-highway’, really is
the fact that’s it’s been a broad and lawless

This was the wild west in virtual form for a
period of time. It will still continue to be pretty
wild, just because of its largeness and its
intensity, and the amount of people and
amount of information flying around in there.

We’re seeing with the increasing realism of the
computer networks … Instead of just words on
a screen, we’re going to see images. We’re
going to see three-dimensional images, the
electronic world becoming more and more

We already have billions of people around the
world, sitting in their rooms, looking at little
television boxes all day, passively receiving
the entertainment that’s fed to them. Now the
people have an opportunity to look at a little
box and communicate through it. I ask you, is
that more alienating or is that connecting

More of our social interaction, of course, takes
place inside of media and inside of
information space, and many of us are just as
ticklish and just as playful in that area, and just
as sexual in that area as we are in our
physical bodies. The brain is already the
primary erotic organ, you know it just sends
messages to our genitals and so forth. So the
way to eroticize the brain is to explore
sexuality through media.

It’s nothing new that the human race is
obsessed with sex. Therefore, when a new
communication technology comes along,
there will be a form of sexual expression that
will come along very quickly and use that
technology. I’m quite sure that very soon after
the invention of the printing press, people
were printing dirty books.

People have been doing this for years through
pornography. Of course, they now are gonna
have all kinds of other different forms of
mediated sexual intercourse, including on-line
virtual reality and so forth. And I think that
everybody will become much more
experimental in these areas.

The Internet was developed by the US military
to be a command and control centre. And it
could not be shut down. In the event of a
nuclear attack, right, the Internet would still be
standing. Well I doubt that they thought
people would be talking about sex on the
internet someday, but now we are. And
nobody can shut us up. With On-line
communication, if you put an image up on
BBS within an hour there could be a thousand
duplicates of that image. Or 10,000. I mean,
who knows how many people may have had
access to that image. And how are you going
to go back and say, ‘okay, everybody turn in
their picture of that dog-sex photo.’

People have said, What’s your hottest V.R. fantasy?
What’s your hottest virtual reality fantasy? I
would really like to experience sexuality from a
man’s point of view, from a genetic male point of

Historically, people have taken drugs to induce, you
know, states of ecstasy. And then now some people
say, Hey, the computer is a way to induce that state
of ecstasy only, you know, without the high price
of having some dealer around.

In terms of sex and machines, I guess my
Hitachi Magic Wand, you know, is my favorite
toy. And beyond that, I guess maybe my
Powerbook, you know, I just use it to have sex
<Powerbook, you know, I just use it to have sex
with somebody else (laughs).

The most sort of enticing notion of all is to be
able to experience sex within the context of a
virtual reality. There’s no rejection. You don’t
have to go through the whole wooing process.
Anybody, any fantasy object, from Mel Gibson
to Michelle Pfeiffer, becomes available to you.

It is safe sex in every way. I mean, no AIDS,
no HIV positive. You can just sort of sit back in
the chair and strap on your helmet … put on
your helmet, strap on your jacket, and away
you go.

In thinking about virtual reality and synthetic
experience and synthetic pleasures, there’s a
neat little thought experiment, goes under
heading of experience machine. This would
be a machine which you’d attach yourself to
by planting electrodes on your brain and you’d
receive certain stimuli from this machine. And
in fact you’d be able to receive any sort of
stimuli that you desired. You’d be able to have
a very vivid experience of having sex with the
person of your choice, and this would be the
best sex you’ve ever had in your life, that’d be
absolutely guaranteed. You’d have this
wonderful sex experience. And the question is
would you want to be hooked up to this machine
for the rest of your natural life, your entire life?

Interestingly, Oscar Wilde said there are two
calamities in this life. One is that get you’d none of
the things that you’ve dreamed for, and the other is
that you get absolutely everything that you’ve
dreamed for.

We would pleasure ourselves to death. Maybe
too much pleasure can be boring. What
makes orgasm exciting is that itıs not

People would like to believe that technology is
going to change their dull, boring sex life into
this really fabulous one, and that the rules of
reality don’t apply in the … you know, in the
virtual world, or the technological realm. But, I
don’t really view technology as a replacement
for sex as we know it.

Just take something like a kiss, which is the
most fundamental little building block of an
erotic experience. How can we possibly
simulate that with technology? And why would
we want to?

Say you and I been married for forty, fifty
years. We are still very much in love with each
other. We have a lot of experiences, we’ve
been spending a lot of time together, but we
can’t have the great sex that we used to have.
However, if there’s a data from your brain, you
can still have the intense love and affection
and physical feelings that you had before,
even though your sensors are broken down
because it still exists in a map in your brain.
So you and I can plug into something
together. Sounds like the ‘orgasmatron’ in
Barbarella, but in actuality it takes the
technology. We can share that loving
experiences that we had for years and years
and years. We may even keep records of
them and be able to share them.

Experiences will be bought and sold like
commodities, like they are in the music
business and the movie business now. You
will plug the, whatever, the RX1000-D
interface into the medulla oblongata of your
brain, and you will experience what I
experienced in 1975 on stage with the Doobie
Brothers in New Orleans. You’ll experience a
downhill ski race.

People get so caught up in simulation and
those aspects of V.R. that abstract you from
the world, that they lose sight of what I think is
the real point, which is the use of V.R. as a
place where you can achieve greater contact.

The other kind of V.R. that I think most people
are familiar with is … was the war in the Gulf. I
mean that was a classic case of virtual reality,
and sort of a classic case of what’s wrong with
V.R., or what can be. I mean here we
managed to create something like reality, but
we abstracted out of it the people that we
were killing.

So it was like a giant video game and all we
were aware of was that we were winning and
that we were zapping the opponent.

I mean, I look for a V.R. where I can hug my
daughter and have her feel it, even though
she might be in Wyoming and I might be in
New York. That’s what I want. I want a V.R.
where people who can’t stand up and walk
can dance with the people they love.

Science and technology is a sword. On one
hand, if it’s wielded by people who are
concerned about other people, the sword
could cut against ignorance, poverty, disease,
and liberate humanity. Or, if it
is wielded by the Pentagon and by the
Aerospace industries, then perhaps we will
have weapons of incredible destructive power,
like cruise missiles, that have pattern
recognition abilities, that can recognize
objects, and drop bombs on them. So I think
it’s a question that technology itself is neither
evil nor saint-like. It’s a question of who wields
the sword.

The key to the future is whether we will have a
culture that celebrates imagination, that
celebrates play, that is adventurous and fun;
or whether we’ll have a future in which we
continue to seek greater and greater power.
What I do think we need is adventures that
last centuries. And that’s why virtual reality is
so interesting to me, because it really will take
centuries to figure out what it means to
communicate with other people by directly
creating the shared world between us without
any limitation.

The key to this new generation that nobody
knows what to call … is they’re hippies with
beepers, they’re high-tech hippies. And then
of course the real powerhouse are kids
between the ages of four and … oh, I don’t
know … fourteen. And they’ll be teaching. And
that is more important than what I think,
because they are going to be running the
world in twenty years.

Someday, there’ll be a generation of kids that
grows up that’s really good at making up
what’s inside a virtual world, at making up all
of the plants and buildings and things that we
have no words for … that aren’t plants or
buildings. And when they grow up together,
they’re gonna have a new way to
communicate with one another.

In essence, our generation is writing the
constitution for the future of history. We’re
creating many things that cannot be undone,
and yet we have no choice. There’s no such
thing as standing still. We’re too in love with
technology to retreat from it, so we must do it
well. And, of course, I can become stressed
out and I worry. I wonder if we will succeed in
doing it as well as we can, but I really believe
we will. I believe that there’s a certain kind of another that makes things better, and that we
will come through.


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We are very excited that Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Ehsani’s newest documentary, “Water Will Take Us,” is now screening at festivals. Check out the trailer! The film delves into the effectsof climate change in Iran, from water shortages to catastrophicfloods. Three women narrate the story, uncovering the causes andmismanagement that led to flooding in 2019.If you're in Seia, Portugal there will be a screening of “WaterWill Take Us” at the 29th Serra da Estrela InternationalEnvironmental Film Festival, which is running from Oct 5 - 13, 2023.Find out more information about the festival more about the support of our sister organization, the L/GFoundation, ... See MoreSee Less
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