H uman beings have become nothing more than dates in meat suits. This is the core of Team Human, the 2018 TED Talk of media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. Surely there could be few people who now use social media that do not feel captive.
This makes the Cybernauts Freedom Fighters. The Brunswick-based VR artists, academics and scientists have contributed to Melbourne's first "Cyberdelic Incubator" of the Australian Psychedelic Society.
In line with Rushkoff's demand for technology based on pre-digital timelines of connection, creativity and respect, cyberdelia promotes a renaissance of a conscious technology approach ̵
Such initiatives often have a gentle spiritual component; Take the simple example that Melissa Warner of the Australian Psychedelic Society Guardian Australia is giving a meditation app that produces a flower that is getting more and more beautiful and complex based on biofeedback that reflects the relaxation of the user.
Tonight, there's the opportunity to try out virtual reality and augmented reality experiences that go beyond recreational use – no shark or roller coaster diving here. Nevertheless, users should dress tightly: these experiences aim to accelerate another type of journey.
Among the technologies to be tested in the Brunswick camp is Crystal Vibes, which creates a kind of synesthesia by making the visual journey through music; Subpac, a device attached to the back panel to bring out bass vibration while the user plays favorite songs on his phone; and mirrors, causing your hand movements to decay into traces of light particles. Trying out these five minutes in a queuing system is not terribly impressive, but it's immediately obvious that these are experiences designed for "setting and adjusting" as psychedelic drug addicts put it – the user has to be comfortable and self-reflective settling.
The event was launched by Jose Montemayor and Carl H Smith, who are both from Mexico and London tonight and have taken them to different countries. Smith says that cyberdelics work well with meditation and breathing exercises. It was against this backdrop that the official proceedings opened, while Warner conducted a guided meditation before Montemayor and Smith had talks (about PowerPoint's technological compromise). In a sense, says Smith, our everyday lives are a distorted reality: from the real estate photos that extend the properties of objects through wide-angle lenses, to the selfies that we believe make our noses much bigger. The apps that airbrush us to perfection – and to boost cosmetic surgery – and the mirrors that mirror us in the opposite direction are the real ones: Smith and Montemayor are most interested in reversing the damage that smartphones have done can make their apps. They say the Extended Reality technology could convey a more sincere sense of human connection and a stronger sense of empathy by allowing us to stand in the shoes of others (or borrow their eyes). We could experience what it's like to be a different gender or to have schizophrenia.
The role that augmented reality technologies can play in therapy is explained by Warner to Guardian Australia. "The combination of several aspects of technology with psychedelic medicine and psychotherapy has very interesting implications for the future. Monash University's BrainPark has programs that allow someone to experience a scaling environment with OCD. If you have a strong sense of clutter, they have Level 1, which may have some water on them. They make the customer feel comfortable in this environment before being scaled. For example, the trash can is overturned.
VR Exposure Therapy is even used to treat trauma, such as in patients who have experienced car accidents and deliberately triggered a controlled environment – through a scene like driving a similar-looking road. "You have to be very careful that the patient is not outside the Tolerance window so as not to retraumatize them," says Warner, "so they can collect biofeedback from the patient via heart rate monitors, the psychologist or the doctor can tell if the patient is overweight. "
However, the most talked about experience is one that few people today can try in peace because of their 25-minute rest period. Montemayor's death is just the beginning, simulating a near-death experience through virtual reality.
"The intent is to go deeper into the transformative benefits of the near-death experience," says Montemayor to Guardian Australia. "For me, it was a fascinating journey, because it's not about focusing on what happens after that, but what happens before." Although initially conceived for self-reflection, it is now being "being with dying" for patients with Palliative treatment adapted.
"We cooperate with [London neuropsychiatrist]. Peter Fenwick and I found a hospice in San Francisco called Zen Hospice that is very laid back and open, so we start the conversation, "he says.
For the rest of us, the late ethnobotanist and author Terence McKenna told a German audience in 1991 that virtual reality could offer a new way of communicating – rather, telepathy that connects us to the tribal community that we have long followed.
But are we strong enough to break the social media hooks designed specifically for embedding in the human brain? (If you think I've declined to post a photo of the evening on Instagram, you're wrong.
Rushkoff takes Timothy Leary's analogy: "The PC is the LSD of the 1990s" and uses it on the Internet "Our lack of understanding of the psychedelic landscape – and how it affects attitudes and attitudes – leads to a poor mass travel, he says." For cyborg cars, it is imperative that we now find ways to use technology to flourish.