Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality, by Jaron Lanier

Second paragraph of third chapter:

We were moved around in buses a lot. I looked out through rows of slanted windows, lined in shoddy chrome, to see sand and cactus swirling subtly in the distance as we made our way up mountain roads. I imagined being a photon, my path perturbed by desert thermals.

I think I got this for F ages ago, and it wasn’t an especially good choice by me for him; it’s by one of the evangelists of virtual reality, and his life story up to the early 1990s, so twenty-five years before the book was actually published in 2017. I have no special interest in VR; my most intense experience of it was three years ago with F in Paris, where Ubisoft, the makers of Assassin’s Creed, had set up a headset for you to experience Notre Dame as it would have been in 1789 (the real Notre Dame still being under repair then and now). And I’ve dabbled a bit in Second Life and the like, but that’s not quite the same.

Like a lot of online reviewers, I found it much more interesting to read about the author’s journey from rural Arizona to Silicon Valley, the tragic family circumstances, difficult educational and business decisions, and mostly failed romances and friendships that got him to the point of selling his startup at a huge profit that has enabled him to do what he likes for the rest of his life. His ideas are less interesting than his story, but it’s easy to skip the more technical (and visionary) chapters.

I still wouldn’t especially recommend it to anyone who doesn’t already have a deep fascination with the social and economic dynamics of innovation; it is an important topic but this is n0ot the way into it. You can get it here.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2017. Next on that pile is another autobiography, A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin.