Shallow Hiro / Deep Hiro

With all the Avatars running around this Halloween, I figured it was an appropriate time to go back to the book that introduced the world to this usage of the term. But my Hiro Protagonist felt more like a sort of literary Diogenes, wandering the streets and other people’s parties with my pizza box and katana, looking for anyone who had read Snow Crash.

I was disapointed.

I love living in Silicon Valley, among so many people who are so actively creating. This not merely in technology, but including, for example, the magazine stunning unique eco house of one party, or the pair of trick-or-treat houses that featured the most fantastic recreation of Alice in Wonderland that I’ve seen anywhere, including this year’s movie. Surely, this was the place to be recognized, but of the maybe two hundred at the right party, and the thousands gathered at the right neighborhood, no one did.

What should I conclude from this? That no one remembers or cares about a 1992 book, and by extension, the work I’ve been doing for past six years?

I take heart, sort of, that no one responded to my wife’s adorable March Hare. How very Croquet of her. But her elegant style followed general victorian illustrations more than 3D Tim Burton, and so she didn’t visually match this years movie. To be easily recognized, I think it is necessary to tie into very primal biological systems such as smell, sight, and sound. The obvious parts of our culture are built on recent visual style references. Political posters with bold graphics have more impact than hand-written slogans. The enormous fake book at the Apple Store may bear a Malcolm Gladwell title: people recognize the printed name and title as familiar, but I think it’s much harder for the same people in the store to tell you, for example, whether the book addresses the subject of this blog entry. I think that people can and dive deep into complex ideas, but it is harder.

What does this mean for doing work in virtual worlds? I think one takeaway is that surface stuff is driven by visuals and fads, and that these can come and go at any time. I shouldn’t read too much into such stuff one way or the other, but that having stunning visuals (3d or otherwise) doesn’t hurt my cause. The other is that real discussion is going to be helped by the ease of having a visual conversation, with graphics and presentations and Web pages easily brought in as the conversation evolves, and with gestures and visual arrangements and visual annotations of them.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.

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