Virtual reality

Heart of Darkness revisited: The Dimensions of a Cave, by Greg Jackson, reviewed

When Joseph Conrad sent his narrator into the heart of darkness, Africa was unknown territory. Revisiting the scene now, Greg Jackson dispatches his explorer to an even stranger destination: an algorithmic universe.  Jackson, a Granta Best of Young American Novelists in 2017, won prizes with his story collection Prodigals. His debut novel, The Dimensions of a Cave, could hardly be better timed. New fears about AI give it disquieting relevance. Conspiracy theories mingle with deep state corruption. Gradually it grows into a Chandleresque adventure: down these mean cyber streets a man must go. Dropped into the thick of it, the reader might get the feeling of arriving late at a

Has VR finally come of age?

A heavily made-up Iranian woman in bra and knickers is dancing seductively before me. We’re in some vast warehouse, and she’s swaying barefoot. But then I look around. All the other men here are in military uniforms and leaning against walls or sitting at desks, smoking and looking at her impassively. I slowly realise we are in a torture chamber and this lithe, writhing woman is dancing, quite possibly, for her life. Me? I have become one of her tormentors. You can immerse yourself in war-ruined Ukraine, go on the run from the Holocaust, become a mushroom Welcome to The Fury, a bravura attempt by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat to

Reality check: could our universe be a simulation?

Are we all living in a computer simulation? Is the world we imagine to be real simply virtual reality instead, an elaborate computer program? That sounds ridiculous, but nonetheless it’s what many clever people actually think — or at least, think possible. One of them, the philosopher David Chalmers, has just written a book on the subject, Reality +: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy. Chalmers is a serious intellect. He won a bronze medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad as a child and did his undergraduate studies in Pure Mathematics before turning to philosophy. Part of his argument is that we are already building simulated worlds ourselves —

Can VR help to sell art to kids?

Some pictures are now so mediated that their actual physicality has long been dwarfed by a million reproductions. The ‘Mona Lisa’, obviously. ‘The Haywain’ is the subject of countless cushion covers and trays. ‘The Birth of Venus’ has marketed trainers, hair dye and the New Yorker. Now, Georges Seurat’s ‘Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte’, possibly the most famous painting to have inspired an entire musical and which has, along the way, inspired umbrellas, duvet covers, dresses, socks and face masks, is the subject of an ‘immersive’ creative experience. This does not mean paintballing outside the Art Institute of Chicago, where the actual art work resides. It