Microsoft’s HoloLens corporate communications are the reason the world is a better place today

I was shaking and weeping by the end of the advert for Microsoft’s new HoloLens technology.

Maybe you don’t like Microsoft? Or galloping consumerism? Or corporatism, or the wealth of the elite, or whatever. You’re a jaded cynic and such things serve to feed your rage.

I understand.

Put that aside for two minutes and twelve seconds and remember what it was like being five years old, when the world was new, and watch this:

Good, thank you. Now put it back in context and think about all the things that have dominated the news cycle over the last 12 months. The massacres in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist attacks in Paris, Ebola in West Africa, Russia at war in Ukraine, the NSA and obliviation of personal privacy, massive hacking and theft of personal financial information.

Think about the bloodshed and the hatred and the xenophobia and the intolerance for difference and ideas.

Then watch that video again.

That vision – of a world filled with bright colours and relaxed people collaborating, working harmoniously, exploring the universe – that is what life should be.

All that delight and wonder and enthusiasm and compassion. We could live that every day.

So, yes, that’s just a corporate video promoting a product. But in the competition of ideas where on the one side we have people like Vladimir Putin and his vision of a world filled with paranoia and state-led brutality, and on the other we have exuberant optimism and – yes – delight … I’m with Microsoft.

As I wept, I understood why. Relief.

Because now, when someone says, “It’s all shit, really.” I can say, no. Certainly, there are many people who seem to work harder to make life worse every day.

And there are others who do go to work, even for large corporations, because their vision of the future is a happy one.

I’m with them. Because, for one aching moment, I was a kid again with all the wonder, anticipation and expectation that being a kid carries. Because the HoloLens is utterly unimportant and yet thousands of people worked together, struggled together – because creating something like that is fucking difficult – and believed it was possible.

Those two minutes twelve seconds of corporate communication carry more hope and joy than all the dictators and despots of the world in all of history have ever produced.

And that little vision is the world I prefer to live in, no matter how threatened on all sides.

It took a big company trying to sell me something to remind me that it still exists.

8 replies »

  1. Gavin, you’re a born optimist.

    This is the EXACT topic of my dissertation: technophilia. It’s always awesome at first. What you say here is precisely what they said about the Internet. And the PC. And the mainframe. And television. No seriously, television was going to revolutionize education. And cable. And radio. And electricity. And the telegraph. And the railroad.

    Literally, every significant tech innovation in the history the Western world has been greeted this way. I can only assume that if you go back far enough you’ll find cave paintings somewhere that had a Neanderthal asserting that the wheel was going to usher in New Jerusalem.

    Meanwhile, as Denny says, the NSA and CIA and Pentagon are already on it. For all we know, their code is ALREADY baked into the thing. Despots will seek ways to use it as an instrument of repression. Terrorists will seek to use it to kill innocent civilians. Corporations are already – I promise you this – already exploring how to target advertising to it.

    And on and on. No doubt it will be used for cool things, maybe genuinely wonderful things. But mostly it will be a battleground, and that thing Marx said about the “means of production” remains true.

    So while I want one, I don’t kid myself that it’s going to solve the world’s problems. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t create more new ones than it solves old ones. I’ll be happy if I’m wrong, but that ain’t the way to bet.

    • Sam, you’ve got me wrong there. I’m not saying I expect the HoloLens to make the world a better place. And I’ve no doubt that – as you and Denny say – that state-security services will attempt to control it should it become successful. Nope, for me it’s that the effort, the belief, that went into making it is largely positive.

      My point is that this was made to make people happy whereas all the other things … don’t.

      It’s a declaration of intent. A person who works in state-security in the US, or for self-enrichment in a kleptocracy, or for personal power in a dictatorship …. these aren’t people trying to make the world happier.

      I just needed to be reminded that some people still commit vast sums of cash with the objective of making the world more fun. It just happens to be for a consumer product.

      • My point is that this was made to make people happy…

        Well, kinda. But that’s the means, not the ends. The ends is to make as much cash as possible period.

        • Fair enough. But consider it this way, the NSA, ISIS, Vladimir Putin are a bunch of opaque, faceless, sweeping organisations that aren’t interested in me as a person. I’m just a cypher to check off as something that does, or does not, fit into their little boxes. And, if I don’t, gods help me.

          In the midst of 12 months dominated by violence of one sort or another forced on people whether they want it or not, isn’t it nice to have some company come up to you and say to you – seeing you, acknowledging your agency – “If you give me money, I think I have something that will make you happy.”

          And you get to say, for the first time in simply ages, “OMFG, I think you’re right!”

        • I’ve given a lot of people money for things and rarely has it made me happy. But I’m not a rabid neo-Luddite in the Kirkpatrick Sale mode, either. All critique aside, my life has been improved by technology in noteworthy ways. This nice iMac sure as hell helps me do some things better than I could before. Word processing beats the absolute fuck out of an IBM Selectric. And where would I be these days without the joy that digital photography technology has enabled.

          I guess I really like the candy, but I also keep a close eye on the sketchy looking man in the white van giving it to me…. 🙂

  2. As an engineer I share the author’s excitement and can imaging the benefits of seeing a design in 3D before it is built.
    On a different note, this will revolutionize the porn industry. In a year or two people will be having virtual relationships. There will be holowhores for a more intimate encounter to replace phone sex (does that still exist?). Create your own 3D fantasy with anyone from just a picture (ethical dilemmas). For better or worse, the sex scene in the quality movie “Demolition Man” is the future of porn.