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Otherland: Is this a real place?

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Source: Otherland: City of Golden Shadow, Page: 30

Now, when you say 'Is this a real place?' you're asking a very difficult question. An apple is a real thing, yes? But a picture of an apple is not an apple. It looks like an apple, it makes you think about apples, you can even choose one pictured apple over another in terms of which might taste better?but you can't taste either of them. You can't eat a picture-or at least, it isn't like eating a real apple. It's only a symbol, no matter how realistic-looking, for a real thing. Got that?"

!Xabbu laughed. "I understand you so far."

"Well, the difference between an imagined something-a concept-and a real thing used to be fairly straightforward Even the most realistic picture of a house was only an image. You could imagine what it would be like to go inside it, but you couldn't actually go inside it. That's because it didn't fully replicate the experience of going into a real house, with all that entails. But what if you could make something that felt like a real thing, tasted like it, smelled like it, but wasn't that thing-wasn't a 'thing' at all, but only a symbol of a thing, like a picture?"

"There are places in the Kalahari Desert," !Xabbu said slowly, "where you see water, a pool of sweet water. But when you go to it, it is gone."

"A mirage." Renie waved her hand and a pool of water appeared at the far side of the simulation.

"A mirage," !Xabbu agreed. He seemed to be ignoring her illustration. "But if you could touch it, and it was wet-if you could drink it, and quench your thirst-then would it not be water? It is hard to imagine something that is real and not real."

Renie led him across the bare white floor of the simulation to the pool she had conjured. "Look at this. See the reflections? Now watch me." She knelt and scooped water with her simuloid hands. It ran out between her fingers, drizzling into the pool. Circular ripples crossed and recrossed each other. "This is a very basic setup-that is, your interface equipment, the goggles and sensors you just put on, are not very advanced. But even with what we have, this looks like water, does it not? Moves like water?"

!Xabbu bent and ran his gray fingers through the pool. "It flows a little strangely."

Renie waved her hand. "Money and time make it more realistic. There are external simulation rigs so well made that not only would this move just like real water, but you would feel it, cold and wet on your skin. And then there are 'cans'-neurocannular implants-which you and I won't get to use unless we wind up working for the top government labs. They let you pour computer-simulated sensations directly into your nervous system. If you had one of those, you could drink this water, and it would feel and taste just like the real thing."

"But it would not quench my thirst, would it? If I did not drink real water, I would die." He didn't sound worried, just interested.

"You would indeed. It's a good thing to remember. A decade or two ago you used to hear about a netboy or netgirl dying every couple of weeks-too long under simulation, forgot they needed real food and real water. Not to mention ordinary things like pressure sores. Doesn't happen much anymore-too many safeguards on the commercial products, too many restrictions and alarm routines on net access at universities and in business."

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This lengthy Quote comprises part of page 30, page 31 and part of page 32. It is reproduced in its entirety here, as there is really no way to cut it into segments, without diluting the meaning.

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About the Book 'Otherland, Volume 1: City of Golden Shadow'
By Tad Williams
Produced By DAW Books

The first book in the Otherland Saga, City of Golden Shadow serves as an introduction and ground setting book that enriches and deepens the later works. Among the many aspects of life in this near-future world it depicts in detail, is an advanced virtual reality technology.

City of Golden Shadow introduces the basics of total immersion VR technologies, slightly further ahead than those of William Gibson?s Neuromancer. It delves into all the possible uses for such technology in stunning depth and detail, yet it does so in such a way that the pace of the plot never slackens.
Click here for full review of Otherland, Volume 1: City of Golden Shadow

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