The Oasis of the Surreal - John "Pathfinder" Lester - H+ Summit @ Harvard


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John "Pathfinder" Lester
The Oasis of the Surreal: Synthetic Worlds

Synthetic Worlds include perceptually immersive 3d spaces, online social networks, augmented reality and global communication environments. Together they provide compelling opportunities to augment the mind and improve the human condition. John will discuss how the different facets of Synthetic Worlds intersect and why they are so compelling to human beings. He will also share strategies for success in using Synthetic Worlds, discussing how they can be used to leverage our basic biological and neurological tendencies while giving us a chance to grow beyond their limitations.

John Lester previously was the Information Systems Director for the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he pioneered the use of the web in 1993 to create online communities supporting patients dealing with neurological disorders. As a Research Associate in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, he also created online collaborative education environments for professors and students to advance the case-based teaching method in medical education.

John Lester worked at Linden Lab from 2005 to 2010, where he was commonly know by his Second Life avatar name "Pathfinder Linden." At Linden Lab he focusing on cultivating the education market and helping it grow into the vibrant community it is today. He also founded Linden Lab's initial East Coast presence in Boston in 2007, which has grown to an office of 40 employees. While at Linden Lab, John acted as a general strategist and product expert to help customers using Second Life for teaching, academic and healthcare research, medical education, simulation, and scientific visualization. His last role at Linden Lab was "Lead Evangelist in Market Development," broadly exploring and cultivating innovation at the intersection of emerging markets in Second Life such as education, healthcare, enterprise, government and entertainment.

John is currently exploring opportunities to help organizations understand and cultivate innovation at the intersection of virtual worlds, online communities, neuroscience, education and creative expression. For more info on John, please see

Published in: Technology, Education

The Oasis of the Surreal - John "Pathfinder" Lester - H+ Summit @ Harvard

  1. 1. Synthetic Worlds: The Oasis of the Surreal John Lester Independent Consultant, Market Development in Virtual Worlds Twitter: @Pathfinder LinkedIn: John Lester 2010 H+ Summit at Harvard University
  2. 2. My Perspective  2005 – 2010 “Pathfinder Linden” at Linden Lab Market Development, Product Evangelist Education, Healthcare, Business  1993 – 2005 Massachusetts General Hospital, Neurology Harvard Medical School Neuroscience and Medical Informatics Patient Support Communities
  3. 3. What are we talking about?  1. What is the Metaverse and why should I care?  2. What is the most common thing that goes wrong in the Metaverse?  3. What will make the Metaverse broadly successful?
  4. 4. 1. The Metaverse (Synthetic/Virtual Multiuser 3D World)  “Snow Crash” “Neuromancer” “True Names”  Perceptual Immersion leads to Emotional Immersion.  Our brains need 3d.  Our hearts need an Oasis of the Surreal.
  5. 5. 2. What is the most common thing that goes wrong in the Metaverse?  What goes most commonly goes wrong is directly related to something our mind desperately needs.  We need Meaningful Metaphors.  World: <here’s something> Brain: “What does this remind me of ?”  Failure of metaphors in the Metaverse.  “I want to build a virtual learning space. Where are the chairs?”
  6. 6. The Metaphor of the Avatar  “Hey, that’s me!”  Sharing identity  The Meaningfulness of Place and our presence in it.  Limbic system response  Mirror neurons
  7. 7. 3. What will make the Metaverse broadly successful?  I think Neal Stephenson nailed it in his book “Snow Crash.”  Nobody who read “Snow Crash” seems to remember.
  8. 8. “Snow Crash”
  9. 9. Questions  Who has read Snow Crash?  Who remembers the one key thing that made the Metaverse broadly successful? (raise your hand)  What do you think was the one key thing?
  10. 10. A Programmer and her Grandmother   "I avoided her until we all sat down for dinner. And then she figured out the whole situation in, maybe, ten minutes, just by watching my face across the dinner table. I didn't say more than ten words. I don’t know   how my face conveyed that information, or what kind of internal wiring in my grandmother's mind enabled her to accomplish this incredible feat. To condense fact from the vapor of nuance."
  11. 11. Information Visualization and Transfer  "I didn't even really appreciate all of this until about ten years later, as.  A grad student, trying to build a user   interface that would  convey a lot of data very  quickly. I was coming up with all kinds of elaborate technical fixes like  trying to implant electrodes directly into the brain. Then I remembered my grandmother and realized, my God, the  human mind can absorb and process an incredible amount of information  -  if it comes  in  the  right  format.  The right interface. If you put the right face on it.”
  12. 12. It was Juanita’s faces  “And once they got done counting their money,   marketing the spinoffs, soaking up the adulation of others in the hacker community, they all came to the realization that what made this place a success was not the collision-avoidance algorithms or the bouncer daemons or any of that other stuff. It was Juanita's faces.”
  13. 13. Guess what made it tip for business?  “Just ask the businessmen in the Nipponese Quadrant. They come here to talk turkey with suits from around   the world, and they consider it just as good as a face-to- face. They more or less ignore what is being said a lot gets lost in translation, after all.  They pay attention to   the facial expressions and body language of the people they are talking to. And that's how they know what's going on inside a person's head  - by condensing fact from the vapor of nuance.”
  14. 14. 3. What will make the Metaverse broadly successful?  Empathy: The ability to share another human’s emotions and feelings.  Instant Messaging: The ability to immediately communicate with another human via an electronic medium.  Empathic Messaging: The ability to share human emotions and feelings via an electronic medium that conveys nuanced real life and real time facial expression and body language instantly, accurately, and realistically.
  15. 15. The Trick: Communicate this…
  16. 16. …using this.
  17. 17. Thank you  John Lester   Twitter: @Pathfinder