Jaron Lanier is one of virtual reality’s most recognizable figures. He’s credited with popularizing the term itself, and he co-founded VPL, a short-lived but groundbreaking company that built some of the first commercial VR headsets. Since then, Lanier has been better known for his writing on digital ownership and internet ecosystems, with the books You Are Not A Gadget and Who Owns the Future? But his most recent work revisits the world of ‘80s and ‘90s VR, as well as the rest of Lanier’s life — including his early years on the Texas-Mexico border, his childhood living in a self-designed geodesic dome, and the tumultuous process of founding VPL. Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality debuted last month, and we met up with Lanier to talk about how first-wave VR intersects with present-day reality, why empathy is a double-edged sword, and whether we’ll have to burn down the internet. This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. You had a childhood you describe as almost magical-realist. A lot of parts feel like they couldn’t happen now. Read more here…

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