“What it is like to be a Bat” by Izaak Meckler at 3D Web Fest
The third annual 3D Web Fest is a fundraiser benefiting non-profit CODAME ART+TECH whose mission is to embrace innovation through creativity, play, and collaboration between companies, artists and technologists, building immersive, engaging, out of the ordinary experiences.
“What it is like to be a Bat”” is one of those projects!
“What it is like to be a bat” is a VR piece in which the viewer experiences being a bat. The viewer begins in darkness. To simulate echolocation, the viewer makes clicks (into the VR headset’s microphone) which are then rendered as pulses of light. The viewer will then “see” that they are in a cave, fly out of it, and fly through the countryside at night catching insects. It is an attempt to both try to understand existing but inaccessible subjective experiences (i.e., those of bats) and to explore what completely new subjective experiences are made possible by VR.
Thomas Nagel’s famous 1974 paper “What is it like to be a bat?” argues that inherent aspects of subjective experience mean that a human can never know the answer to that question. My proposed piece “What it is like to be a bat” is a response to this paper. Nagel is certainly right: even the experience of another person — let alone that of a bat — remains in some essential sense inaccessible to us. However, that does not mean we cannot try to understand other individuals’ experiences. The thesis of this piece is that in the case of trying to understand the experience of a bat, technology can serve as a partial bridge between minds.
Izaak is a PhD student in math at UC Berkeley, mostly studying theoretical computer science. He writes about complexity theory, geometry, and programming languages at parametricity.com and makes comics and other art at newchickens.com.
He is currently interested in the limits of communication, “negative” emotions, and VR both as an artistic medium and as a tool for creatives and scientists. He also is interested in the dangers of emerging technologies as tools of increased manipulation (both intentional and unintentional).
And he loves a good joke, so if you know any new ones please tell him.