Working Poet Radio questions reality at LA’s Central Library


Ever since Jaron Lanier coined the term virtual reality in the 1980’s, our perception of existence has radically changed. Extravagant and complex worlds have been created in computer simulated environments organized by bits of 1’s and 0’s flying through cyberspace giving us a glimpse into what actually exists.

But what is real? Why are we here? Is there more to consciousness than what is observable and comprehensible?

These are the hard questions that philosophers, authors, and science fiction writers have been asking for centuries. Even now, groups of like-minded people are aggregating together to bounce ideas of reality off each other.

One particular interesting collection of thinkers was brought to the public library in downtown Los Angeles on May 8th, 2014. They discussed their views on existence through their own perspectives and experiences.


First to the stage was Mike Semanchik, who is an attorney with the California Innocence Project. Interviewed by Joseph A. Lapin, a conversation of innocent people locked away for crimes they didn’t commit ensued. Mike questions what reality is like behind metal bars as evidence gets destroyed outside the suffocating walls of a jail cell.

As sexy music by Das Tapes plays, the next guest walks out from behind a tattered blue curtain and sits calmly down in front of an attentive audience. His name is Cosmo Scharf and he is a film school student who started a Meetup group called VRLA that sparked a virtual reality movement in town. Since their initial VR event in April, more meetups have spawned nearby. With immersive multimedia devices like the Oculus Rift readily available, ideas of our existence can be entertained in digital worlds. One can see what it like to be wrongly accused for a crime, or learn from the Civil War by actually dropping into a simulated battle raging in war. You can even learn mathematics by becoming equations or geometric patterns allowing the user to wiggle around as something else.


Up next was author Mark Haskell Smith whose newest book, RAW satirizes reality television. He speaks of lies and forced interactions that happen in the scripting nature of so-called ‘reality’ tv shows. Hollywood has fashioned drinking and soulless skankiness into something that people are striving for. Icons like Kim Kardashian and ‘The Situation’ have deteriorated truthfulness and have become consumer engorging machines that devour everything corporate sponsorship provides.

With these 3 perspectives of law, virtual reality, and reality television, each individual in the crowd could ask themselves what existence really means to them. Whether they related to being locked up with no chance of escape, or wanted to try out the next wearable technology in town, or just knew of the Kardashian family, the thinkers in the room were allowed to deeply reflected on what the criteria of truth is. Some might get lost in the circling thoughts that accompanies the exploration of infinite dimensions and sections of reality. Others might let everyone else do the work. Either way, this event shook the very foundation of what we think we know.


Article written by @industrychanger



The Working Poet Radio Station:

Mike Semanchik’s Twitter:

California Innocence Project:

Cosmo Scharf’s Twitter:

VRLA’s Meetup:

Mark Haskell Smith’s Website:

Here’s the full video of the event (found on this page):

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