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The way we interpret reality uses the tools, and the knowledge available at a given moment, in order to maximize our benefit, and probability of survival. A lot of knowledge, arguably all knowledge is already encoded in reality, but most of the time we are loath carrying out the experiments that are necessary to extract this knowledge, since the downside of the experiment is our elimination from the meme-pool. These days this is an especially relevant thought, with so many popular news outlets wondering if our quest for furthering knowledge is going too far. For the moment it seems that the answer is negative.

There are today so many instances in our daily lives when we trust the world around us, a world that we built, and tested just for the bare minimum necessary. While we can be fairly sure that those parts of the world which have been around for a few billion years keep working well, there is no reason for our continued trust in the parts that have been with us just for a few thousand, or few dozen years. As we evolve our societies to be more humane, and allow their members to strive to reach their full potential, we must not tolerate this ignorance.

There are new synthetic realities, where our semantic knowledge is per definition full and complete: the virtual worlds that are bound to be part of the daily life of many of us. And there are approaches for a bottom up tagging based on human action, which are likely to build a fine-grained map of those parts of the physical reality that interest us up-front, but which leave large swaths of boring, day-to-day, rusting, but necessary infrastructure untouched.

The machine-to-machine communication of the forthcoming Internet of Things will let us make the fundamental leap towards a zillionic level of understanding of our worlds. Where the structural integrity of a bridge is not realized to be failing too late, but monitored hour after hour, and relentlessly correlated, studied, and acted upon. As we tag reality, and increase our knowledge of the world, so will our capacity of sustainably raise the quality of life of everybody living in it.

We recently spoke at the Augmented Reality Panel at the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo in Los Angeles about these issues: