Mutual reality (MR), a concept initially introduced by Colin Popell, is a derivative of previous forms of digital reality such as augmented reality and virtual reality. Its creation was inspired by the Transhumanist series The Golden Era, during which the main character is denied access to public utilities and sees objects as they are in raw reality, as he is no longer being offered a digital illusion.
Virtual reality (VR) is a reality that is entirely digital, constructed in a computer and navigated via a computer, with no overlap with the real world other than computer or network on which it is hosted. The first form of digitally manufactured reality, it currently has limited appeal due to the fact that navigation remains clunky and the reality itself easily destroys suspension of disbelief due to its lack of providing for human senses other than sight and sound (and those in limited ways).
Augmented reality (AR) is the overlay of virtual reality onto raw reality. This can take the form of a form factor that is not dependent on what it is overlaid on, such as a HUD, or an augmentation that adds to its environment such as the Target Shooting game for the 3ds, where a QR code card is used to project a portal that monsters come out of and are shot at with the 3ds. Similar efforts have been achieved by any number of hobbyists on youtube, etc., where a camera tracks a QR code and projects an image or 3d model onto. As image recognition improves, so will this technology.
What is Mutual Reality?
Mutual reality comes from the understanding that we may reach the point where augmented reality is ubiquitous, and the ability to perceive it follows certain networking standards such that it is understood how to transmit the data to a wide variety of devices. In the increasingly networked world we are entering, it is likely that you will be able to choose what you perceive, but if you are not the source of the AR then you will have to accept what you are offered, or some subset of it. This handshake of accepting an offered reality is Mutual Reality (MR).
As an example, we can pick something very such as a trip to the mall. The raw reality of this mall may be that the walls are devoid of advertisements, or they are limited, or even as common as today (depending on how ubiquitous AR and MR reality has become). You may be able to choose to impose your own reality over these, perceiving what you wish, but it is likely that you will be networked with your surroundings by default (as it is increasingly likely this will become the default, and in fact necessary--the issues with not having a social media profile in the modern day and age magnified a thousand fold due to the instant, in-person capabilities). The shopping center may offer you a reality, or levels of reality, that you can accept. This reality may be layered with ads, models that aren't there enticing you to buy products, awe-inspiring store displays impossible in reality, stores larger on the inside than the outside, and any other variety of options.
Multiple levels may be offered, as mentioned, with different levels of discounts depending on how much advertisement you are willing to look at. This may be heavily encouraged and incentivized, though it will be unlikely to be illegal to ignore it or impose your own personal reality. As you are networked, it is likely that if you choose to perceive something other than offered or choose to not perceive anything at all, you will lose access to the discounts (in effect paying a tax for not accepting their reality). Whatever level of reality you accept, be it raw reality, personal reality, or one of the ones offered by the mall, the amount of overlap between the offered and the accepted is the 'Mutual Reality'.
Musings on Cultural Implications
It is increasingly common to address individuals by their preferred pronoun, though it is unknown if this trend will continue and how far it will go. However, the author has some speculation of how this trend might continue into the era of Ubiquitous Altered Reality (UAR). As AR and MR become increasingly common, so will utilities to modify how you want to be perceived and how you perceive others. I predict this will lead to some interesting cultural clashes between those who believe that the proper MR to accept is the one where everyone is perceived as they want to be perceived, and those who believe that the proper MR to accept is the one that allows individuals to perceive whatever they wish too--a futuristic iteration of the never ending cultural battle between communalists and individualists, although it will be interesting to see how the lines are drawn.
Indeed, it may be social faux-pas to perceive someone in a way they do not wish to be perceived. However, if something like this becomes common it may lead to modified public decency laws due to the implication of being able to be perceived however you wish to be. In addition, MRs that affect the environment and affect multiple senses will be considered higher class than those that are simply visual. It is hard to predict if more extravagant or more human-similar avatars will be common.
This shit is all moot if we're all forever in computers.
Types of Mutual Reality
There are two sources of augmented reality, sensed and broadcasted. Sensed augmented reality is by its nature more limited-- in this case we are using sensed to refer to a personal (or non-locally networked system) detecting sensory inputs, likely just visual and possibly audible in the near future. Sensed augmented reality can be broken down into two relevant categories, categorizable and uncategorizable. While the potential exists for raw reality that the sensing system doesn't recognize at all (and, in fact, is highly likely), this can be lumped into uncategorizable due to the shared property of breaking immersion.
Broadcasted reality is not limited to the same degree as sensed reality. As it is a reality layer provided by the local, it is not dependent on current line of site and processing of the surroundings, and can take effort off of processing, as well as provide pre-configured clearly delineated categories and ideals. This may come in two varieties, explicit and implicit. Explicit will force as many ideals and categories into a desired form as possible, breaking immersion but preserving the original content of the message. Implicit will attempt to integrate the object being represented into the filter of the observer, saving them need to detect the object themselves but allowing them to choose how to perceive it.
These two forms of augmented reality can conflict, work together, or work independently of each other. Due to our ability to discard purely raw reality (by lumping it in with uncategorizable), we are presented with six options. We can discuss these independently from each other and examine how they may tie together.