Reality is something that philosophers and great thinkers have been trying to define since the ancient days of the world. Therefore, it only stands to reason that the latest virtual reality technology could only make things worse.
Perception has always been a struggle because each of us perceives phenomena in our own unique way. Step back and think about an event that you and other people observed, and recall how each of you described what you saw.
This is because perception is not standardized – instead, it’s very subjective. Wouldn’t the same thing happen in a virtual reality environment?
Studies already indicate that the human sense of time gets distorted using VR technology.
An age-old philosophical question
One concept that has been debated for many years likes to compare experiences to the sensations and memories of experiences. The dilemma was somewhat demonstrated in the movie, Total Recall.
As you may recall, it depicts a futuristic world where a unique service was offered. For a price, you could experience the sensation from a variety of memories. And you could do so by letting a machine implant those experiences into your mind.
Living in constant pleasure
During the 1970s, philosopher Robert Nozick posed a similar question about a pleasure machine. His question was, if someone had a machine that would allow you to feel life’s pleasures at the push of a button, would you choose that environment over real life?
The context behind his supposition was to illustrate the limitations of hedonism – the notion that humans are focused entirely on seeking pleasure over all other things. Nozick concluded that most people would choose real life over one that was based on fake pleasures. Thus, most of us prefer reality over virtual reality.
Enter virtual reality
As we all know, VR has become quite popular in the gaming world. The environment is breathtaking, it stimulates the senses, and it takes gaming to a new world – literally.
Honestly, it pretty much stands Nozick’s original question on its head.
After all, VR offers the gaming community hours of entertainment while in space, starships, and fantasy lands. When having experiences like these, why would anyone be bothered with the real world?
Is truth the greatest virtue?
When the pleasure questions were first pondered, no one really knew what the future would bring. And they knew even less about the experiences that would be offered in a VR world. But, now that it’s before us, we have to reconsider, don’t we?
We first must ask why we even care about reality or truth, to begin with. There’s the viewpoint of preferring the natural world over the lies of a fantasy world. Maybe we need to be more tolerant of how societies ebb and flow about their values. Or perhaps we justify that because we live in a world of fake news and lies, we have begun to care less about truth because of how hard it’s become to define.
The well-known philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wasn’t quite as enamored the truth as most. In his book entitled “The Prejudice of Philosophers,” he wrote:
“Of all the value which may belong to the true, the positive, and the unselfish, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life generally should be assigned to pretense, to the will to delusion, to selfishness, and cupidity.”
This is a very challenging and provocative point. When someone claims that we’ve uttered a falsehood or told a lie, Nietzsche urges us to reply, “So what?”
Nietzsche basically calls out the quest for truth as an unsubstantiated obsession. There is absolutely nothing about the truth that demands it be the most vital of all human virtues.
Could VR be the death of reality?
Even though Nietzsche pushed the boundaries of truth, and despite living in a world of fake news and propaganda, most of us really care about our reality. I would venture to say that most people still prefer reality over a phony world of pleasure.
Perhaps it’s like taking a vacation to a tropical paradise. After a while, most of us want to go back home eventually.
A VR girlfriend or boyfriend just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as a real one. Because, in the end, the truth does matter to us. There’s no doubt that virtual reality, which is here to stay, will challenge our concept of reality.
But it depends on the individual and whether or not their present reality is living up to their expectations. Sometimes this is not the case, and we may temporarily enter a world to soothe ourselves until things get better. That, I believe, is a very human thing to do.