Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer hardware and software to create an artificial (virtual) environment.
The user normally enters the virtual environment by wearing a headset that blocks normal vision. The environment is manipulated with an electronic glove – or a similar device – connecting the user to the computer.
VR is usually understood visually. But Wikidpedia tells us
The idea has been traced back to the French playwrite Antonin Artaud. Artaud believed that the internal world of fantasy and the imagination was just as real as the outside world.
This view parallels to some degree C. G. Jung’s beliefs about alchemy, where human relationships with matter and with other people are compared to chemical interactions. And the Jungian theories of transference, counter-transference and especially syntonic counter-transference point in a similar direction.
Artaud’s understanding of virtual reality also touches on John Donne’s idea that no man is an island—that is, neither distance nor death entirely separates one person from another.
No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
Virtual reality has impacted business, medicine and the entertainment industry, where virtual users enjoy, relax or express violent or sexual impulses in socially acceptable ways.
But not everyone sees it this way. Some say that violent virtual reality games should be reexamined in case they promote instead of prevent real violence. This is a relatively familiar debate stemming back to the pre-home computer era. Before the PC, the effects of violent TV shows on kids were ardently studied by researchers and public health officials.
Scientific and consumer watchdogs for public safety, however, haven’t stopped the rise of virtual reality. There’s always money to be made through the commodification of sex and violence. And unless definite regulatory laws are passed, things usually get wildly out of hand.
The idea of virtual reality also appears in science fiction television (Star Trek‘s holodeck) and movies like Tron (1982), Total Recall (1990) and The Matrix (1999), where users enter virtual realities sometimes indistinguishable from daily life.
Given today’s microchip implant technologies and advances in neuropsychology, these scenarios seem probable in the not-too-distant future. Some traditionalists, however, will always be wary of these kind of changes. As our very sense of community is changing with technology, some become more emphatic about the importance of a traditional understanding of community.²
² See for instance, Pope Francis’ Evangelii Guadium p. 87-92 and this amusing debate between Yehudi Menuhin (pro-community) and Glenn Gould (pro-technology) — made possible for all of us to share on YouTube, I might add.. 🙂