Virtual Reality and Why I’m Scared of It

Today, I ran across the above video, which is advertising the virtual reality headset by Valve/HTC called Vive that is set to be released to the general public by the end of the year.

It is the first time I’ve been hit hard with the exciting yet somewhat unsettling fact that these headsets and similar devices will soon be another popular gadget to view the world through.

This fact is exciting to me because it opens doors. I can’t imagine Vive and future virtual reality tools taking me half the places/helping me experience half the things the advertisement showed. Think of all the ways they could redefine the way we learn, teach, create, interact, travel, etc.

This fact is unsettling because virtual reality is not reality. Seems pretty obvious. But I think we often don’t realize how blurred the lines between realities and non-realities can become until it’s too late. We like to assume the best in ourselves individually and collectively: Hey, I’m smart enough to differentiate between what’s real and what is just “something I do all the time and pretend is real.” 

I got a glimpse of this when we discussed Internet addiction in class a few weeks ago. This seemed to be the general feel: Yeah, I mean, somebody I’m sure is addicted to the online world. But that person is nothing like me and lives in a cave and already had social problems. I mean, yes I value how many Instagram likes my photo receives per minute more than my grades, but that’s just, how everyone is.

My main point is this: Let’s make smart and cautious decisions in our own lives as the entire world seems available at our fingertips. Let’s remember that walking the streets of a small town in Argentina late at night with friends, drunk off local wine and full of empanadas (okay I’m just homesick for Salta) can not be replaced with sitting on a couch, thinking you’re there. Let’s remember that we need human relationships at a very fundamental level, and no simulation of that can replace the real thing (we all learned that from this).

Let’s remember that we are all susceptible to the harms of our culture and not be afraid to admit when we fall into unhealthy digital habits.

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