Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Upside of Reality

 
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I can’t wait to show my folks the virtual pictures!

Imagine that, years from now, Virtual Reality hardware and simulations have advanced to a point where giant, richly-detailed virtual worlds — each with seemingly limitless potential for experience and interaction — are possible. Imagine, for example, deciding to spend a few hours of your first day of vacation in such a simulated world. Then, finding it a genuinely thrilling experience, you return there on every subsequent day of that vacation.

In this virtual world, you are free of countless limitations of reality. Your senses are sharper and you even enjoy new senses. The environments you experience are beautiful and idealized, free of decay and grime. If you want to have relaxed conversations with distant ancestors or great figures of history, you can do it. If you want a daring adventure with dragons or pirates, spaceships or submarines, cannons or spells, you can do it. They’re all — equally — just a few clicks away.

In virtual reality, risks are laughed away. When you fall, you fly. If you are attacked, bullets fall like dust from your body. Nothing hurts and nothing can stop you. A heads-up display appears at command, ensuring you are never lost or limited to your present experience. You can do anything, anytime, anywhere.

And then … someone pulls the plug. You’re stuck in reality again. With reality, you are returned to the limitations of physics, to the flaws of human society, to pain, injury, and death. Adventures are full of risk, and are probably unaffordable. Conversations are full of misunderstanding and distractions.

But reality must have good aspects which could not be simulated even with the most ambitious technological know-how and imaginative crafting, right? The limitations of reality seem comparatively simple to list. What are the opportunities of reality that no simulation could offer? Not just today, but not even in an optimistic future?

My philosophy professor once posited that the way we distinguish reality from dreams is that reality always picks up where it left off. But video games do that as well. When virtual reality can offer grand experiences like TV-based games, users might start to wonder what’s so important or great about reality. The old questions of philosophers like Descartes and Hume might gain traction again, and reality will seem like a mere game. What will coax people back to solid ground?

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told / by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing. —Macbeth

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  1. Arahant Member

    Depends on the complexity of the simulation. If everything is always hunky-dory, it also gets boring. Humans need challenges to overcome, which is why the simulation we are currently in has them.

    • #1
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  2. Done Contributor

    Arahant:

    Depends on the complexity of the simulation. If everything is always hunky-dory, it also gets boring. Humans need challenges to overcome, which is why the simulation we are currently in has them.

    Games provide ample challenges. They also allow you to see consistent progress, something reality does not always afford you.

    • #2
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:45 AM PDT
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  3. Arahant Member

    Frank Soto: They also allow you to see consistent progress, something reality does not always afford you.

    Not all games do, and reality gives more of that to the reflective individual than to others.

    • #3
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:49 AM PDT
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  4. Barkha Herman Inactive

    I think we’ve been moving in this direction for a while now, as Jean Baudrillard would say. Here’s a good article introducing his ideas:

    According to Baudrillard, when it comes to postmodern simulation and simulacra, “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real”

    ..

    To clarify his point, he argues that there are three “orders of simulacra”: 1) in the first order of simulacra, which he associates with the pre-modern period, the image is a clear counterfeit of the real; the image is recognized as just an illusion, a place marker for the real; 2) in the second order of simulacra, which Baudrillard associates with the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, the distinctions between the image and the representation begin to break down because of mass production and the proliferation of copies. Such production misrepresents and masks an underlying reality by imitating it so well, thus threatening to replace it (e.g. in photography or ideology); however, there is still a belief that, through critique or effective political action, one can still access the hidden fact of the real; 3) in the third order of simulacra, which is associated with the postmodern age, we are confronted with a precession of simulacra; that is, the representation precedes and determines the real. There is no longer any distinction between reality and its representation; there is only the simulacrum.

    • #4
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:51 AM PDT
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  5. Done Contributor

    Arahant:

    Frank Soto: They also allow you to see consistent progress, something reality does not always afford you.

    Not all games do, and reality gives more of that to the reflective individual than to others.

    Virtually all of them do. Progression is one of the primary pillars of modern games. Even military shooter games have character upgrades at this point.

    Our lives are not as customized as we’d like to believe. By and large, we mostly have the same set of challenges in life.

    I am not arguing that plugging us all into the Matrix will be better than us living in the real world. I’m simply pointing out that we should not assume that simulations cannot reach a level where it is indistinguishable from reality, except more awesome when we desire it to be.

    • #5
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  6. KC Mulville Inactive

    We are contingent beings – or, more practically, we physically have to eat and drink, breathe (acceptably) clean air, etc. We are dependent on the real world for our continued physical existence.

    Gotta count for sumthin.

    Ultimately, love can’t be simulated. Love requires the free consent of both partners. The interaction with another human being must be free on both sides, rather than what one side has programmed into the virtual partner.

    • #6
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  7. Arahant Member

    And I am arguing that we are in one such simulation, where it is so indistinguishable from reality that most people believe it is the reality, and that reality is just dreams when they sleep.

    • #7
    • April 6, 2016, at 7:58 AM PDT
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  8. Arahant Member

    KC Mulville:We are contingent beings – or, more practically, we physically have to eat and drink, breathe (acceptably) clean air, etc. We are dependent on the real world for our continued physical existence.

    Really?

    Ultimately, love can’t be simulated. Love requires the free consent of both partners. The interaction with another human being must be free on both sides, rather than what one side has programmed into the virtual partner.

    For now, perhaps. But the “virtual partners” are getting better and better. Their responses more varied and interesting. We are not that far from good AI.

    • #8
    • April 6, 2016, at 8:13 AM PDT
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  9. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KC Mulville: Ultimately, love can’t be simulated. Love requires the free consent of both partners. The interaction with another human being must be free on both sides, rather than what one side has programmed into the virtual partner.

    But there can be real human-to-human relationship within a virtual environment, as online games have already proven. Many elements of physical togetherness are absent from such relationships, yet people often find them satisfying and occasionally even progress to real-world, physical relationships. That some people meet online and then live happily in marriage indicates that there can be truth and depth in distant relationships.

    VR worlds will eventually be shared among players. And that will resurrect objections to the dual nature of Man as both body and soul/mind (two concepts also commonly confused, but that’s another debate). Some will be tempted to ask: Is the body just a vessel? Does it ultimately matter?

    Of course, the difference between virtual relationships and real ones is not merely physicality but also the simplified, sterilized settings of virtual relationships. When you only interact online, you might not see how the other person responds to unpredictable events and unavoidable hardships. Reality requires so much more of a person than even the most complex virtual environment.

    • #9
    • April 6, 2016, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  10. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s also worth noting that some games have experimented with virtual progeny. Two characters can (without virtual sex) produce a “child” that shares traits of both and gradually matures.

    If the players don’t reproduce, no new mind is created to be represented in the virtual world. The virtual world depends upon the real world. But is that sufficient to make players care about the real world?

    Games can offer purpose and, as Frank notes, more reliable progression as well. Might virtual progress seem more meaningful?

    • #10
    • April 6, 2016, at 8:45 AM PDT
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  11. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Another way of looking at it: Can choices made in a virtual environment matter?

    From a Christian perspective, I must answer yes! When Jesus says it is sin even to (deliberately) lust after another man’s wife, He sublimates the significance of thoughts. Willful choices made within the confines of one’s own mind can orient a person toward particular inclinations. The more one indulges a fantasy, the more tempting it will become to enact that fantasy. That conclusion is shared by agnostic psychologists who witness rapists’ obsession with pornography and use roleplay exercises to train good habits.

    Not all imagined choices are of equal significance. And physicality does matter even in secret. Thus, Christian tradition has favored kneeling during prayer even when alone, rather than merely thinking humble thoughts. Thus, we sing aloud, uniting body and mind in expression.

    But if choices within a simulation can be significant beyond that simulation, then the temptation to prefer the simulated world can be that much stronger.

    • #11
    • April 6, 2016, at 9:20 AM PDT
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  12. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sounds like Ricochet.

    • #12
    • April 6, 2016, at 10:23 AM PDT
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  13. TKC1101 Inactive

    The Sci Fi series of novels by the Kollin brothers , starting with “The Unincorporated Man” laid out a society that had to rebuild after a total collapse due to Virtual Reality addiction. It is definitely worth a read, I believe most of it is laid out in the second book.

    The new society has created an taboo set relating to excessive use of on line connectivity and excessive use of virtual assistance.

    It is worth a look.

    • #13
    • April 6, 2016, at 12:15 PM PDT
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  14. Done Contributor

    TKC1101: The new society has created an taboo set relating to excessive use of on line connectivity and excessive use of virtual assistance.

    Good thing my VR friends and wife don’t hold to this taboo.

    • #14
    • April 6, 2016, at 12:16 PM PDT
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  15. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It’s already happened. Re the movie “Avatar,” CNN wrote in 2010:

    James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

    According to the article, there have been more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.

    Discussion here

     

    • #15
    • April 6, 2016, at 2:40 PM PDT
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  16. Mike Rapkoch Moderator

    David Foster:It’s already happened. Re the movie “Avatar,” CNN wrote in 2010:

    James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

    According to the article, there have been more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.

    Discussion here

    I was depressed that I wasted 12 bucks on this movie.

    • #16
    • April 6, 2016, at 4:51 PM PDT
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  17. Arahant Member

    Mike Rapkoch: I was depressed that I wasted 12 bucks on this movie.

    We took it out of the library, and I was still disappointed that I wasted 2 hours (or whatever the precise time was) on it. The visuals weren’t bad, though.

    • #17
    • April 6, 2016, at 4:56 PM PDT
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  18. Casey Inactive

    Can the creator of a virtual world make a virtual rock that he himself cannot lift?

    • #18
    • April 7, 2016, at 6:16 AM PDT
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  19. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    It’s remarkable the degree to which this already exists, albeit imperfectly. BioShock Infinite, which I recently completed playing, functions in no small part as an opportunity to explore the steam-punky, utopian floating city of Columbia and meet its citizens.

    Sure, you can’t go everywhere and your options for interaction are rather limited — both by the game’s mechanics and by the fact that you’re playing a specific character on a specific mission — but wow is it ever a real place.

    bioshock-infinite-columbia

    Seriously, the whole game looks like this.

    • #19
    • April 7, 2016, at 6:57 AM PDT
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  20. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “I love this place. It’s like an online community, but in real life.”

    “So, a community…”

    • #20
    • April 7, 2016, at 7:40 AM PDT
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  21. Casey Inactive

    Not sure what that guy is watching up there but I’m pretty sure it’s a virtual sin.

    • #21
    • April 7, 2016, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  22. Arahant Member

    He’s reaching for something shaped like…

    • #22
    • April 7, 2016, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  23. Casey Inactive

    Arahant:He’s reaching for something shaped like…

    The final fly out of Game 7? And the sin is Pride?

    Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

    • #23
    • April 7, 2016, at 8:15 AM PDT
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  24. Mike H Coolidge

    Aaron Miller: The more one indulges a fantasy, the more tempting it will become to enact that fantasy. That conclusion is shared by agnostic psychologists who witness rapists’ obsession with pornography and use roleplay exercises to train good habits.

    I’m pretty sure this is completely false and pornography reduces rape, not makes one more likely to commit rape. The same is seen when violent movies come out and temporarily reduce the rate of violent crime.

    • #24
    • April 7, 2016, at 8:34 AM PDT
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  25. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mike H:

    Aaron Miller: The more one indulges a fantasy, the more tempting it will become to enact that fantasy. That conclusion is shared by agnostic psychologists who witness rapists’ obsession with pornography and use roleplay exercises to train good habits.

    I’m pretty sure this is completely false and pornography reduces rape, not makes one more likely to commit rape. The same is seen when violent movies come out and temporarily reduce the rate of violent crime.

    I found myself unconvinced by this claim even after reading about this study.

    • #25
    • April 7, 2016, at 8:41 AM PDT
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  26. Penfold Member

    There’s something vaguely hubristic and self-centered about the idea that we’re all in a simulation. It’s not so obvious to me that the universe is all about us and what we perceive with our senses and the odd neuron firings in our huge gray mass is all there is. If a supernova takes place in the woods and nobody is there to see it……… I believe it was Einstein who asked if the Moon was there if nobody looked.

    I’m not totally disagreeing, just uncertain.

    • #26
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:05 AM PDT
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  27. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Here is the question – if I save a virtual princess from the evil overlord’s fortress, is her gratitude real, or merely virtual? Was her suffering real or virtual? In reality, doing an action can help real people. Either the virtual people are some kind of true AI, with all the issues involved there, or it is all just an entertaining illusion.

    If you don’t like a result of a virtual simulation, and you reset it or change it, what happens to the virtual world that you created? The indie hit game Undertale is based on this question. The ability to save & load a game is known about in the fictional world of the game, and actions are not without their consequences, even you reset.

    As far as social game communities, Minecraft has an impressively diverse fanbase (We have had servers with people ranging from 12 to over 40, all together. (There was also an eight-year old who played alongside her dad). People played together from all around the English-speaking world. Since it is primarily a building game, it can be set up for any age range.

    • #27
    • April 7, 2016, at 9:32 AM PDT
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  28. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OmegaPaladin:If you don’t like a result of a virtual simulation, and you reset it or change it, what happens to the virtual world that you created? The indie hit game Undertale is based on this question. The ability to save & load a game is known about in the fictional world of the game, and actions are not without their consequences, even you reset.

    My oldest is fascinated with the moral choices in this world…

    • #28
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:04 AM PDT
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  29. Caitlin Peartree Member

    Penfold:There’s something vaguely hubristic and self-centered about the idea that we’re all in a simulation. It’s not so obvious to me the the universe is all about us and what we perceive with our senses and the odd neuron firings in our huge gray mass. If a supernova takes place in the woods and nobody is there to see it……… I believe it was Einstein who asked if the Moon was there if nobody looked.

    I’m not totally disagreeing, just uncertain.

    I’m inclined to agree with this. It seems to me the parameters of the simulated experiences are always going to be limited by whoever designed the simulation.

    • #29
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:09 AM PDT
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  30. Anna M. Inactive

    How is VR “realistic” if it can’t include smell or taste?

    A city that doesn’t smell of anything at all – not the dog crap on your shoe, the roses in the florist’s shop, fresh roasted coffee beans, a back alley during an August heat wave… completely bizarre. I can’t imagine anything more unrealistic.

    If VR can incorporate all of my senses, I’ll give it a try. Until that’s possible, I’ll stick with the “simulation” where I can smell ozone after a thunderstorm, and eat a perfectly grilled steak.

    • #30
    • April 7, 2016, at 10:36 AM PDT
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