Many questions are raised by VR. What is the status of the virtual experience? Does it represent a pull away from, or else towards, the real world? Are VR simulations more or less real than our ordinary experiences? What is reality? Who am I? What is the nature of the beholder’s share in viewing reality; and is anything truly real.
Is the virtual a mere hollow reflectionof the world, or does it magnify/enhance reality and allow us to perceive more of reality? To see panoramic vistas of information that shimmer, vibrate, and reveal themselves according to our whims, and thus to make: the invisible visible.
In attempting to answer such questions, one must separate VR as it actually exists from mere speculations of VR as a possibility. With an idea as generalised, chameleon-like and all- encompassing as VR; we must withdraw from the temptation to associate VR with everything and anything, and with endless speculations/possibilities.
VR is no panacea. But rather is an extremely complex and impressive example of ordinary computer design; being constructed wholly from machine implanted-thoughts which have been so aligned as to create an illusion of a life-like universe within the artificial world. Thus VR is, in a sense, no more/ less real than any other form of computer interaction.
VR is an illusion. Only it is a particularly impressive illusion, and one that can potentially (in certain instances) inform or help the user to learn and/or to understand far more than any other type of human-computer interaction. Even though the VR world itself may be no more real than any other method of information exploration (it is a purely constructed representation); nevertheless wondrous possibilities may be opened up by its legerdemain.
Seen philosophically, VR creates a new relationship to symbols, language, thought and to human views/senses of reality; and ultimately, to ourselves. No longer outside of the computer, VR lets us step into the looking glass and enter the world of The Matrix (from the Sanskrit and Latin term ‘mother’). As in Neuromancer, we become immersed into the information itself; only in our terms all is human thought-atoms or thought-outcomes in the form of (for example) data.
A Reflection of the Human Mind
In the language of the present site, everything we see in VR is simply computer implanted-thoughts, a reflection of the human mind. Here nothing is any more real than our thoughts; and in a way VR simply lets us explore the contents of our own minds. VR may help us to see or conceptualise the real world, as it expands our perception in a variety of ways, but the fact remains that the virtual is a construct, and all the machine’s constructs (plus everything they contain) are dead (pre-visioned/pre-planned).
Hopefully my analysis does not sound negative, anti-VR or in any way a put-down of the capabilities of VR. Rather I am attempting to clarify the well-known/obvious fact that machines (VR) are human-made; plus we are limited by, and (in a real sense) constructed by, our own perception(s). VR may confer fabulous powers, enabling us to grow tall enough to see right up to the very ‘edge’ of the barrier(s) of human imagination; but no further. In a way VR lets us become more (or fully) human; and in this sense VR brings us in closer attune to the realm of life.
VR may be either separately or simultaneously: a simulation, interaction, artificiality, an immersion, a telepresence and/or a networked communication. Taken together with all of these transformations, we notice that VR is a potentiality to see reality anew, to don a set of psychedelic reality ‘glasses’.
Transformation of Reality
VR transforms reality. But the transformation is by no means obvious, specific or singular. A VR simulator must be able to manipulate the senses, overriding their normal functions; so that we can experience an environment partially or entirely different from the one that we are actually located in. In a sense, all technologies of representational art and/or distant communication override the normal functions of these senses (to a degree).
Virtuality is about seeing things that are not really there; or which may be, in one sense or another, present but are invisible due to scale, distance, complexity etc. VR is as if we had a dream where we obtained magical powers that enabled us to see with the mind of a God; an all-seeing, everywhere present and all-encompassing type of vision.
VR is a kind of magic-mirror for reality/ourselves, or at least those parts/regions of reality that we are able to conceptualise as thoughts/design-concepts and then, in turn, represent to ourselves in the form of a VR system.
According to David Deutsch (1953-), the laws of physics place no limitations on the ability of VR ‘image-generators’ to produce artificial worlds of almost any degree of accuracy plus detail; and to render visible simulations of an almost unbelievable complexity/truth. Tiny and enormous things, very fast and/or very slow processes become visible, and complex happenings may be simplified.
The problems of VR world-construction are merely technical/technological, and the only limitation may be our understanding of reality itself. Indeed according to the vision of The Matrix, it may be that we humans could one day find these artificial world’s so enticing, illuminating and enjoyable; that we retire from the real world altogether, and spend all of our days inside the imaginary world of the computer.
A frightening scenario? Perhaps. But a retreat from reality may be already happening. When did you last see a child playing outside? An ‘artificialisation’ of reality is occurring, of making dreams comes true, of painting unreal worlds inside/outside of the mind, of imagineering as Disney refers to it; and of projecting the hyperreal onto reality, or mapping the ‘matrix’ onto everything that is.