First, disclaimers: much of the stuff about virtual reality and gaming is gibberish to me. I am not interested, and I don’t play games or engage in virtual reality (at least the sophisticated forms).
At the same time, I am an author/creator and I am a recipient, and I am a historian and sometimes philosopher, so I might make a few reasonable comments.
Henry David Thoreau. in Walden, responding to the new invention of the telegraph, said, to paraphrase: We can send information and communications much more rapidly—but do we have anything useful to say?
This is my impression of virtual reality and virtual interactivity. It is bringing technology to humans who often have little to say to each other that is meaningful.
Technology is important. And when it is happening now, in our lifetime, it can seem so important, so revolutionary. So did the telegraph in Thoreau’s time, the printing press in Guttenberg’s time, the wheel in caveman’s time. What doesn’t change is our basic humanity.
Can technology, virtual reality, virtual interactivity, AI, impact humanity in a meaningful way?
It can change communication, it can provide more information (but much of the information is Fake, therefore meaningless), it can provide exciting sensory experiences, it can provide a panacea to boredom, but does it actually change, or mean, anything?
I have lived in pre-computer times and now in computer times, in rotary phone times and smart phone times. Computers and phones provide entertainment, information, and quick communication, but otherwise they don’t alter me as a human, or alter my thoughts, or my creativity, or my self as author, or myself as recipient of an author. They are merely tools.
I used to saw tree limbs. Now I use a chain saw. What is different? I put less physical energy into the job, I save time, I have more time for leisure, but in sum, I am still cutting a tree limb down. There is no difference. I still perform work.
Humans are enthralled with themselves and their creations. Humans have unsurpassed hubris. We are so taken with what Prometheus did, and are Promethean ourselves. We can’t help but invent, try to alter the environment, change space and time: and yet we end up, perhaps, being chained to a rock enduring nightly torture for all of our efforts.
The relationship between creator and recipient in computer software, games, virtual reality, movies, and so on is the same relationship that I have with a book I am reading. I still have to use my mind, still have to engage the author, still have to put in some effort to get something from it. But it is all done in my head, my brain, without the titillating images, without the distractions of sight and sound, and as a result, book-reading it is still a more cerebral, more valuable experience.
So, yes, we have smart phones, 5G, interactive games, wonderful movies with incredible visual displays, incredibly sophisticated means of communicating and sharing information.
But do we have anything important to say?