Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A whimsical exercise in philosophy


Hello, future. Gaming systems that drop you into another world, such as Microsoft's Kinect or Nintendo's Wii, are just the beginning of what virtual-reality technology has to offer. Get ready for virtual immortality, teleportation, time travel and the ability to be in two places at once.
But everything comes at a price. There are those who already worry about how this technology is affecting our brains. And once the digital versions of us become indistinguishable from our real selves, what might this do to our societies? 
[...] Do people treat digital representations of humans as if they were real? Do we have the same expectations of virtual others as of real people? If something occurs in a virtual environment, does that make the experience less authentic, or are our brains just as susceptible to virtual fear, love and trauma? And ultimately, now that we are able to create avatars in our own image and set them loose in virtual worlds to do our bidding, should we be held accountable for their independent actions? 
This isn't just a whimsical exercise in philosophy. The practical applications of immersive virtual reality are already helping people across the globe - and future applications are limited only by the imagination, the authors [Blascovich and Bailenson] say. 
[...] Blascovich and Bailenson aren't naive optimists, though. They warn that as avatars become a larger part of our daily lives, we will also become more susceptible to identity theft, privacy violations and high-tech, individualised guerrilla marketing delivered by your virtual self.
thanks MDA!

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