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Virtual Reality… or Virtual Reaper?

By JACOB TRASK

With the introduction of virtual reality systems in 2016, a very exciting opportunity for gamers was presented, but virtual reality has many other potential uses that could change the way that people do things in their daily lives. As virtual reality progresses, people will be able to use virtual reality to take vacations and travel to tourist sites, or go to sporting events that aren’t in their towns. People will be able to go to shopping centers and or go to work with virtual reality. People will be able to put themselves through an ultimate scare or watch pornography all through a box that they strap onto their head.

I’m a 21-year-old college student, and sometimes I have to designate time out of my day to play video games, but I’m truly afraid of what virtual reality could do to our society. I understand that there are serious potential benefits of virtual reality in our education systems like mock surgeries and other hands-on (but not really) opportunities. VR is obviously exciting and now it’s possible, so people are going to try it, but I personally believe that we should examine potential dangers before fully immersing our culture into a world where reality isn’t real.

My main point against virtual reality is that it is just going to make so many things easier to do without moving. I could sit on my couch with a box around my head and go see a famous monument. My friends and I could sit in the same room watching a movie, but each be in our own apartments. These capabilities aren’t available yet, but they’re definitely coming, likely within the next decade. Soon it’s going to be way too easy and way too convenient to just sit alone in our houses, physically doing nothing. There won’t be a need to do anything or go anywhere, because I can just do everything I need to do virtually. Yes, this is an exaggeration, and I may be going crazy, but who knows what could happen? I think it’s worth taking a look.

One of the main issues that deserves some light is virtual reality pornography. Pornhub.com has a virtual reality section that will be gaining much more attention as more people purchase VR systems. Soon people will be able to completely block out everything in their view and see a whole simulation of a sexual experience with someone who is not really there.

In the 2015 movie The End of the Tour, Jason Segel plays deceased author David Foster Wallace, a man known for his deeply intricate ideas and philosophical personality. In the movie Segel has a line that reads, “So as the Internet grows in the next 10, 15 years, and virtual reality pornography becomes a reality, we’re gonna have to develop some real machinery inside our guts to turn off pure, unalloyed pleasure.”

Most people don’t think about the fact that hard-core pornography has only really existed in the last 40-50 years. Before the 20th Century, humans have never really been able to sit down and watch other couples having sex whenever they please. Adult entertainment started gaining popularity throughout the 70s and 80s but that generation didn’t really have serious access to pornography like we do today. Only in the last 10-15 years, with the creation of the internet, has porn become so available. Now, anyone can go online any time of the day and find whatever kind of porn they want to look at. The people that are in the most danger are young people.

We’re the first generation of humans to have such extreme access to so many videos that can stimulate false neurological reactions. Who knows what kind of long-term effect watching porn three times a day is having on a 16-year-old’s mind? We don’t know, because there’s no older generation to study. With new developments in society come new consequences, and I’m pretty sure no one can prove that there won’t be mental consequences from pornography abuse as time goes on and people make it part of their lives.

I think it’s a serious danger, that people are mostly ignoring in our society today. VR is giving these people a newer, more immersive level of porn to get lost in, before we’ve even been able to examine the long term effects of having access to so much porn. And soon, there will be an even newer VR system that can make something fake seem even more real.

There’s another line from the movie where Foster Wallace says, “The technology is just gonna get better and better, and it’s gonna get easier and easier, and more and more convenient and more pleasurable to sit alone with images on a screen given to us by people who do not love us but want our money.”

That’s what I want people to understand before they eagerly jump onto these virtual reality opportunities. Some aspects of virtual reality are not made for us, they’re made for the money they bring in. And it’s totally possible that these people are ignoring the potential consequences. VR is cool. It’s interesting. But we need to approach it carefully and monitor its use.

I may just sound like some kind of doomsday prepper or naysayer, but I hope you think about these points. I don’t think I could find value in a world that has lost touch with reality, and I think there could be potential danger of that with VR.

Jacob Trask can be reached at jacob.trask@theminaretonline.com

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