Listen to them both. You can read this first, but when you listen to the podcasts you’ll catch the full context.
I’m going to share some thoughts on the challenges presented by the virtual or augmented reality that we’re already experiences (in this post) and some opportunities it presents (a second post).
A short summary of the podcasts: virtual reality (VR) is the emerging platform in computing. This isn’t news, but the podcasts explored the ways in which we already spend time in VR (via Facebook, Second Life, etc.), people already a kind of cyborg, and what screen time is doing to our social lives, our learning (the info about kids and screens was incredible) and more.
Here are some thoughts on the challenges screen time and soon, virtual reality, present to us:
As people become more sedentary, obesity rates are skyrocketing. What happens as more of our lives are not only lived behind screens, but even behind goggles, VR glasses or contacts, or more advanced forms of virtual reality?
Just like our ancestors would be shocked at the ways in which we’re locked to screens and can’t help but stare at them, will people in a few years be sitting at home, for days at a time, staring into goggles?
Being faithful to your spouse and family isn’t just about physical fidelity, but about your emotions, your time and your energy. What kind of emotional challenges will VR present when a husband or wife begins to spend more and more time in an alternate world? This is a form of infidelity – one in which your time and heart are no longer with the one you love.
What about the possibility of emotional affairs as you can connect with anyone in the world ? We can do this now, but what happens when we add the sense of being physically present and exploring alternative worlds together? What happens to fidelity if we live inside VR meets FaceTime?
And, as odd as it seems, what happens if/when virtual reality adds a sexual dimension? How will this type of cheating affect marriages or relationships?
Fake news is a buzz word right now. It’s a serious problem. More and more fake news is put on Facebook by friends of mine on both the left and right. A simple Google search will normally prove these false, but people often don’t take the time to verify what they’re posting, especially when it confirms pre-existing biases.
This will be more of a challenge as we live more and more in augmented reality, and experience virtual reality, and the lines between real and fake get blurred. What will this do to our critical thinking and discernment skills?
Focus and Time Off
Technology has made us busier. Our phones and computers allow us to work 24 hours a day and be reachable in ways we weren’t 20 years ago. We’ve all been distracted by the various sounds, vibrations and alerts on our phones. Think about how routinely conversations are interrupted by a quick text message or a phone call.
The result: we’re never off. We don’t take time to just be. Our minds work constantly. I’m not the only person who pulls out his phone in lines, in waiting rooms, or whenever I don’t have anything to “do.”
What happens when we become so hooked into better versions of virtual reality that we have trouble not interacting with it? As more of our lives become automated (self-driving cars, new Amazon stores with only a couple human employees) will we spend more and more time engaging and less time simply being quiet and uninterrupted?
When will we have time off?
Hearing the Same Voices
Confirmation bias pushes us to seek voices that confirm what we already think. Conservatives flock to FoxNews, Liberals to the Huffington Post. Will this be accelerated in VR? Will like minded people spend even more time associating only with those that think like them, and mute the voices that challenge them?
Watch More, Experience Less
I pulled this last statement directly from the podcast, as they discussed the American relationship to war. Watching war on TV, while a small percentage of our population actually experiences war, leads us to rush dangerously into conflict.
That recklessness is heightened by the ability to launch drones to attack the enemy with no “effect” on our own men or women.
So what will it mean for us to be involved in living virtually, but not actually? How will it affect our moral choices, physical lives, political choices and more?
Scratching the Surface
This post has only scratched the surface of what I see as potential challenges to virtual and augmented real. In a follow up post I’ll look at some of the opportunities VR presents.