Reading David Chalmers work “The Virtual and the Real” made me reflect on the idea of realness in the machine world and the possible implications of that in the future. Chalmers outlines certain requirements needed for a reality to be a ‘virtual’ reality. The three requirements used to define what a virtual reality entails are “immersion, interaction and computer generation” (Chalmers 3). During class discussion about the paper, one of the students raised an interesting question regarding the level of immersion required for an experience to qualify as a virtual reality experience. During our class conversation with Chalmers, he said that there was no clear line when things became a virtual reality, yet right now he would classify it as requiring a virtual reality headset or something which would make the experience feel like a person was wearing equally immersive technology. Chalmers make the claim that “virtual reality is a sort of genuine reality” and that the experiences and objects in virtual reality are “real” (Chalmers 1). In order to defend this claim, the author speaks about the value of a virtual reality, claiming that “life in rich virtual reality is roughly as valuable as ordinary non-virtual life” (Chalmers 30). He deconstructs common critiques of virtual worlds, like the one of Nozick and question of birth, death and transience (Chalmers 28). According to David Chalmers, the experiences of VR are just as important as those which happen outside of it.
This made me reflect on the topic of data, which has been more prevalent in the media in the past few months. A short time after Clay Shirky and Keith Ross had a panel discussion about data collection by large companies on the internet called “Where’s my data?”, the Facebook scandal happened and the discussion became more current. During the panel, the topic of some social implications and the possibilities going forward were addressed. Clay Shirky said there is not much we can do to protect ourselves from data collection, as it is the way companies profit, while some international organizations, like the EU are working on establishing more serious regulations. I wonder what will happen if the technology of virtual reality develops to an extent where we begin truly perceiving it as a valuable addition, or perhaps even substitute for the non-virtual world. If that virtual world were a connected system with many users, would a monopoly over it naturally establish? Data collection of our actions within a virtual reality could go beyond our advertisement preferences but could include even the most minute details of how we choose to lead our lives. I wonder how long it is going to take the technology to develop beyond needing a headset to use it and how that would influence the way perceive it too.
David Chalmers, “The Virtual and the Real”.