Virtual reality as of recent, while still extremely new, has become the topic of many opposing viewpoints. It has caught the eye of the general public for several reasons. Perhaps, this is mainly because of all the possibilities which virtual reality creates. Note that the possibilities are not pre- determined as either good or bad, mainly because there are many different opinions to the future of this developing technology. However, despite the controversy this new technology has aroused, society should not remain skeptical.
Virtual reality has the potential, if used correctly, to become a great technological advancement that will aid society in many ways. In the past, virtual reality has been nothing more than a small step beyond video games. However, it is now apparent that this technology can be used for more practical purposes. These purposes include national defense, surgical procedures and various other applications. Society has not fully acknowledged the benefits of virtual reality as of yet because it is still under development.
The reason for virtual reality remaining in its development for so long is mainly due to its complexity. The hardware that has developed so far is unable to make the large calculations required by a virtual reality based machine. However, as apparent in recent years, technology is advancing at an extreme rate. This is another reason why society’s hopes for virtual reality should and have remained unwaivered. In Orenstein’s story, she gives the perspective of the average citizen who is obviously uncertain about the uses and/or affects that virtual reality will have upon society.
The show she attended was quick to point out the practicality of virtual reality however, it still left much to be desired. It seems that Orenstein was disgruntled when she came to an exhibit and the topic of cyber-sex was raised. Perhaps it wasn’t just that it came up but more like how it came up. The idea of a man and woman being in a virtual world and a man fondling the womans breasts was probably, although very much possible, not a great first impression.
It gave Orenstein the opportunity to explore the evils that virtual reality makes possible. After a while, Orenstein realizes that just like the computing age has hackers, the virtual age will have it’s own high-tech delinquents. You can’t prevent technology from being abused. There will be those who use VR rudely, stupidly, dangerously–just as they do the telephone or computer. Like the telephone and the modem, its popular rise will also eliminate the need for certain fundamental kinds of human contact, even as it enhances our ability to communicate. (Orenstein 258)
Here she is quick to point out that because virtual reality is such a new technology it is extremely possible for hackers to have their way with it. Perhaps she also points out that in order for society to accept this new technology they will have to accept it’s risks as well. In the government’s perspective use of virtual reality it is easy to see how this technology proves useful. Supposing that the United States got into a war, by using virtual reality pilots instead of real pilots the number of casualties would obviously be less.
Pilots would fly their aircraft from a remote location via video and audio equipment in the form of virtual reality. As technology increases over the next several years it will become easier and easier for the pilots to fly planes from a remote location. However, despite all the lives this may save there is a down side. The down side being that perhaps this will stimulate the government to react more easily in a violent way. Without any loss of lives the only thing the government has to lose by attacking are the cost of planes.
Keeping this idea in mind, it is very likely that the US will spend less time negotiating and more time fighting. This is most definitely a negative side-affect of virtual reality because it will weaken the relationship that the US has with other countries. Integrating virtual reality with society is where the majority of problems occur. It is clearly apparent that because this technology is so new society is unsure how it will fit in. This is also a good example of why people’s opinions are so varied. Some people see virtual reality as just another tool which will aid society in several ways.
Others see it as dominating society all together and affecting everyone’s lives everyday. It obviously has the potential to be both and it is easy to see why people are so hesitant to decide. Perhaps another reason for society’s lack of optimism is their fear that they will somehow be removed from actual reality. Although quite ironic, for a long time society has had a fear that technology will someday take control of their lives. Perhaps the idea of technology becoming so advanced that people will no longer be able to tell whether they are in virtual or actual reality.
It is clear that technology has definitely affected society in recent years. However, it is quite difficult to predict the role of technology in the future. The potential for technology is certainly there, it just needs to be focused it the right direction. Technology most definitely has the ability to run out of control. Just the idea alone, of man creating technology and having it run out of control is something society has been fascinated with for many years. Books and movies depicting technology overwhelming society have been created with much of this idea in mind.
Perhaps it is possible that virtual reality will be that technology which man is unable to control and will take over all of society. If this is the case, society and the people within it would become uncertain if they were in virtual or actual reality. It must be pointed out however, due to the nature and precaution of society in general, it is very unlikely that anything like this will ever actually occur. If society is intelligent enough to invent such a technology it should be able to determine and control it’s consequences.
Orenstein brings up a good point when she says, “This time, we have the chance to enter the debate about the direction of a revolutionary technology, before that debate has been decided for us”(258). Often times in the past, society as a whole has been subject to decisions made by those of the creators of new technology. In this quote however, Orenstein points out that with this technology people should not only try but make it a priority to get involved. She, as many others do, see this technology as having a huge amount of potential.
Without the direction and influence of society upon virtual reality it could go to waste, or even worse, turn into society’s enemy of sorts. Towards the end of the story she tries to depict how virtual reality will have an impact upon society whether they like it or not. As I rode down the freeway, I found myself going a little faster than usual, edging my curves a little sharper, coming a little close than was really comfortable to the truck merging in the lane ahead of me. Maybe I was just tired. It had been a long night.
But maybe it just doesn’t take the mind that long to grab onto the new and make it real. Even when you don’t want it to. She depicts that no matter how much society is aware of virtual reality, the human brain still has instincts that cannot be controlled. That is one of the drawbacks of virtual reality. That no one is sure what to expect. Just as with any other technology, the only way to find out the results of virtual reality are to test the limits. Knowing that virtual reality has the ability to affect so many people in such a large number of ways there needs to be some kind of limitation.
This brings up another key controversy as to who should be in control of limiting this virtual world. If the government is in control it could likely be abused and mishandled. However, if society as a whole is left to contemplate its uses, the affects could be either good or bad. Although society knows a lot about virtual reality there is still so much that it doesn’t know. Perhaps in the coming years, new technology will come out and people will learn more about this virtual world. However, until that time, the questions will remain numerous and doubtful yet the possibilities are unlimited.
Courtney from Study Moose
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