Can Virtual Reality Create a More Virtuous Reality?

Corey deVos Free, Integral Live, Perspectives, Science & Technology, The Daily Evolver, Video 4 Comments

Jeff and Corey explore the exhilarating emergence of virtual reality technology and the far-reaching implications it has across the full spectrum of human experience, from entertainment to education, to medicine, art, journalism, spiritual practice, sexuality, communication, and any number of other exciting and potentially groundbreaking applications.

“With VR, you’re not interpreting the medium: you’re in it; which means that the medium is disappearing, that your consciousness becomes the medium.”Chris Milk, Time, March 14, 2017

Although many people are concerned that VR might escalate our overall sense of alienation, disconnection, and dissociation in our 21st century lives, Jeff and Corey discuss how virtual reality may actually become a powerful platform for cultivating and expressing genuine intimacy and empathy. In other words, it’s not just about creating cool new private experiences for yourself, as fun as that can certainly be. By immersing us in other peoples’ experience, and even casting our own consciousness into someone else’s 1st-person point of view, VR could very well become a new kind of “empathy machine” — which might bring some much-needed healing after the rampant desensitization and even dehumanization we’ve seen over the last decade of flattened “Web 2.0” social media technologies.

“Because VR offers the audience the sensation of ‘being there,’ it creates a visceral connection to the events unfolding in front of the viewer. This whole body connection can generate a sense of empathy because viewers feel the action as if they are actually on scene. By standing in a street in Syria when a bomb goes off, you comprehend the plight of Syrian refugees. By standing next to two sisters as they unsuccessfully attempt to protect a third sister from an ex-boyfriend’s fatal attack, you understand the true horror of domestic violence and guns. By watching the brutal beating of a handcuffed immigrant with your own eyes, you question border patrol Use of Force protocols. This type unprecedented access will continue to be utilized for important stories alongside entertainment experiences.” —Nonny de la Pena, aka ‘Godmother of Virtual Reality’, Founder of Emblematic Group

Watch as Corey and Jeff take a closer look at this rapidly emerging technology, and how it is already ushering in new visions of beauty, new opportunities for goodness, and new ways to illuminate truth. In the end, virtual reality might actually end up helping us create a more virtuous reality for all of us.

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Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is the proverbial "man behind the curtain". He is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996.

Jeff Salzman

About Jeff Salzman

Jeff Salzman worked with Ken Wilber for several years in building the Integral Institute. He is a co-founder of Boulder Integral, the first bricks-and-mortar venue dedicated to the development of integral consciousness. These days Jeff provides integrally-inspired commentary on politics and culture on Integral Life and The Daily Evolver.

Notable Replies

  1. I spent many years constrained in the limitations of 2-dimensional graphics trying to simplify and explain concepts and models. That is, really, anything that can fit on a sheet of paper - statically. It always required lots of text and talk to explain well enough so someone could learn from it.

    There are many tools that tried to improve on that but only recently have advances in technology made it easier to explicitly capture these in more interactive, more dimensional, more layered types of expressive and immersive experiences. I’d say the last 20 years has moved us into a world where most information can be interactively found, manipulated, and visualized in many ways. The 2-d paper drawings, while still existing, have blossomed into highly interactive, richly informed, drillable visualizations. Also, the massive increase in performance and dramatic drop in price for virtual reality platforms and hardware has made a medium unlike what we have had earlier. Further, semantic/knowledge technology, models, and bases designed upon thousands of years of philosophy are emerging with the capability to capture, manage, agree on, and manipulate concepts, the terms used to label them, and the relationships between them. And to reason upon them. As a species we still haven’t moved far to adapting to this newer ability, but it is there. And we can use it. The artists still are just learning and experimenting with the media. But I think they provide another mechanism for integral to become more expressive and learnable.

    I can imagine, in my mind’s eye, sitting, or suspended, in my “Captain’s Seat”, within a 3-d holographic world with layers of contexts - time, space, concepts, domains, activities, events, assets, people, and all their interrelationships being available for my mind to gather and integrate them into “real time” and “long time” insight. I can imagine Ken Wilber, or more personally and playfully, Jeff Salzman, or even more playfully, Keith Witt, or passionately, Corey Devos - speaking eye-to-eye, directly to me. Or as dis-embodied voice/gods. They would explain directly in precise terms, or with stories, or with metaphors and jokes - all explaining the map, at any level of detail, simplifying the complexity of that web and whirl of activity. I could imagine, the knowledge pre-canned, but also with channels in for direct discussion/mentoring/listening/collaborating. And, having each view dynamic with filterable/selectable “relationships” between things appearing to provide the appropriate context for understanding.

    I can visualize Eros, scrubbing each level of the spiral, evolving, devolving, and visually pulling it all up the spiral. And I can see us all as little human avatars within the swirl. And it is all just a different “map”, of the same world - but having all the maps draggable into our awareness from various controls and panels.

    I think virtual and augmented reality, now called “mixed reality” as they merge together, will be a “Damocle’s Sword” level of change we have not seen since the rise of the internet. I think it can solve many problems in both the I and We space. And will likely cause many more. But I think it could also be an avenue into making Integral more accessible to the world, and ideally, helpful in bringing enough of us up into the integral stages with all the likely benefits.

  2. If anyone really wants to learn more about Virtual Reality, I highly recommend the “VoicesofVR” podcast by Kent Bye. He is a journalist who began following VR from its early re-emergence. Best of all, he has a spiritual, and I think, largely integral perspective. He has the thought leaders and doers of the industry and has been mapping its evolution through the podcast. He also provides his perspectives, which are quite insightful, at the end of the podcast.

    I would love to see him on the DailyEvolver when it reopens.

    VoicesOfVR Podcast

  3. If you don’t like wild speculation then you probably don’t want to continue reading this post. You have been warned!

    When thinking about where liberalism is taking us it occurred to me that it is attempting to balance at least three things:

    1. Being protected from others harming you
    2. Being free to do what one wishes without interference from others
    3. Being enabled to do new things through large scale cooperation

    Perhaps these goals can be met by creating layers of insulation between individuals and the means to directly control sensory experiences. This sounds a lot like VR.

    Future liberal societies may choose to spend most of their time in VR environments where they can exchange information and have virtually any sensory experience they desire, with very little fear of harming others or being harmed.

    Life extension technologies may also be developed for individuals that choose to have their bodies reduced to a central nervous system that is connected to virtual reality equipment. Caring for the central nervous system in a controlled environment may be much easier than caring for an entire human body. This arrangement may enable extraordinarily long lifespans and support a much larger population compared to societies based on full biological bodies. In a very advanced scenario, participants may even be able to command robots or synthetic biological bodies remotely.

    Interestingly, even though VR environments may enable extreme freedom and the experience of utopian like conditions, they could also enable some of the worst of human religious tendencies. Minds could be trapped in hells or limbos. The right to control one’s VR environment may need to be inscribed as a fundamental right in such a society.

  4. I second IntegralExplorer’s recommendation of Voices of VR. I’ve been following VofVR for a few years now, and recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kent myself (he wanted to interview me about lucid dreaming and VR, the intersection of which I’ve been following for a while–so far mostly expressed in my Twitter stream @LucidVirtuality).

    Kent is knowledgeable about Wilber’s AQAL map and related frameworks (e.g. Spiral Dymamics), which have been influential to his thinking. I’ve noticed him bring in a LOT more diverse voices than is typical of VR podcasts or other media, which I really appreciate. He’s been through some difficult life experiences (e.g. the suicide of his wife, which he talked about in VoVR at one point) and I feel this has deepened his perspective as well.

    I’d love to see or hear him interviewed by someone from Integral Life! But in any case I highly recommend his podcast.

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