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Virtual Hope

So after my super depressing post, I've been looking for a counter-point to it. Some way forward.

I think I found one. It combines a couple things.

The first part of it, is something I read about called "The Overview Effect", describing the transformative experience that astronauts report when they are able to look at the Earth from far enough away to see it as a small sphere, unattached, floating in mostly nothing. Much like a hallucinogenic trip, this experience has been said to permanently alter the view of our role on Earth, and whether or not our actions are able to affect it negatively and/or forever.

Essentially, it is really informative to be reminded of the non-infiniteness of our home, and to behold our none to subtle footprint of sprawling lights and roads tattooed across its every habitable surface.

So the solution is obvious right? Rocket all world leaders into space, they come back, their ape minds unfocused from the default localized problem solving that we all have, replaced with a global sense of the singular scale of our sole world. Problem solved.

Unfortunately spaceflight is expensive and dangerous, and involves numerous medical and logistical clearances, and involves its own environmental impact. Also, America currently has no manned space flight capacity at the moment.

Then I heard about Chris Milk's VR Movies from Ted Radio. He made a VR movie of a Syrian refugee, went to the UN, with VR headsets, and had world leaders watch it, and VR is really good at tricking your brain into thinking you are in a place, that you are face to face with a 3d image of a person (Jump to 7:00). That you met them, and have added them to the short list of people you have specifically met and connected with.

So interesting, maybe we can teach empathy and perspective, but can that really communicate the same sense of wonder as an actual spaceflight?

Then I watched a VR demo of one of Valve's new games: Aperture Robot Repair. During the demo, one of the players upon being introduced to one of Portal's iconic robots, immediately replies "Are they that big in the game?" and near the end, a chasm opens up on the floor beneath the players. Watching them, safely in their room, teeter over the edge of a virtual hole is informative.

That is one thing VR is able to convey better than any picture or film, a sense of scale and a sense of place.

The brain just doesn't seem to have a setting for "fake place that I know I'm not in", VR is as real as dreams essentially, because our brains are just set to trust the input they receive, they can't seem to do anything but that.

So the fundamental problem is that we're all selfish apes who are simply unable to comprehend the scale of the problems that threaten us.

All through civilization we have invented things outside ourselves to accommodate for failings in our own selves.

A club is really just a third joint extension of our arm, with the increased leverage that provides.

Hide and fur clothes are a functional second skin.

There is archaeological evidence that the first clay pots were used to ferment food until it was more broken down. Pots as better, stronger stomachs outside ourselves, breaking down otherwise undigestible plants until it was in a state in which we could consume it.

It is time to start using technology to do the same with ideas that seem too big to our evolved minds to swallow.

I know VR has been a buzzword of the future for a long time, but by the end of this year three different companies are releasing hardware. Not much will likely happen with it in 2015 other than a bunch of nerds looking goofy at Christmas.

But 2016, the non-gaming applications are going to quickly become apparent, and I suspect are going to far outstrip the general wheelhouse of "war simulators for boys" that video games generally cater to.

Hope is on the way, and you're going to look super stupid while using it, but you won't care.

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Title: Virtual Hope
Date posted: 05 Oct '15 - 08:50
Filed under: General
Word Count: 694 words
Good Karma: 63 (vote)
Bad Karma: 36 (vote)
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