Yes or no?

A group of computer engineers created virtual reality. This program is used by the military and some medical facilities for therapy. Apparently, people find it easier to face their fears in cyberspace than in real life. The patients are inserted inside a simulation of their phobias and are forced to “live” through them. The patients have their own avatars inside the program. This seems to be easier for doctors because they can control the situation better. The patients are satisfied and they are recovering faster than patients with normal therapy. This sounds lovely, but can it bring humanity any good?

We live in a world that is falling apart. Terrible things happen every day. I think that, because of this, we are trying to escape from reality more often than we like to admit. A virtual world is the perfect solution. We could plug in for a few hours, create a relaxing ambient and forget about our daily troubles for just a moment. We could also face them, like these patients do. Facing our troubles through a simulation sounds effective. But does it really help?

I think that, in reality, it doesn’t help at all because the patient knows it isn’t real. For example: a drug addict wants to stop using drugs. He plugs into the simulation and puts himself in situations where he has to resist from taking contraband. He will stop taking drugs inside the program eventually. But will it be the same in real life? I think not, because subconsciously he will know it was not real. Even if the simulation felt real, his brain will still send him signals that it wasn’t. Therefore, why bother with this imaginary therapy at all?

Maybe people don’t care if it is going to work or not. Maybe they just need a place where they can escape from their lives. You can’t escape from your life in the real world. Even if you move to another country, the fact that you are still in the real world doesn’t change anything. Bad things can happen to you everywhere, no matter where you are. For example: if you have agoraphobia and you live in New York, you will still have it, even if you move to Tokyo. That’s why I think that most people don’t care if it works. They just need a place to go to where they can be something else. They need this place because, for a moment, they can forget who they really are. They can plug into their avatars and relax for a moment. But if every person did this, what would the world be like?

A few months ago, I watched a movie that gave a good answer to this question. The movie is calledSurrogates. It’s a cyberpunk movie. The story is set in the near future, and everybody is using avatars that are called surrogates. However, these avatars are not inside a program. They are real, mechanical avatars with green liquid instead of blood. They look like their hosts, except their faces are younger. People plug into them from a machine that they have at home. Originally, they started using them because the crime rate in the world was high and people wanted to be safe. If somebody destroys an avatar, the host does not die. The host just walks to a store and buys a new one. Of course, this lowered the number of deaths because nobody could die. But eventually, after a few years, people stopped leaving their houses in their real bodies and began to use their surrogates for everything. A rebellion of people who boycott surrogates then created a special weapon. When this weapon destroys a surrogate, the host is killed immediately. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I can say that everybody realized how horribly false their lives were. Do engineers need to develop this program if things are going to be like this in the future?

Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, let alone in a few decades. I could be wrong about this. Maybe people wouldn’t end up like they did in this movie. Nevertheless, relying upon virtual reality instead of dealing with problems in real life sounds cowardly to me. I think that people should try as hard as they can to solve things properly and naturally! If we don’t fight for a better world, then what kind of humans are we? Where did our will to survive disappear? Virtual reality is a haven, but not a solution. Look at it from a biological and moral standpoint: if we start living in avatars, will we still be human?  

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