Virtual or Real? the Mind in Cyberspace
Cartwright, Glenn F., The Futurist
The technology of virtual reality will give us whole new worlds to explore, but a psychologist warns that we must proceed with caution.
Few scientists working on virtual reality and its applications today have considered the effects of such technology on consciousness. There are many questions that remain to be answered. For example, what happens to the normal mind when it loses contact with reality? What happens when we enter an alternate reality and cannot tell it from the "real world"? What will happen if we find we cannot, or do not want to, return to the real world? And what will happen to us if we become "lost" in cyberspace?
Strangely, the developers of virtual reality seem largely unconcerned by the possible dangers inherent in launching individuals into another reality. Few of them have given any thought as to whether or not all cybernauts will return safely, unscathed by their experience.
Virtual Reality and Cyberspace
Virtual reality has been with us for millennia in the form of imagination, literature, theater, and more recently, radio, film, and television. However, the modern definition of virtual reality has come to mean a computer-mediated, multisensory experience, one designed to trick our senses and convince us that we are "in another world."
At present, only computers hold the potential for dynamically controlling and synchronizing input to all of the senses in order to accomplish this feat. One might then define virtual reality as the complete computer control of human senses. Virtual reality becomes a way of sensing, feeling, and thinking. The computer controls sensation by controlling the input to the senses, altering experience, emotion, and ultimately thought. New perceptions and ideas may arise as a consequence of such modified sensory input.
The term cyberspace was coined by science-fiction writer William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer. He defined it as "a consensual hallucination." For our purposes, cyberspace may be described as the sharing by two or more individuals of a virtual-reality experience. For example, operating a virtual puppet in a video game represents an individual virtual reality. When another player's puppet enters your puppet's space and begins to interact, the common space they share is cyberspace. Just as virtual reality is a way of sensing, feeling, and thinking individually, so cyberspace becomes a way of communicating, participating, and working …
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Publication information: Article title: Virtual or Real? the Mind in Cyberspace. Contributors: Cartwright, Glenn F. - Author. Magazine title: The Futurist. Volume: 28. Issue: 2 Publication date: March-April 1994. Page number: 22+. © 1999 World Future Society. COPYRIGHT 1994 Gale Group.