“Sometimes even the best of us have to lose ourselves in fantasy to survive reality.”- Maxi Bransdale
The words of the writer hint to an old infatuation of humankind to escape reality, shape its environment and live in fantasy land. Until now it was achieved by narratives, stories, feature films and sometimes illegal means of psychedelic substance abuse. Finally, an era has ushered in where digital technology, through Augmented and Virtual Reality, provides an interactive portal into this deepest human desire and will not only disrupt the human life for the next 30 year but for the existence of our civilization for all perpetuity.
Augmented reality supplements perception adding computer-generated structures to the environment. Virtual Reality takes it to a notch higher by creating an environment. Proponents of AR/VR claim, the first time in decades, an AR based game — Pokemon Go, urged us to step out of our homes and physically exert ourselves. But in reality, Mara Faccio of Purdue University, in “ Death by Pokémon GO: The Economic and Human Cost of Using Apps While Driving” explains why immersive technologies should be inaccessible to individuals. She provides documentation to a disproportionate increase in accidents and associated vehicular damage, injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of the game users in the USA. This is further exacerbated by the fact that the game has been downloaded over 1 billion times worldwide until 2019 as reported by Verge.
It is exactly like the early days of most banned contrabands. Just as a century ago doctors prescribed opiates for headaches, fever, and common flu. In the same way, we propagandize the advantages of Mixed Reality in the medical, industrial and education fields and ignore the side effects created by it. Apart from health implications, like eye damage due to exposure to backlit screens or bodily injury, there is a significant impact on social structure as well. The growing dissociation among people will be complete with the integration of haptics and olfactory stimuli with mixed reality. People will be unable to discriminate the real from the unreal. The future soldiers, like stormtroopers, will wear head-mounted devices and shoot down men without remorse. The experience will be like playing and not taking someone’s life. The constant monitoring of the world we perceive allows us to “re-do” “The Entire History of You” from Black Mirror. relationships and sanity is the ability to forgive and forget, a VR scene reconstruction rewinding to memories will not allow you to forgive or forget. It is a never-ending cycle, fueling insecurities and obsessiveness in us, leading to a frenzy for such technologies.
VR/AR is the most potent disruption to humans, threatening the existence of mankind as we know it. This is largely due to our biases to escape reality and has already been seen in the case of narcotics in the past. In order to prevent people to be “hooked” on to VR headset, apart from personal discretion, we need governmental and corporate interjections. We should at any cost not equip everyone with these technologies in a whimsical manner due to its affordability, but only in scenarios of absolute necessity.