Articles have appeared recently about virtual reality and how its capabilities help in health care, aviation, entertainment, and even the smartphone. However, the question that came to me a number of years ago, and the impetus of my writing Unrelenting Nightmare, was how far will virtual reality go, and will the benefits outweigh any potential drawbacks?
A major shift has occurred in what we do with our free time. Not long ago, we actually meet with people and talked, now we text. I can recall when television first became widely available to the general public. Prior to that, people and families listened to the radio. But television brought a new technology into our homes and lives — a feature that allowed us to see what we could only hear before. And even though the motion picture industry already provided that avenue for us, motion picture studio executives never comprehended the impact television would have. It wasn’t long before people started staying at home to watch television rather than go out to a movie. It took years for the motion picture industry to recover from that colossal misjudgment.
I’ve simply presented the above example to show how “convenience” tends to dictate our society nowadays. The question I pose is, what effect will this new technology — virtual reality — have on us if it develops to where I, and probably other people too, fear it might eventually go. In Unrelenting Nightmare there’s a scene where Stuart Garrison describes his new system, Mind Games, which allows a person to enter a small room and turn the room into anything they want. How an armchair quarterback can suddenly become the “star” player on the football team, instead of only sitting in a chair and watching a game on television. Garrison describes how the armchair quarterback, no longer restricted by having to look through special head gear at a monitor, is actually in the game, interacting with other players, feeling the impact of being tackled, seeing and hearing the crowd go crazy with excitement when he throws the winning touchdown. Another character essentially asks, “What will that do to society?” which is the point that I’m trying to make in the novel. Everyone will be the “star”, and what incentive will they have to reenter the real world?
I believe that serious consideration should be given to the potential “harmful” impact that virtual reality could have on society. Just consider what a number of virtual reality games presently offer: war, destruction, death, and devastation — not necessarily what I believe we should be offering our youth the possibility of experiencing firsthand someday.
Virtual reality can certainly offer some amazing potential, but …