Virtual reality as an “empathy machine” and force for good?
Virtual reality. For those of us who still enjoy THIS world, the idea of opening the floodgates of truly immersive virtual reality can seem like the ultimate triumph of the screen-mediated life, an abandonment of the core virtues of human relationship. If computers have sucked us further down the rabbit hole than TVs, then won’t these new systems—covering our eyes and ears, even stimulating our vestibular responses—create even more separation between us? Not necessarily, say a slew of folks who are tracking this nearly-inevitable and soon-to-arrive evolution of computer technology. Check out this collection of videos and articles from SingularityHUB, all of which explore the ways that more immersive virtual reality interfaces could actually increase our empathy and engagement, rather than leading to atrophy of these core aspects of being human. The promise here starts with recent studies on “mirror neurons” and goes on to ways that empathy-sparking VR could deepen journalism and enliven civic engagement. A real mind-bender for any of us with lingering Luddite tendencies.