Virtual reality technology is becoming more and more realistic, and in the near future, as the technology improves, we expect headsets that provide complete and total immersion. In fact, we expect VR to become so realistic and streamlined, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was real.
The advent of the technology brings into focus again an interesting philosophical question, popularised in the film, The Matrix, namely, whether it is possible that we are in fact living in a virtual environment that we think is real.
If this is the case, then one possibility is that we are like a version of The Sims, and everything, including us, is virtual. But this would seemingly require the actual creation of a conscious mind within a machine, something which, from a technological perspective, is hard to envisage.
There is another issue with this idea as well. In this case, we, as virtual beings, would definitely have a creator of some kind, and it isn’t clear why they would have any interest in creating a wholly virtual world in the first place. This is especially pertinent when you take into account all the suffering that the creator would have to create as well as us.
If we do live in virtual world, it is more likely we are plugged into a hi tech pair of VR goggles, which continuously generate our world, whilst at the same time manipulating our minds to make us forget that there is a real world outside the simulation. Now again, this technology is far more advanced than anything we currently have, but seems less difficult to create than the kind mentioned above.
And furthermore, it seems more likely that we might voluntarily sign up to experience something like this as well. Given the popularity of games like Second Life, it doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch to suggest people might plug themselves in to a machine that let them really experience a second life for a prescribed amount of time.