Virtual reality

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readFeb 3, 2019

Source : Google photo of Virtual Reality headset

Synopsis : The new technology of Virtual Reality is already available to the common people that allows them to see and feel something that is unreal but there is a hidden danger that can blur the line between the real and unreal in the mind of a weak person who can be affected. The blog focuses on such dangers.

Once I was listening to a radio conversation in the United States where the callers expressed their opinions on a subject the DJ brings up live in a FM or AM station that can get quite heated up depending on how strongly the caller believes in the pro or con of it. It was during the war in Vietnam where the American pilots were bombing the country from a height of 30000 ft. flying a B-52 bomber. The pilot never saw what was the result of his action because he only looked at his display gauges that told him the coordinates where he was to drop the bombs , pushed the button and the bomb bay released the bombs that supposedly to fell on a target down below.

Source : Google photo of a B -52 dropping bombs

He could do this in any kind of weather day or night because he flew at a height above the clouds and dropped the bombs on the targets selected for him by someone in Pentagon . If the coordinates given to him were wrong then it was not his problem but it resulted in massive destruction of schools or hospitals and other civilian sites.

He also felt safe at that altitude because he was told that no surface to air missile could hit him so he went back to his base in Guam or somewhere to get a good night rest and get ready for the next mission. But one day a missile hit his plane that was provided to the North Vietnamese by the Russians that was very advanced and computer guided so it found its target above the cloud and brought down the massive plane. I saw parts of a B-52 plane in the museum in Ho Chi Minh City when we visited Vietnam a few years ago.

The Russians brought down a spy plane called U 2 in Siberia that the Americans claimed was not possible but the missile technology has improved in leaps and bounds so now nothing is safe any more in any altitude because now the satellites guide such missiles to their target in any kind of weather.

Anyway, the debate was whether it is easier for the pilot to drop bombs on targets he does not get to see and whether he is less guilty or more guilty of crimes when compared to a fighter pilot who sees the target at low altitude and intentionally drops his bombs on villages and hospitals. I felt the debate to be pointless because a crime was committed using two different methods but the results were the same on the ground.

Source : Google photo of a virtual reality drone pilot

The first method is called the virtual reality where the pilot does not see the destruction so does not feel any guilt the same way a drone pilot sitting in an air conditioned room in the United States looking at his monitor that shows the target in Afghanistan , presses a button to release the missile in the drone flying over the target there. The drone is equipped with high resolution camera that sends back a live feed to the pilot in the US who can actually see the destruction but is rarely affected.

The technology has evolved to such an extent since the Vietnam war days that a missile can be fired from a drone in any part of the world day or night that is piloted remotely from a great distance using multiple satellites that guide the drone to a pinpoint location.

This technology is very similar to virtual reality although not quite like it because it is real and the damage and destruction is real. The point is that you can harm someone and not feel anything if you do not see the results of your action except through the video link just like the pilot of the B 52 who relied only on his gauges.

Today I want to write about the Virtual Reality technology and what it means. You have seen the VR headphones that people wear . It has a screen that looks like a blindfold but it shows an unreal video that only you can see and experience something in 3D vision that is projected on to the screen in front of your eyes with Dolby sound through your headphones.

It can bring you to the slopes of Mt. Everest in dazzling clarity and you feel as if you are there climbing through snow storm or you are in Machu Picchu. The programmer creates the scenes in 3D and feeds into your screen to make it appear very real and in color with appropriate sound. When you see yourself diving deep in the ocean, you will feel the sensation of floating as if you are really in the water and see the fish and the octopi but it is called the Virtual Reality because it is not real. It is only a computer generated program that makes you feel that it is real.

The VR technology is evolving super fast and comes up with better picture and sound quality all the time that has put this technology in the hands of common people. You do not have to buy the goggles but rent it in a store and immerse yourself in the VR world for a small sum of money.

The military and the airline industry were quick to realize the benefits and potential of VR so the military use it to guide their drones and missiles using satellites that do actual damage. The VR goggles on the other hand do not do any damage to you unless you are watching very violent games because it is not real. It only makes you believe it to be even if temporarily.

The airlines and others use the simulators to train pilots and use the VR to simulate that the pilot is actually flying or landing a plane using all the controls at his fingertips and he can feel the sensation and the vibration of the plane just like a real one but he only sees the projections on his screen to create a very realistic view of what he sees.

If he crashes the plane then no damage is done because it is just a simulation of the reality. Once he is well trained in the simulator, he can then try his hands on a real plane and make use of his training to fly it. The astronauts also trained extensively in simulators before they were sent to the space.

The benefit of the VR technology is that one can learn to fly an expensive plane or a drone and repeat the experience numerous times until he gets it right in the comfort of a simulation room and can crash his plane any number of times with no harm done.

Now I want to see why VR technology is so appealing to the common people. It allows you to escape the reality and brings you to an unreal one but makes you feel as if you are experiencing something real without the risks. In fact it is really no different than the video games kids and some adults play in Video parlors where you can drive a car at a breakneck speed or fight with guns or swords or box someone repeatedly but no one gets hurt. It is just a 2 D projection of the program on the screen that is interactive .

It allows people to escape the reality for a while and feel the sensation of the unreal world for a small fee so it can be addictive. It blurs the line between the real and unreal world in the mind of an addict who may someday commit a crime easily and not feel the guilt .

We all feel the need to escape the real world into the unreal world from time to time if we feel the pressure of the real world too much to bear. The hippies in the sixties tried hallucinogenic drugs to escape the harsh reality of draft that would send them to fight a war they did not want to fight. The American soldiers in Vietnam took drugs to escape the harsh reality that they could die anytime there so they sought respite in the unreal world. People snort cocaine and all sorts of drugs to escape the reality of life.

In fact people drink for the same reason because they want to escape from the poverty, domestic violence, abusive spouse or hard struggle of life everyday. Some people just want to forget their misery in life even if temporarily through alcohol and drugs. I know several cases where some people took to alcohol and died because they lived a pathetic life and wanted to escape it.

Now if you add the VR to the list, you will see one more method of escaping the reality. At first it may be just diving or climbing Everest but soon some programmer will come up with hallucinogenic VR program or the one that shows blood and gore type of violence that makes you experience it so it is just a matter of time. May be they already have such VR programs but I see a natural progression in that direction because of demand.

When such technology helps you blur the line between what is real and unreal, the brain is affected. Did you know that the brain can be made to feel the addiction to alcohol through suggestion or insinuation? It can be made to feel the effect of drugs without actually taking it? It is called the placebo effect. Some people can control your brain through hypnosis and make you do things you may not like to do normally.

It is like telling a lie repeatedly until your brain starts to believe it. Just ask the Bible thumpers why they believe that the world is flat and they will tell you that they have been told so many times and some politicians say the same thing.

Now I see a clear danger in believing something that is not real either through technology like VR or otherwise. Our brain is very susceptible to suggestions so some people take advantage of this weakness in us and use it for political purposes. The results can only be bad as the history tells us.

The pilot who dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima was convinced that he was doing the right thing because he was told by the authorities that he must do it. If he was not convinced then he could have dropped the bomb in the ocean somewhere and saved hundreds of thousands of people. He could have been a real hero. Japan was militarily weak at that time and would have surrendered anyway.

I would have done it and face the consequences rather than dropping the bomb on innocent people because I know the difference between right and wrong but how many do? Now the technology helps a pilot make a drone drop bombs through remote control and makes him feel as if he is just playing a video game.

I am not against the progress people have made in technology that saves lives, saves the ocean and the wildlife, warns of impending tsunami or such disasters that save people, allows people to communicate instantly across the world, allows people to grow more food , allows building low cost houses for the poor and improves the health care for everyone. The technology can thus be a blessing for the humanity.

But when the technology helps people to escape to unreal world through VR then the brain of a weak person can be confused and influenced to believe what he sees and may act on it later in the real world that can be dangerous. I have written about the pernicious effects the cartoons on TV have on children who may pick up a gun left carelessly around by the parents and shoot another kid saying bang bang just like on TV.

I was once told by a friend that a fellow who was playing his violent video game all the time became enraged and killed someone who was making a lot of noise and disturbing him. The unreal and real got mixed up in his brain.

I will quote here something that is relevant in this blog :

Children learn what they live

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval,he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

I will add one more here:

If a child lives in the unreal world, he fails to distinguish right from wrong.

In conclusion I can say that the virtual reality technology can be a blessing or a curse depending on what people use it for so we should all be aware of the dangers and protect our children who may be susceptible to its influence on their brains that may be negative in nature and may affect his life drastically.

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