Real Crimes in Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is lifting off as several VR headsets have now hit the market including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift among others. There are also more coming including Sony’s PlayStation VR. The opportunities are boundless from “The Walk” which is an experience that enables people to walk a tightrope between skyscrapers to “Sports Challenge” which is an experience that enables people to be the quarterback of a football team to “Eagle Flight” which enables people to fly over Paris, France and much more.
VR Seems Very Real
People who have been using VR have noted that many experiences are life like. Those who have experienced “The Walk” speak of how hard it is to take the first step on the rope as they’re hundreds of fee off of the ground, even though they know it’s not technically real. There have even been people whose legs (in real life) have become wobbly before getting on the tightrope as the virtual reality experience feels so real to them. Many even sweat heavily and show clear signs of anxiety. What about when virtual reality goes into an unethical realm though? “The Nether” is a new experience that just debuted at the Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington D.C.
The experience was created by Jennifer Haley as it explores troubling questions that come up when Papa (the lead character) utilizes advanced software to develop a fantasy world in which adults molest young kids and then murder them. The experience or “play” shows Detective Morris asking Papa questions about the line between fantasy (or virtual worlds) and reality (or the real world). For anyone that’s worried about a Frankenstein type of future with technology that’s misguided, this experiences brings up those very intriguing questions. Should there be boundaries as to human fantasies if they involve terrible thoughts? Should there be rules or regulations on society as for someone’s fantasy?
How Does VR Relate to Real World Actions
The relationship between fantasy and reality is complex; would bad thinking potentially result in bad actions in real life? An example is that there’s evidence that shows consistent exposure to porn can be directly connected to harmful actions toward women. So should we be worrying about violent or misogynistic virtual reality experiences? What types of evidence should result in warrants or seizure of VR experiences?
As of now, there are restrictions on kids buying violent games, but no restrictions on adults. The world is moving more and more towards virtual reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence. As this happens, people and in particular, policy makers will need to think how laws and regulations may need to change to move with the digital times.