In the past several years, as the nascent medium of virtual reality has come into its own, scientists and creators have begun to explore its potential effects on the human mind. Some are undoubtedly positive—as, for instance, when the technology is used to help war veterans overcome P.T.S.D., or as a means to expand a person’s capacity for compassion.You just know there's a 'but' coming, don't you?
But the immediacy of V.R. has a dark side, too.Every modern invention has. Even in the world of gaming. For every new way for the police to round up miscreants, there's someone wasting the time of a vital service.
Several months ago, Michael Madary and Thomas K. Metzinger, researchers from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, in Germany, published a series of recommendations on the ethical design and implementation of virtual reality. Their appraisal of the medium’s psychological force is both studious and foreboding. “The power of V.R. to induce particular kinds of emotions could be used deliberately to cause suffering,” they write. “Conceivably, the suffering could be so extreme as to be considered torture.”The world's intelligence community just perked up their ears and reached for the expense account codes!
They recommend “careful screening of subjects to minimize the risks of aggravating an existing psychological disorder or an undetected psychiatric vulnerability.” It’s as if moviegoers were asked to receive a clean bill of mental health before being allowed to watch “A Clockwork Orange.”Hey, don't go giving the Nanny State ideas, please!