Virtual Reality devices are gaining popularity rapidly and becoming increasing accessible to the general public. The experiences continue to feel more and more realistic to the point where users have physical reactions to games. One example of this is the game “The Walk” where users become a tightrope walker that walks a rope suspended between skyscrapers, users were observed having wobbly legs, sweating, and exhibiting other signs of nervousness. As the virtual reality experiences get more lifelike, is there a point where the experiences could become so realistic they could alter your thinking or change your personality? If so, should there be laws placed on the types experience you can have in VR if they are so powerful they could change your personality?
After reading an article by Darell M. West for Brooking.edu’s tech news, I started to think about the ethics of VR for the first time. It seems very plausible that VR will reach the point where it will become so realistic that it will cause changes in the human brain. I think that just like having an impactful or traumatic experiences in real life can alter the brain, if the VR experience is realistic enough it could have the same effect. That being said, I feel that a time may come where it would be necessary to prevent users from having certain experiences. This might be particularly important for younger users which have brains that are still developing, such children and teenagers. A traumatic VR experience may have an impact on a child’s brain just like a real life experience. I feel if research data is shown to the general public that indicates VR experiences can change the brain, then I feel we would reach a point as a country when lawmakers would need to write legislation banning certain VR experiences. I think it is the responsibility of the lawmakers to write legislation that protects all people, but I think it is especially important that they write legislation protect the youth. Having a traumatic experience can have a life changing impact on a child’s mind; I think our lawmakers have an obligation to protect the mental health of the kids. I think it would make sense to prevent kids from playing extremely violent VR games if the data were to show the games could damage the brain.
I think the subject of banning certain VR experiences through legislation becomes a bit more complicated when it comes to adults. I tend to be liberal so I want people to have the freedom to do as they please. I wouldn’t want to ban adults from have having an experience they want to have, if it doesn’t harm others or the environment. Unless the data showed that VR experiences were so impactful they caused immediate and severe changes to the brain resulting in psychotic behavior, then I feel there should not be any legislation banning VR experiences. In my opinion an adult should be able to experience whatever they want if they are not harming anyone else or the the environment.