Spirituality for Today – Fall 2016 – Volume 21, Issue 2

Keeping It Unreal

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Recreational drug use, perhaps, drug abuse itself, soon may give way to something on the horizon – virtual reality. Imagine the typical drug user, craving to get high, discarding both the drug pusher and the drug. Instead, he places a high-tech helmet on his head and dials up his desired experience. The gadget's technologically wondrous capability puts him in a virtual world where he can escape the drudgery or the pain of the real world. He is transported into an environment of his choosing. No longer will he have to attain a respite from the toil of life through chemistry when technology will provide a legal, safe, and controlled "trip" for him. Is it possible that the unlawful and dangerous drug culture will be supplanted by a lawful and benign virtual reality culture? Are we actually at the threshold of a new life-altering genre of technological creativity?

Virtual reality has been promised for decades, but in my conversations with the top developers in the field, it quickly became clear that never before have so much money and talent bet on its imminent arrival. Headsets will start going on sale this year [2015], and competition will increase dramatically through 2016. At first they'll be bought by hard core gamers and gadget freaks. They'll be expensive – as much as $1,500 with all the accoutrements. And just as with cell phones, everyone will mock the early adopters for mindlessly embracing un-necessary technology with no useful purpose.

Joel Stein, Inside the Box, Time 2015

Once the modality of virtual reality becomes affordable for all, shall we ask "what hath God wrought?" and anxiously ponder what effects it will have on society? One might question the place of virtual reality in daily living: harmless amusement or another avenue of personal isolation. How this commercially viable technology will color the quality of life will depend, as always, on the spiritual and psychological well-being of the user. Virtual reality, like drugs, can deprive a person of conquering the necessary challenges of life that lead to maturation of the total human being. When "Professor Adversity" lectures on the various methodologies of problem solving, the technology of virtual reality may too easily compel the student to skip class.

Just like any idea whose time has come, this invention will have its day. At first glance, the concern one might perceive is the worrisome addition of another way that people can avoid contact with people. The machine has become the most dominant intermediary of person to person interaction since the telegraph. There is no denying the utility of these creations, but there is an issue to be discussed regarding the implications of these inventions on the human condition. Technology is beginning to replace the human worker in many industries. The machine is efficient, doesn't need coffee breaks, does not require a vacation or benefits, does not get sick, bit it can breakdown and requires maintenance. There is still hope for the human who can serve the needs of the machine.

Every power of mind, body, or spirit existing in the human being can be used to enhance or degrade the gift of life bestowed on each person by God. Technological advances ranks among the most beneficial or the most maniacal. It is up to the conscience of the individual and of society to choose which one. In the final analysis, the moral measure of the person will determine the effects of this and all technology on mankind. Great care must be taken to insure that technology does not become the real and that humanity becomes virtual reality.