Virtual reality or emancipation of consciousness?

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Boris Berenzon Gorn.

Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to today's blindest critics and philosophers, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved..

Issac Asimov

In our days it has become a common theme to talk about virtual reality, there are even innumerable technological examples of simulators and video games that focus on generating virtual realities, that is, experiences without material existence, but capable of disrupting the senses and, therefore, , awareness. The purposes are diverse and range from professional and sports training, to the experimentation of artistic experiences and entertainment.

But these examples, novel as they may seem, are still far from those that science fiction raised in movies like star trek, Matrix or the Marvel sagas, followed by a long etcetera. However, the fact that the subject remains in the expectations of both fiction and science and technology, allows us to think that virtual reality could one day be achieved by achieving total immersion, in such a way that people are unable to distinguish whether they are either in an inner world, accessible only to their consciousness and induced by the immersion of technology, or outside.

Although such a goal is far away, critically discussing the search for immersive experiences is not trivial and, as strange as it may seem, it is not an exclusive topic of postmodernity. Immersion accompanies art since its inception. But, in addition, in philosophy we can find the origin of virtuality, which is none other than the separation of body and consciousness, soul and matter, life and death. For Plato, the body was something negative, a prison for the soul from which philosophy tried to escape, but it was not possible to do so at least in this life. Sensitive experience, on the other hand, was recovered by Aristotle as a way of knowing and being in the world.

From here on, in the West, the paradox continued.either, developed to a greater or lesser extent in subsequent centuries and almost all philosophical currents had something to say about the consciousness-body dichotomy. Along with the soul, medieval philosophy also maintained the existence of the spirit, coming from God and in connection with him, the body being the remnant of sin, of disobedience to the law that expelled us from paradise and condemned us.either to pain and fatigue, while, with death, matter would cease to be important and the intangible would enjoywent of a space in the eternity of the contemplation of God.

The renunciation of the body was mandatory for Christianity, all sin came from its needs. When the Renaissance came, he returnedeither to a recovery of the sensitive factor, putting the human being at the center of the universe and displacing, although not in a clear way, the divinity. The human being was a being in contact with the material world, with space, with creation, art imitates nature and therefore it is through the body that it is possible to access the mysteries of the world, observation and experimentation are more important than ever and the humanists invent the philological method to know from the existing text and not from the inaccessible word.

But reason, which is but another form of consciousness and soul, will have its resurgence with the enlightenment and development of Hegel's idealism. The teleological sense of history, the realization of a higher end for humanity will be marked by the progress of science, technology and the arts, all based on reason understood as rationality and logic. Although it is paradoxical, the denial of the immaterial turns on itself in the new God of the enlightened, since reason acquires absolute power, the hegemony of the sciences is unquestionable and setbacks appear as something impossible.

The enlightened paradigm flourished strongly, but it had questions that, although they did not move away from its teleological and progressive claim, sYo They put back on the table where the balance was leaning, whether towards the body or the soul. For its part, historical materialism criticized these postulates, being a system of ideas that, although they were heirs to Hegelian philosophy, emphasized the importance of satisfying material needs and argued that material life preceded consciousness, The structure being the accumulation of modes of production that guaranteed the existence and flow of history, and the ideology the superstructure that was subject to it.

However, when the great conflicts of the century xx, the ideas of the different philosophical systems were combined, but the consciousness/soul-body opposition did not disappear. As a result of the great atrocities of Nazism, fascism and the world wars, the predominance of reason was called into question, since it was clear that not everything rational was reasonable, that not every technological and scientific advance translated into progress and that the actions of human beings could be guided by irrational impulses that were often not only uncontrollable, but unknown to their actors.

Psychoanalysis regained strength, but so did the avant-gardes and existentialism. What if there was no such separation between body and soul? If consciousness only exists in and as a result of the body and irretrievably disappears with it? Furthermore, what would happen if it were conditioned by the sensible and the sensation that Is it about opposing elements outside of fiction? The death of the body would then be the death of the soul, inevitable as having come into the world without asking for it.

Ultimately, virtual reality is much more than the creation of alternative realities: it aspires to defeat death. Technology proposes that one day it will be possible to extract consciousness from the body, that is, everything that makes us human beings: memories, emotions, tastes, feelings, identity, among many other things, and place it in another biological body or not. , or make it part of an infinite totality like the network, where the human being can live forever.

Overcoming death is not something that sounds new either, practically all religions are focused on eradicating finitude and the aspirations of virtuality come to complement this expectation. Until now, this is impossible and virtual reality continues to depend on the sensitivity granted by the body, since there is no way to directly stimulate consciousness without losing control. Consciousness and body are still united and their separation, at least for now, is impossible.

Likewise, the problems that individuality and freedom present to developers as inescapable human traits, that is, dealing with randomness and predicting contingency, are for now unsolvable. Video games, interactive experiences, immersive exhibitions, just to mention a few examples, offer the possibility of choosing between some variables, but they do not contemplate nearly all the options and are not prepared for the unpredictable behavior of human beings.

Until now, the future remains uncertain, death inevitable and the body our only instrument to live.


Some facts about virtual reality: 1) the first virtual reality device was invented by Morton Heiling in 1960, they were multisensory glasses reminiscent of those in the story "Pygmalion's glasses" by Stanley G. Weinbaum; 2) in 1991, Sega VR announced a virtual reality headset for video games, but it was not commercialized; 3) the concept of “metaverse” was coined by Neal Stephenson in his novel SnowCrash; 4) the holodeck, a concept that has been analyzed by experts for the creation of virtual reality experiences, is a model from science fiction, it appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the sensory experience it allows includes smells and tastes; 5) The "Google Cardboard" are cardboard virtual reality glasses marketed by Google, they cost 200 Mexican pesos and are available on Amazon.

Narcissus the obscene

He boasted of having lucid dreams.

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