Self-Sovereignty in Virtual Reality: Humans Won’t Know They’re in the Matrix, and They Don’t Need Toby@nftbro
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Self-Sovereignty in Virtual Reality: Humans Won’t Know They’re in the Matrix, and They Don’t Need To

by NFT BroMarch 4th, 2024
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This article delves into the concept of virtual reality as a means to reconstruct society and governance, challenging traditional systems and offering new possibilities. It examines philosophical questions and technical advancements, envisioning a future where virtual worlds become indistinguishable from reality.
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Virtual reality allows us to rebuild a more human society from the ground up - from financial systems to governance and the very concept of “state". "System" says the metaverse is the wrong way for humanity. It resists its development and tries to stop its popularity.

In my opinion, rebuilding the existing world and its "system" is impossible. But it is possible in virtual reality. Consider this, we can create a world without bureaucracy, institutions, and an authoritarian legacy.

With this article, I opt out of a current "system" built in our real world and encourage people not to fear metaverses as they are our future. I believe that virtual worlds should never be considered as a way to escape from reality - they are just as real and can be lived in.

"The Matrix" and science fiction classics: can we consider these works suitable metaverse examples?

Every science fiction writer is a kind of philosopher because every science fiction work is a mental experiment. The author makes some assumptions like the existence of intelligent machines or completely virtual reality, and on this basis, models the possible development of events. Philosophers do approximately the same thing.

Stanisław Herman Lem is outstanding in this respect. Many of his ideas of the middle of the last century then passed into philosophy. Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski in "The Matrix" also worked out some ideas and problems quite well, but I disagree with them on one of the main points.

The main characters of "The Matrix" talk about the feeling of unreality of the world created by machines. They say this feeling appears because of some trifles and starts to drive them crazy. I am sure a human cannot distinguish a quality virtual reality from the real world. And in principle, there is no need for that.

So there's no way we can tell we're living in a virtual world instead of the real one?

Perhaps we can if the simulation turns out to be imperfect. For example, objects sometimes fall through surfaces. Or if the creators start communicating with us and showing us all sorts of unrealistic miracles, such as turning the Statue of Liberty upside down or moving the waters of the sea. However, I doubt even that would convince all people of the world's unreality.

The hardest case is a perfect simulation completely indistinguishable from reality, in which the creators do not interfere. Then, it is not clear how we could test its artificiality. Any experiments would proceed exactly as they would in reality. It is difficult even to imagine what could be the proof of virtuality of such a world. Science is powerless here, leaving pure philosophy with no way to test hypotheses.

We know that simulations can be created with computers. In 50 or 100 years, we will surely be able to create a virtual reality that is completely indistinguishable from the real world. The question then arises: how can we be sure that we ourselves are living in the real world and not in one of the simulations? Especially if we ourselves do not notice any difference.

If there is no difference, it probably doesn't matter, does it?

Let's imagine that tomorrow, we somehow reliably learn that our world is a computer simulation like the Matrix. I think it would shock people at first. Some people will think their whole life has been an illusion and a lie. They will feel terrible. But I think, little by little, people will get used to it and move on because the feeling of the reality of the world is not connected with what the world is made of.

Subjective sensations will not become less real to us, nor will our experiences become less valuable if we learn that we live in a simulation. The Earth will continue to revolve around the Sun, friends will remain friends, and we will still need to do something to live. It will turn out that trees, buildings, and our own bodies are made up of bits rather than atoms - but what will that change for a particular person?

In a sense, we already know that we live in a simulation. The world people think is real is merely the result of our bodies. We do not perceive physical reality directly; we only receive a model created by our eyes, ears, skin, and brain. Directly, we can perceive only our subjective experience: sensations, emotions, thoughts, and so on. And any external world is infinitely distant from us.

That is why I tend to draw the line not between the real and the virtual but between the corporeal and the virtual. All worlds outside the human body (or, rather, outside the human mind) are virtual to a certain extent, including "real" physical reality. But no one seems to be confused by the fact that our human vision of reality has little to do with quantum mechanics, which shows the true structure of reality.

We are not really interested in what the world around us is made of. The main thing is that it works according to certain rules. That is, it's all about a person's willingness to recognize the world as real and to behave as if everything around them has some significance. None of us think, "Everything around us is made of strange, incomprehensible atoms, so it's all an illusion". We're just living. Then why should we think this way about zeros and ones?

Then what does it mean to be real? What is a person ready to recognize as real?

First of all, the world must be objective; it must exist beyond our mind and beyond our will so that objects are stable and the spoon does not bend even when we think it is not there. Cause and effect relationships must work in this world so that people's actions lead to some changes, and those changes lead to the next change.

This has to do with the way our brains work. It has long been thought that it receives undistorted information from the senses. In fact, the brain filters it to suit its expectations, which are influenced by previous experiences. Everything that enters the brain mixes with episodes of its memory - as if anticipating a picture of what is happening. This mechanism works already at the level of vision.

Apparently, it is impossible to get rid of this peculiarity of the brain in principle because it was evolutionarily developed as a "prediction machine", which very much dislikes being wrong in expectations. Therefore, objectivity, causality, and predictability should be at the core of any virtual reality that wants to be human-friendly.

Also, the world should not restrict people from interacting with each other. It is the contacts between people that weave together a shared reality, so a living virtual world is hardly possible without people's freedom to do both wonderful and terrible things together.

Aren't the technical aspects important? The resolution and color of the picture, the presence of touch...

It's all important, but in my opinion, it's secondary. Simply because we already have examples of virtual realities that are technically bad, but people are still willing to spend a lot of time in them to live their whole lives.

Look at Second Life. It has outdated graphics with no real three-dimensionality. Users still sit in front of their monitors and see a flat picture. But that doesn't really bother them. Second Life, for almost 20 years of history, has become a prototype of the meta-universe - concerts and interviews with famous people take place in this virtual world.

On the other hand, there are worlds with full-fledged VR, like VRChat and Rec Room, and none of them have been as successful as Second Life. So, people don't care so much about technical specs.

The generation of 50-year-olds tends to think of games and other virtual worlds as something second-rate to mainstream reality. I don't think it has to do with their technical scarcity. Rather, they consider games meaningless, empty pastimes that do not impact real life. But this perception is outdated.

Digital worlds have their own economies, people use them to solve social and political problems, and virtual realities have become more than just self-sufficient. They are already influencing the main, "real" reality. Virtual worlds should not be seen as a means of escapism, an escape from reality. Virtual worlds extend the physical world, and building a meaningful life in them is also possible.

However, the technical aspects are important in terms of mass appeal: the worse a virtual world covers the human senses, the more potential users it scares away. Few people want to play computer games without sound, but a whole virtual world without sounds would probably seem like a completely unacceptable option.

When will virtual reality become indistinguishable from the physical world?

Right now, virtual worlds in the form of games and meta-universe are facing "childish" problems like the inconvenience of VR headsets. Of course, living a fulfilling life in a virtual reality with only pictures, sounds, dizziness, and neck pain is hard. I think it will take us 20 or 30 years just to start covering vision and hearing perfectly. Maybe partially cover touch, too.

Virtual reality will become truly mainstream when it can simulate the smells, tastes, and bodily sensations of eating, drinking, and sex. It's unlikely to do this without a full-fledged neural interface that connects directly to the central nerves, as in "The Matrix". And it seems to me that such an interface will appear only by the end of the century.

With the development of technical means, even the external difference between real and virtual worlds will become increasingly blurred until simulation becomes completely indistinguishable from physical reality. The virtual world does not have to copy the real world completely. The simulation can be completely fantastic, even fairy-tale-like - the main thing is that it remains fundamentally understandable and familiar to humans.