Virtual Reality Can Be an Engine of Empathy

Virtual Reality Can Be an Engine of Empathy

"Imagine instead of writing a poem or painting a picture to express yourself, you construct an entire world in virtual reality and invite others in to make an intimate assessment of who you are and what you project to be." 

This is the future Jason Silva imagines in a new video by Big Think.


Virtual reality like other media technologies like cinema is an engine of empathy because it speeds up the capacity to achieve presence in the mediated world. And so with a movie theater the size of the screen, the surround sound audio puts you there. With the Oculus Rift potentially you’re surrounded now by the media, by the simulated dreamscape. So you are even more there. So when I say an agent of empathy, the UN, just released a virtual reality film of a Syrian refugee camp, you know. The fact that we’re able to put reporters now virtually on the ground it elicits a sort of experience that is so much more visceral, so much more powerful, that the elusive sense of presence that literally puts you in a liminal trance state. Your defenses get lowered. You forget yourself. You forget your problems. You are there. You are in the moment. And so, you know, the power of that as an engine of empathy I think can’t hurt humanity, you know. I think it’s like they talk in the movie Interstellar our empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight. And I think with virtual reality and the Oculus Rift we now are extending our line of sight by being able to go everywhere at the speed of mind. And I think that’s transformational.
— Jason Silva