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‘We’re Running with Scissors’: Why Some Experts Worry About VR Dangers

April 7, 2017

What if virtual reality wasn’t just a new way to play games or watch movies? What if the technology wasn’t just creating new methods of communication, of medical treatment, of military training?

What if virtual reality was used in the pursuit of mayhem?

Much has been said about the positives of technology that can reshape reality or even create a new one, but last month two respected academic researchers held a talk at South by Southwest in Austin to explore not just those positives, but also the potential negatives of reality technology.

“This is a scene from a movie from the 1940s called Gaslight,” Todd Richmond told the packed room, pointing to a screen showing a man and a woman standing by an old gaslight in a home. “How many people know what gaslighting is? So the term gaslighting comes from when lights used to be gas fueled. And it’s a way of driving someone into mental distress by manipulating their environment without telling them and then denying that it’s being manipulated. So the classic, the gaslight lamp lighting is that you slowly turn down the lights on your spouse because you’re trying to drive your spouse nuts. Your spouse says, ‘Is it getting darker?’ And you say, ‘No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And if you do that enough over time, you would begin to freak people out.

“So is VR the perfect platform for this? The answer is, yeah, if you’re going to use it for that.”

Read the full article on Polygon.