What’s Real?

Imagine a classroom where a student gets so sucked into Mech Arena that he doesn’t hear the teacher ask him a question. What’s more real to the student: the classroom, where he’s surrounded by other members of his own species, or the game he’s playing, where his avatar competes against code?

I’ve always preferred “real” interactions to virtual ones. Hitting an ace in a tennis match played on an actual tennis court is far more rewarding to me than an “ace” earned against a computer by flicking my wrist. Listening to a band playing in the physical space I currently inhabit is generally more fun than listening to a recording of the same band. However, in a world where artificial intelligence can create virtual worlds–not to mention essay-length responses–by the utterance of simple commands, how will we discern reality from virtual reality? How will we cleave the truth from what we merely want to be true?

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14 Responses to What’s Real?

  1. Bill Arnoldus says:

    There will come a time when virtual reality, AI’s and computer programs will be indistinguishable from reality. This already exists in some fields. For now there are ways to distinguish specific examples of AI, virtual reality and computer programs works from real life wether it be from running an AI written essay through another AI to find if it was written by an AI or recognizing a track on a realistic racing game and finding out the video of a crash you saw on the internet wasn’t real. But some truths will stay indistinguishable from what we want to be true. Truth is fickle and isn’t often in black and white. For now, we can search the web and not to long after starting, find the truth we searched for as long as we are smart with how we go about obtaining this truth.

  2. Vishnu Gadepalli says:

    Technology has been crucial in making the world better for people. Their jobs and other simple everyday tasks have been made much more efficient. On the contrary, there are also other instances where technology completely envelopes those who use it for they can’t tell the real world from the virtual world. Our lives nowadays almost completely depend on technology and when the computers that run our lives mess up, problems ensue. All this to say, times are changing, just as they’ve had forever. In order to differentiate the real world and the virtual world, to unblur the lines between fact and fiction, we must instill the smart use of technology in future generations. For example, when computers started to gain traction, there were more computer classes in schools — similarly, now we must teach a refurbished form of digital literacy to students. It is our duty to use technology to better humankind and use it for productive reasons rather than out of mere laziness. The internet is a tool to find the truth, but ultimately it is up to us to think critically regarding to validity of a claim. With digital literacy and critical thinking classes, the impact of mis/disinformation will be reduced and a smarter environment will be fostered.

  3. Gordon Welch says:

    Discerning reality from virtual reality will become “virtually” impossible over the next few decades if nothing is done. I hope that there will eventually be a push to unplug ourselves from virtual reality, and a lot of schoolwork will return to paper. I believe discerning virtual reality from reality won’t be too difficult if specific measures are taken, but regulation is needed. This includes the government passing legislation in order to keep virtual media companies from taking advantage of the human population. Cleaving the truth from what we want to be true will require self control, and only the future will tell us how that will go. As of now, things don’t look too good, anyone seems susceptible to falling into the virtual world and losing track of the present as is.

  4. Gracyn Young says:

    I believe that it will get to a point where people won’t want to discern real life from reality, and with this in combination with the possibility that AI and other technologies will become, in Bill Arnoldus’ words “indistinguishable,” will make our future with technology dangerous. If we don’t start to distance ourselves now, within the next few years, and with an increase in technology, it will only be harder. We need to be smart with the development of technology and this is only one of the reasons.

  5. Atticus Ross says:

    Right now, I believe that humans can discern between AI and virtual reality from reality. The essays that can be generated by AI can be identified because AI doesn’t have souls, unlike humans. They are just codes and programs written to complete and perform certain tasks. However, with technology becoming more important than it ever has, it is quickly adapting and new advancements are made every day. Who knows if it will take weeks or years before virtual reality becomes identical to our reality? As for cleaving for the truth, this will be even harder in the future. The internet already inhabits information that is untrue and can skew to opinionated answers and beliefs people want to see. This will just grow as the internet continues to adapt, the real question is will we adapt with it?

  6. Avery McMechan says:

    While it is true that the world of AI is growing to a concerining similarity to the real world it will never quite be the same. There is a sense of fulfilment that comes with the things of reality that simply doesn’t exist in the virtual world. Gracyn brings an incredibly important point as well, that humanity will not want to discern reality from the virtual world. While they will try their best to find the fulfilment they wanted from the real world, in this new virtual world, part of it will always be just that virtual. Because of this there is always going to be those who will reject it, like the common blue-collar working class of America, who commonly reject the need for college. Or maybe in a more extreme sense, those who find fulfilment in religion and reject the modern way, like the Amish who reject technology itself. Part of the new virtual world will always be different from the real world, there is no Matrix level scenario anywhere in our near futures. Because of this, our world is not going to be bound by the technology of AI, but by our decesions as humanity. It will be the choice of the people, to live “quiet lives of desperation,” attempting to find our fulfilment in the unreal. Or to find ourselves in the sights of nature, the faith of religion, and the world of reality.

  7. Alex White says:

    Even though it is easy for people to discern reality from virtual reality today, I do not think that people will be able to separate the two in the near future. As technology becomes more advanced and people continue to push beyond the preconceived limitations, virtual realities and simulations will only become more realistic. This is the ultimate goal of developing this technology anyway: to create a virtual reality that is almost identical to reality. However, this technology also strives to create a world better than the one we currently live in for all users. If they accomplish this more people will want to invest/buy their product and ultimately spend more time using it. Because of this goal it is easy to foresee a future where virtual reality is the more dominant or preferred “reality”; it’s realistic enough but not too realistic where the user cannot do anything they set their mind to. The only way to separate the truth from these fictional worlds would be the needs of the human body. The human body requires food, water, sunlight, and other important materials that these false realities cannot provide. The moment people step away to fulfill these needs will be the only moment reality could be discerned from virtual reality.

  8. Elijah Camba says:

    I think that it comes from a level of self-awareness and being conscious of what you surround yourself with. The lines in which we draw that separate reality and fiction are getting more blurred. In fact, it honestly depends on the person on how they can differentiate between the two.

    To me, as long as I am self-aware of who I am as a person, then I can handle experiencing fiction that seems real.

  9. James Talamo says:

    I don’t believe there will come a time where a virtual reality could be fully mistaken as ones true reality (considering the user doesn’t have some mental illness which causes their perception of reality to be changed). As an MSMS student, I believe it’s perfect to compare the situation to a limit statement. We will continue to approach the goal, but never truly be able to reach it. VR will be so close, but there is things we can’t replicate. You can’t virtualize the feeling of a real hug, or the taste of your favorite food, or the smell of flowers. When you look at the improvement of video game graphics since the release of pong, you will see a flattening slope. I truly believe there is a limit for how far we can go, and I don’t think that limit is anywhere near the point at which a sane human could be tricked into thinking that VR is truly reality.

  10. bradley kuebler says:

    Over the past 50 years, technology has improved at an unbelievable rate, going from the worlds first personal computer being released in the 1970s which was very primitive, and landline telephones still being the norm, to computers as small as our hand that can transmit information across the world in less than a second. Despite the extremely quick rise of technology over the past 50 years, and improvement of this technology, I believe that eventually this rise will plateau. With this plateau, I think AI technology and VR technology will hit a brick wall and not be able to reach a level of reality that compares to our own.

  11. Julia Nguyen says:

    The world, as we know it, is slowly turning to technology. In anything we do, there is some sort of technology/computer associated with it. The object I use to type this blog post is a prime example of technology, the washing machines at our house are another.. over time, the question of whether or not AI will take over the world will become more relevant as technology becomes more advanced. People today praise the form of technology and how innovative it is/will become.

  12. Kadie Van says:

    As the world moves into more of a technological world, reality becomes mixed in with the virtual world. What we can do in life, we can find to do with technology which causes the problem with virtual and actual mix-up. In the future, if technology becomes more advance, I am afraid the screens and AI’s will take over our world and the fun of life will be drained from the screens in front of us. I hope we can continue to keep a balance between technology and life in the future.

  13. Dyllon Martin says:

    Even though the world is advancing rapidly with a plethora of new technology and AI software, there will always be room for reality as we see it. In terms of relativity, we will always perceive things differently, and as humans, we can distinguish between what’s real and what is artificial. That being said, the grasp modern innovations have on our youth is stronger than ever. Growing up, my fun was going outside and playing hide N seek with my friends, fishing at the pond, shooting each other with nerf guns, and letting our imaginations roam freely. Today, my 7-year-old sister is creating her own world on Roblox. The days out of fresh air and freedom are coming to an end, the status quo has changed to a 9″ x 7″ LCD screen. Fortunately, not all hope is lost, but it will take a drastic change to go back to the good old days.

  14. Ava Wilson says:

    At first, we can’t, when the dopamine that the screen creates is all that one person may know, they don’t know that there is anything better. Until you get to see that concert in person can you distinguish the real from the fake. As long as that is possible, AI won’t completely take over our world. The only people that want to analyze AI-generated images are the computer scientists and programmers that created them. The AI takes what is real about the Mona Lisa and Van Goghs and dampens it. You put and AI image next to a real piece of art, you can tell the difference.

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