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Thread: experience - real or simulated

  1. #1
    schlemiel Faust's Avatar
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    experience - real or simulated

    All of us now have the means to subject ourselves to sights and sounds fantastic through the lens of bright, glowing screens. Much of these can simulate what we cannot (or won't bother) to experience on our own, "out in the world". The question becomes - is the nature or consequence of these virtual experiences such that they are better suited only to complement 'real' ones, or can they be appropriate substitutes? Whatever the experience, I don't suppose virtual ones in general match up to the real deal in terms of breadth of lucidity and pleasure, much the same way that "meal-replacement" bars can't replace actual food. That said, we seem to be getting by increasingly on illusions. Plenty of people are glued to some sort of virtual reality for the better portion of their day, perhaps at the expense of their health, and they usually profess to be content (see: league of legends addicts, tv junkies, porn consumers, forum surfers). Often, a mirrored 'real-world' equivalent is either inaccessible, undesirable or impossible due to the fact that the virtual experience is an enhanced, rapid, dopamine-milking trip of our creation, not to be found in nature. The transhumanists will probably see nothing of issue here, unless they take issue with the idea of post-humanity being a sedentary, physically isolated one.

    Do you desire for your experiences to be "real", unfolding out-in-the-world, mainly? Is it possible to quench a desire for adventure and exploration conveniently ($$$, mobility-wise) in the real world as much as through false ones we create? My current favorite virtual avenue (Dark Souls 2) delivers among other things strategic & skilled dueling and co-operation with other players - if any of you like online competition in some form, have you a satisfactory alternative outside your living-room (a sport, say)?

    The question of whether envelopment/totality of technological living is good or bad is a bit overdone. This isn't a red vs blue pill rehash. I'm interested in how or why we reject this trend, and whether real experiences are actually "better", and why they are valuable. I don't think our biological 'purpose' matters in this regard, but I'm inclined to believe there is a state of being or transcendence that occurs out of serving deeply-rooted biological needs. If we reject these, our post-human future will be hideous.
    Last edited by Faust; 04-05-2014 at 10:36 PM.

  2. #2
    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    My primary concern with it is the increasing prevalence of publicly inserted simulated experience. It's one thing to enjoy a simulated experience in isolation. It's quite another to do so when out in the world--and significantly more dangerous.

    There is an element of hypocrisy to my concern though, as I spent much of my youth wandering around with my nose in a book. Funny how that's still considered strange but walking around with your eyes fixed on an LCD screen isn't.

  3. #3
    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faust View Post
    ... I'm interested in how or why we reject this trend, and whether real experiences are actually "better", and why they are valuable. I don't think our biological 'purpose' matters in this regard, but I'm inclined to believe there is a state of being or transcendence that occurs out of serving deeply-rooted biological needs. If we reject these, our post-human future will be hideous.
    I think it is safe to say that over-indulgence of the virtual life fantastic (Lt. Barclay Syndrome) is overall not a good thing. It is obviously addictive and this demands that we ask why?

    IMO

    Like a taste for sweet or salt, humans appear to be wired to seek out vicarious experience (as if these rare gems of virtual insight were vital to our survival) and this strongly suggest Darwinian favor. With the advent of fMRI technology and increasing investigations into the mental dichotomies of Homo vis-a-vis Pan troglodytes (chimps), it has been more and more revealed that all monkeys see but some monkeys see-do.

    Indeed, fMRI analysis reveals that human brains fire in the same ways irrespective of doing or watching another perform an action.

    Too, one of the striking mind-gaps we see in chimps is impoverished social Learning-Teaching behavior. A chimp might be able to learn how to use a tool watching another chimp use it, yet humans solicit an audience to tutor.

    For humans, teaching is nearly as an essential element of nurture as is breast milk, and in an integrated way, humans get really plugged in to learning.

    Kinesthetic learning in this way is a *smirk* no-brainer, but we also experience emotions and intellectual cognitive dissonance vicariously as well.

    Going back in time a half million years and spending an evening with the Homo erectus clan, would no doubt, reveal for us their resident Bards, Shaman, Jocks, and Flirts.

    I think we would fully recognize that we were in the company of humans.
    -----------------------------

    One of the drawbacks of simulated experiences is the small part of your consciousness holding onto (thankfully I suppose) the tiny whisper saying this is an illusion.

    And I guess we could speak about the exponential abilities of our virtual thrills to become more and more immersive with each new gadget. However, I'm not so certain it really is all that technology dependent. Consider how lost you can become in a good book or a Play with only a minimal set.

    Having said as much, one obvious (and maybe thankfully too--- From a Darwinian POV) shortcoming of simulated thrills are the actual risks & cost involved.

    There is a learning IRL adventure and experience that is completely set apart from the virtual. And our vicarious schooling is intended to prepare us for the time when the risk & cost are real.

    /2 tokens in the arcade

  4. #4
    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    I'm not certain. I'd lean on the side of the simulationists, but my experiences in the Real World (such as the Louvre, the Camino de Santiago, and the Regensburg Cathedral) have largely been characterized by discomfort, apprehensiveness, and relief when finally escaped. There were a few positive points, but none of them have much value to me.

    Part of this might be because of some sort of depression-induced anhedonia. Maybe when I'm happy and feel like I'm living my life for real, travel and real-world experience etc. will start to become intractably superior to virtual ones. But I doubt it. I had my nose in a book 'til 3am from the moment I learned to read, and the interactiveness and stimulation values of the fantasy have only increased as I gained access to better technology. Sure, I can zone out for a bus ride if I forgot to charge my phone's battery, but for the most part, I'm connected 24/7 and I like it that way.

    I don't think that addiction and fantasy are inherently bad things. The question is whether they achieve or hinder some ideal. If the ideal is to be fulfilled, doesn't addiction imply that one is choosing the most fulfilling action at any given moment? If the ideal is to be productive, contributing members of society, then isn't it better to implement a system whereby doing so is intrinsically rewarding and therefore addictive?

    I think people give these things a bad rap because of the dysfunction it can cause in extreme, visible cases. But not everyone is obese, yet everyone eats. Not everyone murders, yet everyone experiences conflict with other individuals. Likewise, not everyone who smokes pot regularly is a deadbeat stoner, and not everyone quits their job to get more time to play World of Wacraft.
    Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faust View Post
    The question of whether envelopment/totality of technological living is good or bad is a bit overdone. This isn't a red vs blue pill rehash. I'm interested in how or why we reject this trend, and whether real experiences are actually "better", and why they are valuable. I don't think our biological 'purpose' matters in this regard, but I'm inclined to believe there is a state of being or transcendence that occurs out of serving deeply-rooted biological needs. If we reject these, our post-human future will be hideous.
    Biological purpose may not matter but biological existence does. Ultimately things must be done in reality to continue our biological existence and since we are totally social, things have to be done in the real world by other people to continue our existence. This is where some base level of real experience is essential and therefore better up to that point.

    Another factor favoring real experiences is our physical bodies. The mind and body are an integrated unit. Virtual experiences today leave out the body and are partial in that respect. Virtually taking a hike and really taking a hike are two different things even if the scenery in the virtual hike is a lot better. Perhaps this is why a lot of the virtual is about doing things not easily experienced. Again, it seems to me there is some level of physical activity necessary for well being.

    In the area of communication with other people there is body language. Much of our brain is built around interpreting and sending subtle signals and we rely on these for better communication. Actually talking to a person face to face is something we are wired to do and perhaps wired to crave.

    Technology diminishes the needs of all three physical experiences mentioned. Automation does more of our work. Different interfaces use more of our bodies (this is in infancy). Skype lets us see the other guy's face. The trend is clear.

    We must have a deeply-rooted need to experience new things, to be powerful, to get inside other people's heads and to communicate. Real is probably better if available and certainly better up to the MDRR (minimum daily reality requirement). After that virtual is much cheaper and easier.

    -- this reminds me of the FAST CHEAP GOOD triad. For a project well executed you can have two out of the three. Virtual is usually faster and cheaper for what you get. If we were immortal and fabulously wealthy perhaps we'd reject it for real.

  6. #6
    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    Virtual experiences are about control.

    In the real world, we don't control other people, or circumstances, so every experience is inherently unpredictable and unsafe. We strive to create stable, safe situations for ourselves, and as a result, our lives are routine and boring. No one would want to play my life on an XBOX. Would they want to play yours?

    Virtual interaction gives us the power to create worlds which are both compelling and safe. The holodeck is a great analogy (as mentioned above), because it attempts to simulate human experiences without the negatives. Create situations which have the perception of risk without the reality. The reward without the punishment.

    Why play Simcity? Because you control the zoning. In life, it's virtually impossible to control entire systems of individuals - they each have a million desires and preferences and values, and you have to factor in that information. But you don't have it in reality, you can't factor it in, you can only guess and hope, and most of your decisions are horribly wrong. So you limp through life, half blind, trying to make a way for yourself, a tiny part of a huge universe, with zero control at all.

    You are very small. The world is not about you.

    Virtual experiences ARE about you. They're designed to make you the only thing that matters. All of those other people you can't possibly understand or control, and circumstances you can't predict, and a world you can't fathom...are made to serve you.
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

  7. #7
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    I'd agree with the observation that most simulations of reality don't even try to simulate what most people experience of reality, although I have encountered some interesting developments along those lines. E.g. video games that now incorporate things from real life which I would have thought a bit too tedious to be game material but seem to be thrown in so that the mental rhythm of interacting with the virtual world more closely resembles that of interacting with the real world. From personal experience I'm thinking of the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R., where for example they put in a game mechanic where your character will starve to death if not periodically fed (making it arguably a unique example of genre fusion between First Person Shooters and Tamagochis), and pointing it out because I love that game. It's ridiculously absorbing. It's a game in a genre that has historically been all about packing as many quick-shot-of-adrenaline-from-vicarious-mortal-danger stimuli into a short span of time as possible, yet someone goes the other way (at least how I play it--I'll spend an hour revisiting a now-pacified battlefield to meticulously loot dozens of corpses for goods I can sell) and the result is celebrated for its ingenuity in making the genre more interesting.


    Nonetheless, it is about control, and it is about having an experience you couldn't or wouldn't want to have in real life. Testing my combat/wilderness survival skills against a radioactive landscape full of powerful things that want to kill me is an amusing diversion precisely because I can switch the 'danger' off whenever I want and I can fail to 'survive' as many times as I want without losing anything of significance. In real life, people work very hard to expunge danger from their surroundings precisely because neither of these two conditions applies.

    I don't play WoW or Second Life, but I suspect the appeal has a lot to do with how the virtual milieux is tied to an electronic network that negates physical distance as an obstacle in making interpersonal contacts, creating a much larger pool of potential associations than is available in "meatspace." That would also seem to be the appeal of internet forums like this one.


    I've been playing pickup basketball, and yeah, it does offer pretty much everything I used to get from Counterstrike (except the huge pool of competitors), with some additional benefits that online gaming doesn't provide. It doubles as health-promoting exercise, for one thing, and even on a psychological level it's qualitatively different as a competitive experience. Playing to the point of exhaustion leaves me feeling genuinely satisfied, not just strung out and trying to force my eyes to stay open as my craving for one more hit of endorphins struggles against my awareness that I need to perform maintenance tasks on my body like eating and sleeping. I've actually gotten a lot better at it over the last few months, and this is rewarding in a more holistic way than being good at Counterstrike is rewarding--probably because, e.g., hitting a difficult shot represents transferably valuable achievements like becoming more physically agile rather than simply having learned the quirks of how a particular software engine simulates gunshots. (I have read about studies suggesting that FPS games actually provide more training in aspects of using a firearm than one might think, but then again I'm not really planning on getting myself into any situations where I would need to be good at shooting people.)


    There was a point in my life where I used to veg out watching TV a lot--Law and Order was enough of a personal favorite that I'd even veg to Special Victims Unit although I found that one vastly inferior. Episodes of the original series were typically split into procedural investigation and courtroom segments, with the latter usually based on defendants coming up with implausible legal arguments that would at least sometimes represent interesting thought-problems to ponder as you watched Sam Waterston figure out how to shoot them down. (It was pro wrestling for anyone who'd ever been on a high school debate team, basically.) But I ended up feeling a little disgusted with myself once this devolved into four-hour sessions of watching SVU--which rarely employed the investigation/trial split, favoring an emphasis on shock value crime plots and silly drama between the main characters--because I realized I'd basically just devoted four hours of my life to acts of rape, murder and such that someone literally imagined just to amuse me.

    It's not like concern for things like sexual violence as a social issue is what drives the popularity of that show. I was just sitting there lapping up the little bits of adrenaline I could glean from imaginary people's misery--all in all, I think it's kind of fucked up that that show even exists, and SVU sounds downright vanilla compared to shows I've never watched like Dexter or Breaking Bad. I never really liked murder-mystery novels either, and for basically the same reason--if the only reason I'm supposed to care about someone's imaginary gruesome death is that I'll be entertained by tagging along as some other imaginary person tries to figure out how they died, well I'll pass because even I can think of any number of more interesting and less depressing things for imaginary people to do. You'd probably be less than thrilled to have someone get murdered in the apartment next to yours, so WTF is up with how many people seek out imaginary murder as a way to occupy their downtime? I don't get it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

  8. #8
    Persona Oblongata OrionzRevenge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polemarch View Post
    Virtual experiences are about control.

    ...
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico View Post
    ...

    Nonetheless, it is about control, ... Special Victims Unit ....
    I realize I haven't addressed the central inquiry asked by the OP, but I think the issue first needs to be fleshed-out, as it were, as a biological/psychological phenomenon much larger than the scope herein presented.

    Too, I'm reminded here of the FBI criminal profiler Dr. George Huang from L&O SVU. As he once had a suspect that was obsessive about a recreation he had long ago mastered, and Haung (BD Wong) spoke of the pathology of this being indicative of someone finding control in recreation where it was lacking IRL. Thusly, this is obviously one of the pitfalls and is certainly the attraction for fantasy exhibited by Lt Barclay.

    But, Haung's suspect indulged in cross-word puzzles.

    Therefore I think it might provide a greater Gamma Correction of illumination to broaden the scope. As the phenomenon predates vacuum tubes by thousands of years, and often the experience occurs where the only control available is to turn away.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immersi...ual_reality%29

    Types of immersion

    Classic Virtual reality HMD


    According to Ernest W. Adams, author and consultant on game design,[1] immersion can be separated into three main categories:

    Tactical immersion
    Tactical immersion is experienced when performing tactile operations that involve skill. Players feel "in the zone" while perfecting actions that result in success.

    Strategic immersion
    Strategic immersion is more cerebral, and is associated with mental challenge. Chess players experience strategic immersion when choosing a correct solution among a broad array of possibilities.

    Narrative immersion
    Narrative immersion occurs when players become invested in a story, and is similar to what is experienced while reading a book or watching a movie.

    Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen, in Patterns In Game Design,[2] divide immersion into similar categories, but call them sensory-motoric immersion, cognitive immersion and emotional immersion, respectively. In addition to these, they add a new category:

    Spatial immersion

    Spatial immersion occurs when a player feels the simulated world is perceptually convincing. The player feels that he or she is really "there" and that a simulated world looks and feels "real".
    Consider how Saving Private Ryan allows us to vicariously experience the stark realities of war, or how a computer simulation like Silent Hunter allows us to learn about period history in a way not taught at a chalk board.
    Last edited by OrionzRevenge; 04-07-2014 at 06:50 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polemarch View Post
    Virtual experiences are about control.
    I agree and your explanation points to an individual controlling the virtual reality they are in.

    But consider, real experiences take place in the real world which is beyond anybody's control. Almost all virtual experiences are crafted by someone other than the user for their own reasons. We like to think these experiences are only created for money or for the sake of art, but it would be easy and effective to influence another person by the virtual world that is created.

  10. #10
    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    So in summary, virtual reality is a safer environment where the individual can feel important and in control, and/or connect with a broader cross-section of people. These benefits alone, I think, are pretty substantial.

    Downsides include:
    -Not incorporating enough of the body - real exercise keeps you in shape.
    > but this is improving.

    -Not being hi-fi/immersive enough.
    > but this is improving.

    -Skills learned in a simulation may not be more generally useful.
    > but then again, they might. It depends on the simulation.

    -The whisper that 'this is not real'.
    > I don't care. Why do you?

    -We allow some pretty fucked up shit to happen, and even enjoy it, because we know it's not real.
    > but, by that same token, it allows us to vicariously experience and think about those issues without having to go through them ourselves.

    -It can be used to 'program' people.
    > This is not inherently a bad or good thing. For example, I'm pretty sure it helps people to be more tolerant when they see TV shows demonstrating that homosexuality, women in non-traditional roles, interracial marriages etc. are not 'weird'.

    Did I miss one? Counterpoints?
    Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

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