What is a virtual world? It is simply a human build construct, limited by the imagination of humans and based on the perceptions of humans. Virtual reality or virtual worlds always existed in some way. It actually started simply, in the world of thoughts of a single human mind. Then, as communication improved and evolved, these thoughts started to have more importance and became more “real” as the ways to express them improved.
Thoughts are not bounded by reality and therefore, human probably have had thoughts expanding their own reality to explore possibilities for hundred thousands of years preceeding our era. These thoughts included transformations of the mind related to things that could be, things from the past, things heard somewhere, things foreseen for the future, etc. These are virtual in the sense that reality is happening now, not in the future, nor in the past.
An idea for someone, may be a reality for another but if it is not communicated to another person, it dies as if it never existed. In humanity, recognition of an idea by the others creates some kind of meaning, meaning then justify existence. A thought that can’t be expressed efficiently has less recognition, therefore less meaning for the others, and creates less interest amongst them (the thought has a meaning for the others and a meaning in itself which are two different things). So as communication improved, the world of ideas and thoughts acquired meaning and extended its reach and importance.
For example, take native nations and observe their reactions as they watch your favorite movie. They won’t care and see the interests that you see in it. Why is that? It is because the movie is not real and they know it, so it doesn’t bring anything useful to their life and they can’t picture themselves in these virtual circumstances and environments shown at the screen. Does that mean that we can picture ourselves in these virtual circumstances? Somehow yes! Because these movies, books and games are rooted in our culture and then influence variations of the next wave of our culture in a spiral that shape our subconscious when we grow up. We could probably capture the attention of native nations with a movie that shows people living situations that they encounter in life, wearing clothes that they wear, realizing the dreams that they have, and so on. So by creating a virtual story close to their reality, we could probably get some of them to develop an interest for a kind of virtual reality: movies.
When the society was in its early stage of evolution, all these glimpses of a “virtual” reality, or a reality that could exist, were without interest because most people were still grounded on reality and its challenges. As long as the constraints of existence were not overcome enough, most people were mainly focus on their duties to try to survive in the world. There must have been creators, dreamers or whatever you want to call them at that time, but their way of expressions were limited.
In humanity in general, most of what is considered important or valuable for a person is herited from the perceptions acquired from the parents and the host society. So as long as the virtual worlds do not enter the cult of the society, very few people will have interests in them. Look at the increase in consumption and time spent on virtual reality over the last 50 years, how people are addicted to tv, how video games are popular these days and respected compared to 30 years ago. Perceptions changes as the next generations are born into a different society with a different hierarchy of priorities.
But as time passed and as the typical human being became more confident that he wouldn’t die from hunger, the mind has had more time to explore its creativy. That creates the opportunity to dig deeper into the “dream”, creating metamorphosis of the reality that are increasigly wicked and unbalanced. The more the mind has free time and free spirit, the more the ideas can hatch inside our brain.
The first virtual universes were singular, simple ideas in the mind of a single individual that came up to consciousness almost as fast as they went away. Eventually, society evolved sufficiently so that language was developped and stories were told and passed from generations to generations. These were probably the first instances of virtual reality in the society. Art flourished, painting, music, writing, acting, etc. were all new tools to communicate ideas that otherwise could not have a reality attached to them. These virtuals universes helped people enter another person’s virtual universe, helped to share emotions, stories, possibilities and meaning.
Novels and books were written by those that had virtual ideas of a certain magnitude. Already at that stage, there were people addicted to these virtual universes, people that wished their life would be more like this or that story in a book. This lasted for a few centuries.
Eventually, as the media and communication method progressed, television and movies became an important source of entertainment. At first, people watched movies as pure entertainment understanding that it is virtual, detached from reality, but as this became an habit, these virtual realities started to influence people’s life, society, expectations, goals in life, behavior, fashion, etc. In other words, from this point on, the virtual universes created in an art, started to influence greatly the evolution of societies and behaviors. Movies were not so virtual anymore and many people these days expect their life to ressemble those presented in many movies. The virtuality was confounded with reality in many cases and over time.
Since the 80s, the addiction and the influence of virtual reality universes has reach new summits. New phenomenons includes, video games, online gaming, mobile gaming, series, animation (manga), etc. These complex universes are more immersive than any other virtual world that were created before. The result is that more and more people are getting addicted to them and many people invest more time in these virtual realities than in their own reality.
Why does virtual reality has a negative impact on humanity? The first reason is obvious: it is a way to avoid reality, this implies denial of its own condition, its responsability and its mission on Earth. The second reason is practical, while we spend time on virtual stuff, we don’t invest this time in our own life progressing towards our goals. Surely, virtual worlds and stories presented in movies, books or games can make us realize things but overall if you look at how much it drives people compared to how much it draggs them, the conclusion obvious: it creates a world of uninvolved people in life’s real issues. The third reason is more subtile since you would need to understand what is a balanced mind to fully understand what I will mean. In short, by exposing our brain to virtual worlds we get exposed to all sort of unbalanced and wicked vision of life, which unbalance our own perceptions about life. In contrary to nature, which present to us a balanced vision of existence, movies, games, books and other virtual universes are the fruit of mostly unbalanced human minds, influencing and educating people negatively more than positively. These universes are a fantastic way for a creator to promote its own misconceptions about life and prejudices.
There is so much work to do in order to create a world where there is less suffering, all the time and the energies wasted on the overabondance of useless and unbalanced virtual universes could be redirected towards constructive initiatives. These virtual universes normally have negative impact on the health of individual by making them inactive for countless hours, while some other technologies expose them to dangerous electromagnetic waves (mobile gaming and virtual reality). Globally, most immersive virtual worlds based on the repetition of the same behavior or reflexes, like gaming, are not healthy and don’t bring anything positive in the long term.
I suggest you invest more time into real life and less time on every virtual aspect of it. The right dose of virtuality can be beneficial but finding something worth our time is a quest in itself in a world where the products of the human mind are at such a low level.