Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Virtual Torture

James Poulos doesn't like the idea of "making things safe by making them virtual"...especially our concept of pain ...
Frustrated by the irreducible remainder of suffering in the world, we want at least to be in charge of it — or at least take control of the administration of sessions in which we experience virtual suffering. We try to separate real suffering from a sense of suffering, under a therapeutic version of Mill’s ‘harm principle’ in which only real suffering, as opposed to virtual suffering, really harms people. If we can only master our response to our sense of suffering — use it to create a real hardness in ourselves — then perhaps we can face the real world with less fear and neurosis.
And I'd say that through these attempts we make ourselves less capable of empathy, or at least we leave ourselves with the illusion of empathy, when in fact we have become strangers to the basic problems of being human, first among them pain and suffering...

In any case, the whole notion of creating virtual pain (or virtual anything for that matter) to better understand ourselves and the world, strikes me as rather wrong-headed. If anything, the more we've become exposed to the "unreal" in its many forms (movies, video games, nightly news) the more detached and apathetic we've become--and this entirely by accident. We don't set out to become more numb to the world, but I think that's the price we pay for virtual living as opposed to real life.