It is speculated that with advancing technological improvements in the video game industry, we will soon be able to delve into alternate realities, or virtual realities. From an Objectivist standpoint, I tend to think that such a device would be amoral, where it can distract one from reality, and nothing significant will get done in the real world. Don't get me wrong; any technological advance is a good thing. But is it really good if it lets one escape the essence of reality? If used in this sense, is it irrational? Immoral?
The morality of such a device would be contextual. If it's used, like rational people use such things as video games (as well as movies/novels/etc.), to temporarily "escape" reality, in the form of taking a break, then it would be simply one more form of entertainment. If, however, it were used to replace reality, in a manner similar to "The Matrix" or some such thing, then it would be immoral.
I must also point out that your claim that "any technological advance is a good thing" must also be taken in context. Any technological advance has the potential for good or for evil.
answered Feb 06 '12 at 17:24
Proper moral evaluation is centered on people's statements, actions and conscious convications. A technology, per se, is neither moral or immoral. Once invented it simply is.
What can be moral or immoral is the use to which a technology is put. Technology increases the scope, scale and efficacy of human action -- but we morally evaluate the action, not the technology divorced from action. A gun can be used morally, in self-defense or recreation; it can be used immorally, to violate the rights of innocent victims. Escaping into a book can be moral, e.g. if done for recreation and spiritual refueling, or immoral, e.g. if done to avoid thinking about or addressing some other problem or issue in one's life. Objectivism upholds productivity as a major virtue, but even work can be abused -- a workaholic who immerses himself in his job to avoid dealing with the fact that his spouse is slipping into insanity, for example, is acting immorally.
A highly-immersive simulation experience is just another example of this general principle. Using such a thing for recreational purposes could be moral -- even highly entertaining. Using it to escape from reality would be immoral for the same reason that using drugs to escape from reality is immoral: you can't escape from reality. The facts that you were trying to avoid by diving into 'virtual reality' would not stop being true just because you pushed them out of your mind with a distraction.
There are some technologies that are easier to use in life-destructive ways than others. (Addictive drugs with legitimate medical uses, for example.) But the correct way to identify such technologies is "risky" or "dangerous", not "immoral".
answered Feb 08 '12 at 18:16
Kyle Haight ♦