Reading Response to It’s Ridiculous to Use Virtual Reality to Empathize With Refugees
Unlike other articles, this one addresses the limitations of VR simulation of the real world. Many people are optimistic about VR as a new way for us to feel empathy. Virtual reality is, as Chris Milk put it in his TED talk, “the ultimate empathy machine.”Perhaps virtual reality can be harnessed to help us care for and help communities such as refugees, the homeless, and people with physical and mental disabilities.
However, this article refutes his view. The most important reason is that empathy in many cases has nothing to do with the experience of the physical environment we’re simulating because we can’t really experience fear and anxiety by wearing VR headsets. One specific limitation of VR concerns security and controllability. The VR world creates a virtual, relatively safe environment in which it is more easily controlled by the user. For example, we can stop whenever we want to, and start when we want to, but the real reality is not.