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Viruses And Virtual Reality

The movie “Ready Player One”, based on the book of the same name, is a popular novel about a world where most of one’s life is lived online in a virtual reality space that mimics real life extremely well.  Users plug into the net in various ways, from shunts into their brain to suits and glasses.

In the last few years virtual reality has made huge strides and there are multiple goggles and games that you can play.  However, there are still some drawbacks.  For instance, controlling characters still requires the use of a stick or controller of some sort, and the movement of specific VR games is limited.  For instance, in the DOOM VR game you can’t move freely around the levels.  This is a hurdle for developers of the technology as well as the games.

If you could get the VR system to read your intent, aka read your mind, then we would be well on our way to solving this problem.  But how to do that?  Will we be able to develop a computer system that could read our minds?  And if so, then what would be the implications of such a system?

The other thing to think about is whether or not viruses would affect a virtual world.  You would have to imagine that they would, as it’s all computer based.  Would these viruses then be able to affect your brain, should the brain/computer gap be breached?  Since our brains are simply electrical impulses and are already susceptible to chemical and electronic interference, you would have to think that this could be a definite possibility.  Tad Williams’ books “Otherland” address this very issue.

Present antivirus software are now focused on stopping threats before they get onto your computer.  In a recent Avast Internet Security Review it was mentioned that Avast was able to get in front of Malware by noticing certain program behaviours.  This is above and beyond technology that was available even 3 years ago.  So the progress on the AI front is huge.

Stopping viruses from entering your brain will probably require a lot of internet security – I’m sure VR networks will require that you maintain some level of personal security.  However, would you trust your brain to a program such as Avast right now?  That’s what people in the future will have to do — trust their brains to third party software protection.

It’s an interesting time that we live in – technology is increasing rapidly and humans are struggling to catch up to in in a psychological sense.  Just look at the political warfare being waged by Russia in order to interfere with elections via social media engineering.  They are already using technology to change our brains in small and subtle ways.

There is no doubt in my mind that VR tech is good and necessary.  However it will be interesting to see what bad comes from it as well – there are always two sides to the coin.  Hopefully there will be adequate protections in place.

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