Corina Stavilă – On Evans’ Two Senses of ‘Here’, and a Challenge to the Possibility of Total VR Immersion

A treia zi a Conferinței Naționale Online de Filosofie Teoretică este dedicată unei teme actuale – imersiunea în realitatea virtuală.

Corina Stavilă își începe prezentarea astfel:

When someone is immersed in a virtual reality environment, her primary visual and auditory inputs from the physical world are replaced with audio and video sensory stimuli from a computer simulated environment. As such, it is solely that alternative environment that the subject perceives and is able to act within. What characterizes the effectiveness of immersion is the subject’s vivid sense of being present in a place and in a different body (that of an avatar), despite of her being aware that she is interacting within a simulated world.

As technology evolves, it is very likely that systems with higher and higher degrees of immersion will be available. Yet, as long as someone is aware of being in a simulated environment, there could not be a perfect immersion. For a perfect immersion to occur, one will have to forget that she is in a computer generated reality, and so to take that world as if it is her own physical world. In other words, a perfect VR immersion will occur when one will not be able to distinguish between the virtual world and the physical world (a scenario depicted in Matrix).

It is interesting, though, to note that, if a perfect immersion will happen, the sense of presence will disappear for a subject. “Presence is the feeling of being transported to another place. This is why our notion of ‘place illusion’ as ‘being there’ includes the rider… in spite of the fact that you know for sure that you are not actually there.” It contains an element of surprise: “I know I am at home wearing a HMD, but I feel as if I am in the Himalayas.” (Slater & Sanchez-Vives, 2016) Normally, in real life, there is no element of surprise in being in a certain place. We are simply here. I know I’m in my room now, writing this paper, so how could I be surprised by my presence here?

However, along with the advance of technology – interfaces with higher resolutions, and more senses implied (like tactile and olfactory) – VR enthusiasts anticipate that there will be a point when we will not be able to discern between the simulated world and the physical one. Consequently, there will be many alternative worlds, besides our real world, and people will spend more and more time to navigate from one world to another.

However, I think that the possibility of a perfect immersion can be challenged.

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Corina Stavilă – On Evans’ Two Senses of ‘Here’ and a Challenge to the Possibility of Total VR Immersion

Pe parcursul zilei de astăzi Corina Stavilă va răspunde la întrebări și comentarii.

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4 comentarii

Din categoria filosofia limbajului, filosofia tehnologiei

4 răspunsuri la „Corina Stavilă – On Evans’ Two Senses of ‘Here’, and a Challenge to the Possibility of Total VR Immersion

  1. The marine biologist seems to be aware of the fact that her „egocentric space” is not located at the place of her (mediated) interactions with the sea bed. What if one was not aware of such a difference? I think of a scenario of this sort: while asleep, my friendes put an advanced VR device on my head, which produces a simulation of my own room, so when I wake up I am going to feel as if I am in my room, not knowing that I am in fact in a VR simulation. Couldn’t I have ordinary ‘here’-thoughts about my VR environment in such a case?

    And if not, since this appears to be a case of complete immersion, couldn’t it be the case that having ordinary ‘here’-thoughts is not necessary for a complete immersion?

    • Corina Stavila

      Thank you for the question!
      If I wake up in my simulated room, I could momentarily have a ‘here’-thought. And that’s because I have a cognitive map of my room, I know where it is located (in which house, on which street etc.) Also, I know that last night I went to sleep after I watched the last episode of “Game of Thrones”. Now, I know that I have to wake up and walk my dog, as I do each morning. This shows that, when I think of a place as ‘here’, it is not just perceptual inputs from my current environment that matter. Other things are also implied, such as beliefs about my personal history, and my ability to locate my current position in the world. I think the challenge is how could there be a complete immersion in the absence of these?

      • Ok, but isn’t this concept of a complete immersion too strong, since it now seems that only a VR experience which could fit coherently into the whole „story of my life” could count as „completely immersive”?

  2. Corina Stavila

    Yes, I think it is too strong. However, total immersion will occur when one will not be aware that she is in a simulated world and it will take that world to be her world. That means that she will employ the same ‘here’-Idea in that virtual world as in the physical world. Following Evans, a ‘here’ Idea (a mode of representing oneself in space) means an ability to apply cognitive maps. But it is just the ability. It doesn’t mean that for someone to think of a place as ‘here’, she must be “exercising mastery of a cognitive map” – think of a case of amnesia.