The Ethics of Virtual Reality Technology: Social Hazards and Public Policy Recommendations
- 1.6k Downloads
This article explores four major areas of moral concern regarding virtual reality (VR) technologies. First, VR poses potential mental health risks, including Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder. Second, VR technology raises serious concerns related to personal neglect of users’ own actual bodies and real physical environments. Third, VR technologies may be used to record personal data which could be deployed in ways that threaten personal privacy and present a danger related to manipulation of users’ beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. Finally, there are other moral and social risks associated with the way VR blurs the distinction between the real and illusory. These concerns regarding VR naturally raise questions about public policy. The article makes several recommendations for legal regulations of VR that together address each of the above concerns. It is argued that these regulations would not seriously threaten personal liberty but rather would protect and enhance the autonomy of VR consumers.
KeywordsVirtual reality Technology Ethics Mental health Privacy Autonomy
Funding was provided by Sells Group.
- Asch, S. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men: Research in human relations (pp. 177–190). Oxford: Carnegie.Google Scholar
- Basham, L. (2017). State of the art simulation and virtual reality. I Fly America. February 21, 2017. Reprinted from FAA Aviation News. https://iflyamerica.org/state_of_the%20_art.asp.
- Bates, P. (2016). Three major privacy and security concerns over virtual reality. MUO, April 12, 2016. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/3-major-security-privacy-concerns-virtual-reality/ Accessed February 22, 2017.
- Blascovich, J., & Bailenson, J. (2011). Infinite reality: Avatars, eternal life, new worlds, and the dawn of the virtual revolution (1st ed.). New York: William Morrow.Google Scholar
- Bloustein, E. (1964). Privacy as an aspect of human dignity: An answer to Dean Prosser. New York University Law Review, 39, 962–1007.Google Scholar
- Botella, C., Perpina, C., Banos, R., & Garcia-Palacios, A. (1998). Virtual reality: A new clinical setting lab. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 58, 73–81.Google Scholar
- Bymer, L. (2012). Virtual reality used to train soldiers in new training simulator. Army.mil. United States Army, 1 Aug. 2012 Web. 27 Oct. 2013. www.army.mil/article/84453/.
- Elder, S. (2014). A Korean couple let a baby die while they played a video game. Newsweek, July 27, 2014. http://www.newsweek.com/2014/08/15/korean-couple-let-baby-die-while-they-played-video-game-261483.html. Accessed February 21, 2017.
- Fachot, M. (2016). Virtual reality is central to aviation and maritime training. E-Tech: News and Views from the International Electrotechnical Commission. May 2016. http://iecetech.org/issue/2016-05/Virtual-reality-is-central-to-aviation-and-maritime-training. Accessed February 21, 2017.
- Fairfield, J., & Engel, C. (2015). Privacy as a public good. Duke Law Journal, 65, 385–457.Google Scholar
- Haney, C., Banks, W., & Zimbardo, P. (1973). Study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison. Naval Research Review, 9, 1–17.Google Scholar
- Hsu, E., Li, Y., Bayram, J., Levinson, D., Yang, S., & Monahan, C. (2013). State of virtual reality based disaster preparedness and response training. PLOS Currents: Disasters. April 24, 2013. http://currents.plos.org/disasters/article/state-of-virtual-reality-vr-based-disaster-preparedness-and-response-training/. Accessed February 21, 2017.
- Hunt, B. (2015). Man dies in Taiwan after three-day long on-line gaming binge. CNN. January 19, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/19/world/taiwan-gamer-death/. Accessed February 23, 2017.
- Johnson, E. (2015). Legal danger: What we don’t know about virtual reality today might hurt companies tomorrow. Recode. August 11, 2015. http://www.recode.net/2015/8/11/11615490/legal-danger-what-we-dont-know-about-virtual-reality-today-might-hurt. Accessed February 20, 2017.
- Kopstein, J. (2016). The dark side of VR: Virtual reality allows the most detailed, intimate digital surveillance yet. The Intercept. December 23, 2016. https://theintercept.com/2016/12/23/virtual-reality-allows-the-most-detailed-intimate-digital-surveillance-yet/. Accessed February 22, 2017.
- Kosoff, M. (2014). A California couple is in prison for neglecting children while playing World of Warcraft. Business Insider. August 11, 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/california-couple-is-in-jail-for-neglecting-their-children-to-play-world-of-warcraft-2014-8. Accessed February 21, 2017.
- Madary, M., & T. Metzinger (2016). Real virtuality: A code of ethical conduct: Recommendations for good scientific practice and the consumers of VR technology. Frontiers in Robotics and AI. https://doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2016.00003. Accessed February 20, 2017.
- Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
- Moore, A. (2003). Privacy: Its meaning and value. American Philosophical Quarterly, 40, 215–227.Google Scholar
- Oskin, B. (2012). Teens and video games: How much is too much? LiveScience. August 10, 2012 http://www.livescience.com/22281-teens-video-games-health-risks.html. Accessed February 23, 2017.
- Postman, N. (1998). Five things we need to know about technological change. Conference talk delivered in Denver, Colorado. March 28, 1998. http://web.cs.ucdavis.edu/~rogaway/classes/188/materials/postman.pdf.
- Rachels, J. (1975). Why privacy is important. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 4, 323–333.Google Scholar
- Searles, R. (2016). Virtual reality can leave you with an existential hangover. The Atlantic. December 21, 2016. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/12/post-vr-sadness/511232/. Accessed February 21, 2017.
- Slater, M. (2009). Place illusion and plausibility can lead to realistic behaviour in immersive virtual environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 364, 3549–3557. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781884/. Accessed February 20, 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tavinor, G. (2007). Towards an ethics of video gaming. FuturePlay, November 15–17, 2007, Toronto Canada.Google Scholar
- Tsai, P. (2016). The rise of VR and its impending security risks. Tripwire. December 22, 2016. https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-data-protection/rise-vr-impending-security-risks/. Accessed February 22, 2017.
- Ward, J. (2016). Virtual reality—Real law issues. VR Today Magazine. October 24, 2016. https://vrtodaymagazine.com/virtual-reality-law/. Accessed February 20, 2017.