The term “virtual reality” appeared quite recently, but virtual reality itself has existed for thousands and thousands of years. When Pithecanthropus picked up a stone and led them to several features on the wall of the cave in such a way that it seemed to him that the resulting picture vaguely resembled a mammoth – at this very moment a virtual reality object appeared. Since then, much water has flowed and many mammoths have run, and virtual reality has progressed in parallel with everything else. Now we turn on the computer and see in front of us such a perfect virtual reality, which the Pithecanthropes could not even dream of.
It’s clear. It is much less clear that in fact, virtual reality did not appear when Australopithecus, Denisov, or Putintsevs first took the tools of labor and got off the oil pipe. The first virtual reality appeared even earlier. Much earlier. Hundreds of millions of years earlier! Billions of years earlier !! In fact, the first virtual reality appeared when the very first living beings had what could be called the “sense organ”. Why is this so?
This can be understood by paying attention to the fact that we never perceive the reality surrounding us directly. There is an extensive system of intermediaries that interact with the outside world and transmit signals to the brain. But even these signals we do not perceive directly – otherwise we would perceive only insane trillions of electrical impulses and chemical reactions. Our brain has a completely amazing ability to turn this stream of signals into what we call “perception” – sensations, images, sounds. That is, he does exactly the same thing (essentially) as the computer. The device of the computer we are used to and the device of the brain are completely different, the very principle of their work is completely different – we can confidently say this, even without understanding exactly (and even approximately in fact) how the brain works, but it is clear that future computers will more and more similar to our brain, for example computers on neural networks already resemble the brain much more.
Interestingly, we have already learned how to build primitive working neural networks, but the more they work successfully, the less we understand how they do it 🙂 So in the future we can expect a curious surprise: we will learn to create artificial intelligence, but this is almost completely Don’t get us closer to understanding that – how it all works. In principle, there is nothing surprising in this. The ancient man could make a copper dagger, which in itself did not give him knowledge of chemistry and atomic physics.
So, we have, relatively speaking, a biowire, which represents the entire set of intermediaries between the original signal from the environment and the final system of signals coming into our brain, and there is a computer that somehow turns these signals into virtual reality. The same virtual reality is the so-called “conscious fantasy”, “conscious reflection”, etc.
What is “true reality” and how does it relate to “virtual reality”? I could say a hell of a lot on this topic, starting with attempts to give a consistent and meaningful definition of the term “true reality”, anticipating this attempt to define the term “meaningful definition”, etc. etc. :), but there I will not dive right now (I hear your sigh of relief and take it as a compliment – I myself am glad that I will not climb into this jungle now).
I am now interested in something else. The fact is that when a computer creates a picture on the monitor, at this very moment certain physical processes take place, which we understand perfectly. And when our brain creates its virtual reality, quite certain physical processes also take place in it at this moment, even if we do not understand them. This is important: there are physical processes that are fundamentally different from those that occur when the wind sways a tree, or when a volcano throws coke and hamburgers out of a vent. The most important thing is that if we now examine the nearest star systems within a radius of several thousand light years, then we will most likely find that those special physical processes responsible for the generation and subsequent functioning of virtual reality no longer occur anywhere.
If we are lucky, we may find that some kind of virtual reality is still created if a pop-eyed skliss is sitting somewhere under a stone and is rubbed under trickles of methane-ethane rain. But it is hardly necessary to seriously hope that we will find that Morlock is also sitting next to Skliss and working on a computer.
The solar system is a tiny speck of dust in a huge galaxy, consisting of one hundred or two hundred billion stars, which, in turn, is only a tiny speck of dust in a great cosmos, so the hope of discovering life is still not unfounded. But there is no way to detect such a trifle as a working computer or a running mouse.
Or is there?
About two hundred years ago, scientists grieved at heaven, regretting that we would never-ever know anything about what their chemical composition, what physical processes take place there. And then one of them discovered spectral analysis. It turns out that if you just analyze the light coming from the star, you can get just a huge amount of information, including the chemical composition and God knows what else. Our devices are being improved literally every day, and we can extract more and more information from the light reaching us. Moreover. Most recently, people finally caught gravitational waves, which theoretically give us a fundamentally different way of obtaining data than electromagnetic radiation. Now we are in this area at about the stage at which Leeuwenhoek was at, polishing its glass, but progress is inexorable, and it may very well be that in twenty, fifty or a hundred years gravitational telescopes will fit in a suitcase and allow us to look under the stone at a planet millions of light-years away.
If we look at the picture of the proton and compare it with the picture of the lithium nucleus, then the differences will be ridiculously small – there is one point, there is more. The difference in their physical and chemical properties (which is of course one and the same) is enormous, and we can distinguish hydrogen from lithium without the help of any devices — just stick a finger or look. And if at some distant star, separated by billions of light-years from us, there would be a chemical element that would differ only by one tiny protoner from the elements known to us, we would immediately have discovered it without much difficulty.
In the same way, the statement that the physical processes occurring during the creation of virtual reality are not very different from others is not an argument. Never mind. The key is that they are different. The main thing is that now, as far as we know, these special physical processes responsible for the creation of virtual reality, occur in one single place of our solar system, and maybe the entire galaxy, and maybe the entire local group of galaxies. Scientists love and know how to highlight something different. This is the very essence of their work, so if the creation of virtual reality happens somewhere, and if we gradually create devices that can capture these physical processes and separate them from others, then we will have the opportunity to discover extraterrestrial life, and therefore that for people who will live in a hundred or two hundred years, the concept of “foreign life” or even “foreign intelligence” will stop describing a hypothetical reality, and will become part of their scientific system of ideas.
Of course, this will have a serious impact on their mental and social life, even regardless of whether they will at that time have at least distant ideas about the possibility of contact with that life. The very fact of the existence of foreign life, not to mention the foreign mind, will make significant adjustments to the nature of the functioning of the individual and society as a whole.