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Source: Count Zero, Page: 197

The sinister thing about a simstim construct, really, was that it carried the suggestion that any environment might be unreal, that the windows of the shop fronts she passed now with Andre, might be figments. Mirrors, someone had once said, were in some way, essentially unwholesome; constructs were more so, she decided.

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This is perhaps the single most frequently demonstrated point about advanced virtual reality, yet that does not make it any less true. With any technology that is capable of replacing the natural sensory input to the brain with sensation from an artificial source,. Whether in the partial regard as with current technology, or total sensory replacement of future technologies, the end result is the same.

Once a user is submerged in a sensorially fake world that feels just as real to them, due to being as high a degree of fidelity as one they had until that time perceived to be real, then there exists a strong possibility that that individual could develop new neurological disorders stemming from the confusion between physical reality, and virtual reality.

It is conceivable, albeit disturbing, that the flip side of not being able to tell which reality a given stream of sensory data has come from, would be the belief that no sensory data is real. That way of course, often lays madness.

We have seen such people before of course. One of the most memorable, was Bishop George Berkeley. He was an Anglo-Irish thinker and Anglican bishop with a devout belief in himself as English, and a great deal of thought and publication on original philosophical views.

One of the espoused views was that:

There are minds, souls if you prefer, in existence. There are also sensations, and ideas, also in existence. The two form a kind of cosmic scale, with the minds on one end, and the sensations on the other, feeding into the minds.

The former are selves, like you and me, and the latter are the entities known by selves-the so-called objects of knowledge.

In this way, all the objects in the world around us, are not actually physically there. Instead, they are just ideas, concepts, that our minds process as being there, from the output the sensations produce. Now, this is actually a very advanced concept, and one that modern neuroprosthetics is only just finding out - the physical object does not have to be there; if you can reproduce the sensation from the nerves, you reproduce the belief in the object.

According to Berkeley, it was a short step for him from the psychological recognition of the ideality of sense perceptions to the metaphysical acknowledgement of the immateriality of all reality.

He was the first thinker to take the position of denying material reality, using the argument that if the only evidence for an object's existence is its being perceived, then the conclusion is that existence consists entirely in being perceived or perceiving and that minds and their ideas constitute reality.

We do run the risk, even with current VR sensory integration, that many more individuals, perhaps of less learned status will take this view, and undoubtedly some of them will descend into gibbering wrecks because of their inability to process it. Whether or not the issue could become widespread, or even if it is incorrect, is certainly food for thought.

Further Reading

Dictionary: Bishop Berkeley in a Cybermall

George Berkeley - the Bishop in the Cybermall

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About the Book 'Count Zero'
By William Gibson
Produced By Ace Trade; Reprint edition

?He spent most of those three months in a ROM-generated simstim construct of an idealised New England boyhood of the previous century. The Dutchman?s visits were grey dawn dreams, nightmares that faded as the sky lightened beyond his second-floor bedroom window. You could smell the lilacs, late at night. He read Conan Doyle by the light of a sixty watt bulb behind a parchment shade printed with clipper ships. He masturbated in the smell of clean cotton sheets and thought about cheerleaders. The Dutchman opened a door in his back brain and came strolling in to ask questions...
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