Can humans live in virtual reality?

Can humans live in virtual reality (VR)? Some people are convinced we already do. Elon Musk gives us just one chance in a billion that we actually live in the real world. The idea is that computer simulations such as games will soon be impossible to distinguish from reality – and if that is the case, maybe this happened before now and we are already living in a simulation.

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Although that may sound mind-boggling, one thing is certain: It didn’t take people long to start experimenting with the idea of living in VR when high quality headsets such as the HTC Vive were launched. In April this year, Derek Westerman made it into the Guinness Book of World Records by being the first human to spend 25 hours in VR without break. One small step for Derek, but was it a giant leap mankind wants to make?

As part of our work at Ericsson ConsumerLab, we have been interviewing VR users in the USA, England, Japan, and South Korea. From our interviews, it is clear that escaping from reality is indeed one of the reasons why people are interested in VR – although, it should be pointed out, there are other reasons as well.

But what are people escaping from? In these turbulent times, maybe political changes could be one reason to want out. After the US presidential election last week, someone made a post on r/Vive – the Reddit forum for the HTC Vive headset – with the title: “Goodbye, Everyone.”

The body text simply said: “I'm going into my Vive and staying there.”

The post immediately struck a chord among other r/Vive readers and there were soon over 150 comments and almost 350 upvotes. One of the first comments was: “Been here since brexit, might as well stay a bit longer.”

But apart from the in-joke style of discourse on r/Vive and the political angle on this, it seems readers immediately could sympathize with the idea of actually going in to VR and staying there for good. Are you ready to take that step – or maybe it doesn’t really make a difference since you are already living in a simulation?

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