New technologies are designed to improve our quality of life in a range of human and global endeavors. In the 21st century, we have Apple watches for communication, drones for carrying packages, virtual reality to treat PTSD, artificial intelligence to help solve intractable problems, to name a few. People don’t have to count 10,000 steps because a new gadget does. New technologies are disrupting how illness and health are monitored; how we communicate virtually anytime/anywhere; as well as how we assess environmental or man-made threats.
It is an exciting time as disruptive technologies change our world and the way we live our lives. Our brains are challenged to process more and faster – to disregard the unimportant or multi-task and find a whole. But what impact do these technologies have on our individual and collective selves?
We sense a need to report our daily lives in words, photos, and videos. We live a virtual emotional and interpersonal life through devices. For some, psychological withdrawal can ensue if parted from technology. Psychologists are working to better understand how technology — including gaming — impacts us but there is much to understand as technology evolves more and more rapidly. Recently, researchers in Spain suggested that virtual reality can be a positive tool in treating stroke victims who experienced an impaired ability to use their limbs. Virtual reality provided patients with more confidence as they exercised their representational limbs onscreen/online translating to better flexibility or mobility in real life. While studies are still ongoing, researchers believe that virtual reality can enhance recovery and should be explored further.
Like many things, there can be an archetypal shadow, a disavowed relationship with technology that can be both a blessing and a curse.
As Psychology21C grows, we expect to focus on a range of new technologies. For now, let’s consider virtual reality. In 2011, our Inspiration — Richard Wexler – wrote:
Driven by innate needs for human interaction, the social media explosion and rapidly advancing technology, the immersive/3D internet and Virtual Reality (VR) is coming of age. Now is the time for psychologists, behavioral scientists and practitioners to help clients, organizations, institutions and the world successfully adapt and flourish in the VR world.
He sensed there was evidence that humanity may be at the brink of another evolutionary leap, with virtual reality as the next environmental platform that we may all be expected to adapt to and flourish in.
In 2011, Richard Wexler teamed up with Walter Greenleaf to present at the New York Academy of Sciences “Revolutionary Virtual Reality Tools Changing Psychology, Consulting, Behavioral Science and Medicine.” Not stopping there, Richard decided to write a chapter to
explore new frontiers such as the concept of self in the virtual world, future forms of creative communication in immersive/3D worlds projected by avatar metamorphosis (e.g., changes in color, shape, sounds and eventually smells) that go far beyond the limits of verbal communication, the strengths and limits individuals encounter when faced with new realities such as “the wisdom of the masses,” trolls, and the perpetual recording of life events.