The Iceberg of Ethics in VR
So many of you know that AR/VR is a fun immersive experience. With that being said what ethical challenges do developers and companies that develop these experiences have to think about when doing so? Well to be honest I believe that most corporations give about as much time on ethics as an iceberg above water…about 1/10th, if that. Most are concerned about how much money can they make and how can we make our shareholders happy. It should be how do we do that, and be loyal to the company standards. And lately, it is “push” this content out as fast as possible and deal with implications later, even if it is harmful. With the invention of post-launch patching, the quality control and ethical standards of a product have been set aside for profits. What are some of the ethical considerations that should be made while developing these experiences? Let's take a dive into this question.
So on the VR side, we all have a general consensus that we have to let the user know what they will be experiencing before they put on a headset and enter the world that was created so they don’t have some sort of triggering reaction to an event inside the VR world. In case they have PTSD and would like to avoid Car Thefts for example you would have to make that something known before had that this game has criminal behaviors, and the user would have to opt-in to use the game. But what if I were to have no ethics or morals and create a game that subliminally hints at racism or anti-whatever behaviors that the user would never pick up that I am targeting this sort of reaction. Think of this as like a magician who tells you to “name an actor and a movie that he played in.” Just that line the magician has already started to shape your answer to what he wants subliminally, the word actor and what movie HE played in is leaning you to a male. Now if the magician was already priming you for things he could get you to think of a single actor and you would have no clue why you picked this actor, but he has already persuaded you to pick it without you knowing. When in an immersive environment like VR it is very easy to persuade people without them knowing you are and that is where the dangers lie in VR.
I feel like privacy and accountability are the most important concerns when pertained to AR especially in these times of social media. At what point does AR and real-world become one. Take advertising for example. If an AR headset has advertisements that are seen by anyone passing your house with an AR headset, but that advertisement is located on your property. Does the homeowner have the right to sell that space for advertisements? Or have control over what kind of advertisements are shown while in his yard? Can he have No ads shown on his property and how does someone enforce this when not everyone even has an AR headset. If a homeowner does not have a headset how does he know if there are ads on his property? He would not see them in the real world as they are not visible. These are just a few things that should get your mind thinking about just some of the concerns that could affect the landscape of AR/VR worlds to come and how to prevent bad ethical decisions before they become an issue.