Thoughts and Questions on Virtual Philosophy
Updated: Nov 25
(For another material on virtual philosophy, click here)
Navigating the Virtual Layer: A New Dimension of Reality
The widespread adoption of electronic technology was initially confined to basic applications, such as light bulbs, telephones, and on/off switches. Today, electricity has transcended its role as a mere resource, empowering the creation, manipulation, and control of entire "realities" in the form of video games, websites, and simulators.
This newfound virtual realm, superimposed upon our physical world, has become an integral part of our existence, influencing communication, education, creativity, entertainment, and even finance. Its pervasiveness stands in stark contrast to its nonexistence in the past, leaving many to question its necessity, given humanity's thriving for millennia without it.
The complexities of virtual arts and sciences remain enigmatic to many, extending beyond intricate layers of code, the bedrock of virtual creations. This newfound dimension of reality also raises profound philosophical questions, mirroring those that have long plagued humanity in fields like ethics and epistemology.
While the questions posed in this article may remain unanswered, they underscore the fact that we inhabit a reality once confined to the realm of science fiction. Our ancestors' fantastical imaginings have largely materialized, becoming commonplace elements of our daily lives.
Future Generations Might Consider These Questions Primitive
Should the next generations read this article, they might consider it extremely primitive, to ask such "basic" questions, that will probably then be considered mundane and even self-explanatory, just the same as underwater transportation, the ability to land on the moon, and robots; things that were all nothing more than an unrealistic fantasy for our own ancestors.
Here are the questions:
1. The Illusion of Movement and Infinite Spaces
When you scroll down this page, where does the upper part of it go, and from where comes its lower parts? When a website page isn't completely seen, where lay its other parts?
When you go forward in a game, are you actually going forward, given that your screen is (likely to be) flat? To advance forward, you must go somewhere else, and yet, your character is still within the flat screen of the computer, as if it didn't move at all.
If you play a game where the space is infinite (like an infinite sea or space), is it actually infinite, considering the fact that the computer who projects it is finite in both capability and memory?
Does it mean computers are capable of absolute potency in certain fields, like translating to different languages, looping audio files forever, and (theoretically) solve any mathematical question possible?
2. The Existence of Virtual Worlds
When a website has no visitors, does it still exist beyond a code and a domain, in the same visible form it does when a user enters it?
Are computers necessary to convert a page from pure algorithm, like some may claim about sentient beings and sounds, or do they already exist in visible form, like an undiscovered planet?
If a computer gets destroyed without the ability to fix it, where do all of its exclusively saved files go to? Can a file that was saved on only one computer, somehow exist somewhere else should its only form of representation/translation gets deleted?
Is there, like, a Platonic "World of Ideals" to everything virtual?
3. The Nature of Virtual Reality
Is the virtual world a part of the physical world, but a translation of unseen code? If the latter option applies (translation of code), can we infer from that, that we are also translation of unseen code, not necessarily atoms or DNA?
Can the virtual world still be considered physical like with any other object outside of it?
Considering that it is a product of actual objects (servers, modems, memory banks and so forth), is it nothing but a representation of the functions of said objects, or can the virtual world exist independently of them, whether now or in the future, thus becoming another aspect of reality, not just a product of something external that projects it?
4. The Analogy of Viruses and A.I.
When a computer gets a virus, can it be considered ill like with any biological being?
Are electronic viruses’ actual diseases that only apply to electronic devices? If they are, can one computer "infect" other computers by being connected to them somehow?
On the contrary, are firewalls actual walls that prevent viruses from entering your computers, or is all the talk about them is metaphorical? For example, cars were used to be called "chariots without horses", even though they aren't chariots.
Does it mean that viruses are simply called that to help us understand what they mean, given that they infect computers like actual viruses (I.E, having the same function)?
Should A.I. ever become sentient, does it mean there will be a need of "A.I. hospitals", assuming the same viruses can infect them like they currently do to computers?
Will there be a new medical field in the future, dedicated to the healing of sentient machines? Will they also be able to suffer from mental disorders like humans can? If so, will we need to also create designated pills for robots, or our own drugs can suffice?
5. The Destination of Deleted Data and the Source of Downloaded Files
When you remove something from your computer, like a file or an app on your phone, where does it go? Is it completely eradicated or is it transferred somewhere else, like a "computer subconscious" (like where our own memories go once, we forget all about them)?
Likewise, when we download something, where do we actually download the thing from, and how does it come to our various devices?
If our ancestors, for instance, made a metal box that was also electric (assuming electricity was discovered at the whatever period we're talking about), chances are it wouldn't be able to perform the same, many functionalities our current "metal boxes" do (go online, perform a series of sounds and so forth).
How, then, can we download and remove things from our devices when they are (mostly) wireless containers? How does the transaction happen when it is now possible to transfer data from almost anywhere to almost anywhere in the world, without a physical connector even smaller than the microscopic discoveries of atoms, particles, and germs?
These are all the questions I have on what I'd like to call the Philosophy of Virtuality or simply Virtual Philosophy – the philosophy of advanced electronics.
I think that if there is anything we can conclude from all of this, it is that we as a species have definitely outdone ourselves by being able to create and even evolve things that for most of our history were far beyond our comprehension, and even logical reasoning.
Perhaps this could mean that we have also yet to reach our intellectual optimality. Based on our advancing mastery of technology, we can create even more things – and even beings – that we might nowadays see as impossible to do. In other words, while I doubt that "everything is possible", we can still consider that many things we think are impossible are indeed possible, but not currently.