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Horst F. Wedde
How and where do we live in virtual reality and cyberspace – Threats and Potentials
Rendiconti del Seminario Matematico e Fisico di Milano, Nr. LXVII, S. 105-137, 1997


With Virtual Reality and CyberSpace as latest computer-based developments approaching Mankind at a quickening pace their dangerous and hallucinating perspectives are linked in this paper to a specific feature of computers: the incomprehensibility of their processes in principle. (This will be explained as resulting from the virtual, non-sensible nature of software as well as from the "incompatibility" of process structures on the hardware and operating system levels.) The question is asked whether, or how, an unprecedented threat of globally manipulating the human mind could be successfully faced. Starting with traditional Technology it is pointed out that in spite of damaging influences looming, and as a consequence of Man being exposed to Technology, quite positive inner capabilities have been developed or refined, such as an extended, inward form of the Sense of Touch or novel human qualities of trusting other persons in an organizational role that could be called superpersonal in that it does not require to personally know the trusted person.

While such was first the experience of technical experts these faculties have already, in the course of time, been acquired by all people, through general or school education. Specifically within Computer Technology a novel form of flexible, lively thinking is required, for coping with both scientific and engineering tasks. Also scientists and practitioners in Computer Technology are, through their professional activity, trained in a kind of superpersonal sociality (and this will be used to explain why America is the center of software (and hardware) development). Again, and this time through Virtual Reality/ CyberSpace, the stage is set for Mankind to be generally and globally confronted with these issues. The key problem will be to not be drawn into unprecedented and horrifying illusions and addictions but to stand the enormous challenges from Virtual Reality, and to avoid unparalleled deception.

In a stepwise procedure it will be presented how eventually novel human faculties will be individually achieved, much beyond intellectual capacities and out of everybody's own strength and effort. On a larger historical scale, three different steps of modern Science/ Technology will be identified: Mechanical Technology, Electricity/ Electrical Engineering, Computer Technology, each of them sided by corresponding modern forms of Art: Painting/ Sculpture, Music, Eurythmy, respectively. The first phase was started in the 14th/ 15th century through Leonardo da Vinci, the father of modern Science and Technology as well as of modern Painting, the second phase was established through the second half of the 18th century, the third one came about during the first half of the 20th century. It will be made clear that, and how, Mankind is involved in a global and general education process during the past 500 years, aimed at developing higher or refined senses, or faculties of perception, following a learning procedure of finding and maintaining an inner equilibrium. The present and future perspectives will be addressed.