The horizon is now further than virtual reality is from being used as an everyday technology. Training, entertainment, retail and many other industries will transform as to adapt to being experienced through head mounted displays and other virtual or augmented viewing devices. Much like how social came online, it will surely evolve again as a new generation of virtual apps – ones allowing you and your friends to take a walk on the moon together or POV base-jump the Burj Khalifa.
Even now by using smart phones we have access to new universes. Ones as expansive as we know our own to be. Within them, already have spaces been created to gather, grow, work and relax. It is not hard to see that these virtual spaces may soon become our offices, classrooms, and “watering holes”. When that time arrives though, how will we view, punish, and government virtual crimes?
The way most interpret cyber crime today is as something very distant. A situation where something intangible was not necessarily taken, but copied. We take comfort in being able to update passwords and have confidence in the companies we entrust sensitive information too. In VR though, it’s going to become much more personal.
In a 5th grade classroom full of student avatars, what will bullying look like? How will it be handled? Can one employee sexually harass another when in a virtual office? Will acts of property theft or vandalism be protected against through “code enforcement” or addressed through punishment? Can personal property even exist digitally? Or maybe, the real mystery is whether unwarranted acts in the virtual world will warrant real world sentences – can we even define jurisdictions in virtual space?
It’s in situations like these that the rules are not even blurry. They simply don’t exist. In many cases, certain behaviors or interaction can simply be prevented through code – being enforced as universally as is gravity. However, the freedom to choose our own actions and behaviors is what makes “good” choices meaningful. It will be unique to see, because of this, whether the virtual experience bends more so towards reality or regime.
For mass-adoption of VR, especially in business and government, lines must be drawn. How we spend the next decade drawing these lines will likely lead to conversations no sci-fi novelist ever dreamed of happening. And the first industries willing to commit will earn themselves the burden of bringing law to the jungle. In a world well explored, we now all have an opportunity to be Columbus. Though this time, we create the New World.