Blascovich, J., & Bailenson, J.N. (2011). Infinite Reality – Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow.
“Right now, we’re inside a computer program?”
With that monotone query, a very confused Neo, played by Keanu Reeves in the blockbuster film The Matrix, convinces hundreds of millions of viewers that virtual reality could be so real that people have no idea they are actually living in a simulation. Of course, The Matrix is just a movie, but brain science supports many of the ideas of the Wachowski brothers, who wrote, directed, and produced the film.
The brain often fails to differentiate between virtual experiences and real ones. The patterns of neurons that fire when one watches a three-dimensional digital re-creation of a supermodel, such as Giselle or Fabio, are very similar—if not identical—to those that fire in the actual presence of the models. Walking a tightrope over a chasm in virtual reality can be a terrifying ordeal even if the walker knows it’s virtual rather than physical.