[— Adventures in


Mankind’s relationship with I computers will enter a new era with i the advent of Virtual Reality. Alan

Morrison looks into what could be i an ethical minefield.

An evil robot hides behind the building on my right and fires a laser in my general direction. At the bottom of my field ofvision, a radar blinks furiously. [swivel my head to the left. to the right ' a computer-generated alien landscape unfolds 360° around me. The robot moves out. Sights locked. Finger on missile launcher. Too late. The huge mechanical body in which I patrol this wasted city is blown to oblivion. TlME FOR JUDGEMENT. 5 Video arcade games with the above scenario are. . for the time being. the extent ofthe general public‘s contact with Virtual Reality. State-of-the-art machines. at least as far as toys go. they immerse the player in a 3D world ofstereo sound, light and shade with a perspective that changes when the human moves. not when the computer decides. The player has become an active participant in an artificial universe. Good, harmless fun'.’ Or the forerunner ofan unprecedented technological revolution? The doors that may be opened by VR in the next few decades lead into worlds that would sound far-fetched in science fiction. But since 1989 architects and designers have been using VR techniques to plan buildings. by donning 3D I

:— Blood flow

Once the needle’s out oi your arm and . you’re sitting back, sipping a cup at tea a and munching on a biscuit, how often I do you reilect on exactly where that pint


oi blood you’ve just donated is going to? Most people leave their local Blood Donor Centre thinking that their ; precious pint will be useiul during, say,

a major operation or at the scene at an : accident, when in reality that one ' I donation may help save the lives at Ltwenty or more people.

14 The List io— 23 April 1992

5 0 00° 4’04.


The dark red liquid that ilows out oi your arm into a plastic bag is rich in materials vital to medical research. Donations are separated into red cells,

goggles. walking on a treadmill and taking a stroll through the simulated environment of their imaginings. With a so-called ’Dataglove‘ they can control a VR representation of their hand and move objects around this artificial world. Medical advances. although years away. promise to be even more stunning. Surgeons will be able to rehearse on 3D diagnostic reconstructions of their patients. a process that will allow for the simulated sensation ofa scalpel

cutting through different parts ofthe body. Other 1 developments ofgreat potential will include the

creation of a parallel computer Earth from which meteorological and ecological information can be

gleaned. and incredibly realistic ‘learn by doing'

education courses. Want to take apart a

combustion engine? Put on the goggles. and let me

show you how. There are fears. however. that all ofthis won‘t come without high ethical and psychological costs.

5 What happens when technology develops to the

point where it becomes difficult to distinguish between computer simulation and non-simulation in real life‘.’ As VR progresses. technology will become irrevocably linked to questions of moral


leerton in Edinburgh.

death sltuations.’

V 3‘ s \W‘ ' “\ $5; “iii .:

Sex in cyberspace courtesy o

' sex that will become possible when VR technology - creates a hyper-sensitive. all-over body suit

platelets and plasma, which itseli contains about 250 ditierent proteins, hormones and enzymes. The plasma is then iurther separated into its constituent parts at units such as the Protein Fractionation Centre, based at

‘The underlying message is that one pint oi blood doesn’t just help one patient,’ says Dr Bob Perry, director oi the Centre. ‘It can be broken into its individual components and targeted lor specillc requirements. A huge amount oi chart and energy goes into improving the quality and saiety at these products because they become irontline medicines, used in lite and

Products yielded irom plasma

iThe Lwnmower Man, at UK cinemas inJune. Pic irom First Independent Films.

. philosophy— the possibilities it brings will force us to reconsider notions of identity. community and

reality. This is to say nothing ofteledildonics— simulated

capable ofgiving the wearer presence as virtual flesh in an artificial world. When fitted with a mesh of fibre-optic detectors that can transmit and receive a sense of touch. distance between lovers

will cease to be an obstacle. Just plug into your system and I‘ll jack into mine. Opinions on the

subject are already hugely divided: will teledildonics be the solution to AIDS or the 21st century‘s equivalent of telephone sex lines‘.’ Regardless ofthe fact that such things are decades out ofour grasp. scientists must begin now to examine the role VR should play in our future

lives. and ensure that the tool does not take : control ofthe operator.

Dr Robert]. Stone outlines the history of VR at 2pm on Wed 15 April at the Carlton Highland

; Hotel, while Dr Colin Mae/(av examines its physical and psyehologieal drawbacks at3prn at the same venue.

include Factors VIII and IX (used iorthe

; treatment oi haemophilia), albumin

5 (used ior major blood loss and burns)

andimmunoglobulins(usedior prevention oi iniection, increasingly in HIV research). Despite developments that may well see synthetic blood products genetically engineered lrom bacteria, brewers’ yeast and even potatoes, volunteer donations will, tor the ioreseeable iuture, remain the

most effective source oi a wide range oi lite-saving raw material. (Patricia Wilson) I Dr Bob Perry presents The Universal Gilt, an audio-visual talk on blood l donating and products, at the Carlton J

Highland Hotel at 6.15pm on Tuesday 14Aprll.