Feelings of Disruption in Science  

 

It is common sense that science guides our present day and determines our future. If humans go back in history to search for the human conception of the laws that explained nature and interpreted cosmic phenomena with high precision, they find the discovery of DNA in the last century, which is the essence of molecular biology. We explored the depths of every substance and went even deeper, to the level of quarks, which are the smallest components of the atom. We went to outer space to land on the moon, and explored the planets and galaxies surrounding us in search of extraterrestrial life, yet science still fascinates us every day in its progress and the secrets and mysteries of the universe it reveals to us. Given this rapid nature of change in science, we can view it as an ideal example of the emotional disrupting we are experiencing in our world today, which Tanween's program aims to highlight and closely examine.

Science is based on what can be monitored and measured by senses and minds. Elementary school teaches that we have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Actually, we have more than five senses, such as feeling balance, recognizing movement and direction, passing of time, pain, vibration and the list goes on. The nervous system combines these sensory inputs in the form of flows of rich nerve signals from the surrounding environment, dispatching them to our brain to be processed in order to consciously comprehend our reality.  What would happen if our senses were subjected to previously distorted sensory inputs? There is no doubt that our perception of reality would change accordingly, and we would have a copy of a reality that does not actually exist except for the individual whose brain processed all the information that it was exposed to. This is the definition of virtual reality technology.

Virtual reality is a technology that creates a 3D computer simulation environment we interact with and explore, usually using a medium such as glasses with 3D screens, headphones, gloves, special tools, as well as a variety of sensors that stimulate the senses creating the illusion of reality. The use of virtual reality has varied since its invention, with video games and movies utilizing the lion's share and the uses are expanding daily. The promises, expectations and fears of virtual reality are intertwined with a realistic or proactive view of how this technology affects our lives. How should we look at virtual reality technology today and how should we manage it in the future? Let us share the ideas of some of those involved and learn about their emotional reactions to the effects of this disruptor technology


Hope

Education is the cornerstone of the prosperity of societies, and the channel for the transmission of knowledge across generations. Civilizations have continually looked at education as a high priority. As a teacher in primary school, I believe that the field is open to make education more interactive with students. This approach will give students enjoyable and easy access to information using modern digital techniques, and will achieve authentic learning by employing the new knowledge directly in the student's life. So I thought about introducing VR into the field of education, which I believe will create a radical change in both style and content. The students’ indulgence in what they learn and interact with will stimulate their minds and increase the effectiveness of the learning process.

Throughout my career in education, I have not seen the utilization of revolutionary technology such as virtual reality. It allows us to understand what we fail to achieve in reality. Learning will not only involve descriptive drawings and words in textbooks, but will also be able to explore information interactively at a deeper level. Virtual reality will open up the ability to explore and learn about the microscopic or dangerous elements of our world, giving the ability to attempt to assemble or disassemble them. In addition, the brain reacts to virtual reality experiences as if they are real, which encourages action and creativity.

In my work, I have encountered considerable variations in students’ abilities to interact with information and realized that their laboratory work makes them more enthusiastic and responsive.  However, the problem lies in the high cost of some laboratory tools and devices or the risk of conducting some experiments. The feasibility of this method is still limited to certain aspects, but I have seen the answer to this limitation with the use of virtual reality and its ability to expand and deepen scientific learning. It is important for students to discover and develop cognitive curiosity by experimenting with things directly rather than reading about them in a book or on the Internet. A small virtual reality device can serve as a complete laboratory. Virtual reality can also help students engage in different professions to order to experience and visualize themselves in the place of others and learn exactly what is involved within each occupation. Such a method will aide in identifying their own preferences, allowing them to realize what they truly love and what reflects their ambitions and dreams, as they undergo a number of fruitful experiences that create a sense of familiarity with various professions.

Virtual reality technology would engage students in a journey between geography, history, and literature that transcends the boundaries of time and space. Imagine if students have the ability to visit historical places or travel through time to meet prominent individuals to learn about their work and achievements. Each educational institution would have a library of diverse field trips, including areas from the far reaches of the earth to the outer limits of space, allowing students to visit places that are impossible to visit otherwise. Utilizing this method will undoubtedly enrich the students' knowledge, and these unforgettable experiences will be forever etched stick in students’ minds. Virtual reality will stimulate their feelings and emotions, and these reactions will be stored in the subconscious of their memories.

On the other hand, I find that virtual reality will achieve many successes in training as well, especially in advanced fields such as medicine, engineering, military, flight training, and disaster control. In the medical field, for example, doctors and nurses spend a great deal of time training on routine procedures. The training course requires an expert who is often busy and expensive, Introducing trainees to a realistic simulation of the medical procedure and practice would be more effective than watching a video clip or sitting in a crowded room to learn from an expert.

Thinking about the benefits of virtual reality makes me truly excited to integrate VR in education and training, especially with virtual reality tools becoming less expensive, more manageable and replicable, and with the ability to provide immediate feedback. Another positive prospect is that recent studies have found that the percentage of those who want to provide educational content in virtual reality is greater than the percentage of those who want to provide game content. This is an immense source of hope that learning experiences in virtual reality are desirable for many in our society. We are on the threshold of a scientific breakthrough that will transform the concept of college education and provide an access to knowledge that is widely available and affordable to many in order to inspire a new generation to innovate and change the world.

 

Bewilderment

I was one of the first to experience virtual reality games, but I never expected it to extend beyond entertainment, and to integrate in such an amazing way with my field of work. I work in a psychiatric hospital specializing in neurological and psychiatric diseases. The pathological conditions that we encounter daily vary from simple cases to time-consuming complex ones that require continuous follow-up. I have seen with my own eyes how technology contributes marvelously to the treatment of some cases. If you have an irrational fear of something, it will undoubtedly be the one thing you most hate to see in reality, not to mention in virtual reality! However, what happens in this case is the complete opposite. Treating phobias with a progressive approach known as “gradual exposure” is one of the most widely used medical methods in which doctors expose the patient to his or her fears with careful progression until the fear and anxiety fade away.

Virtual reality therapy deals mainly with fears and phobias. Fear of heights was the first psychological condition that VR proved to be effective in treating. Did you imagine that the evolution of virtual reality therapies could even treat some cases without the need for a doctor's referral? Not needing a psychotherapist’s intervention was a surprise to me because human communication is considered the essence of clinical psychotherapy. However, virtual reality technology seems to be an ideal tool for therapy. It has the ability to be tailored to meet the needs of every patient. As a doctor, I can follow the development of my patients' condition from my office and modify their experiences and tests in virtual reality according to each individual's condition and needs.

The scientific evidence that refers to the role of virtual reality technology in relieving pain is also exciting. The portions of the brain associated with the pain of the somatosensory and insolar cortex appear less active when the patient is wholly involved in virtual reality. This expands the potential of virtual reality technology in medicine to not only distracting patients from their pain and suffering, but also training them to utilize deep breathing exercises, or acquire the ability to control their heartbeat. Virtual reality can also reduce the need for sedative drugs, help patients endure very painful medical procedures, and relieve them of extreme stress, which is often the cause of many diseases such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastrointestinal disorders in general.

In addition, amputees can benefit from virtual reality therapy. They experience severe pain in the spot of their missing limbs. This is difficult to treat by conventional methods as we do not understand the underlying causes and they do not usually respond to strong analgesics. Virtual reality, however, has given us a miracle called Virtual Mirror Therapy, which is designed to help patients better deal with this "ghost pain." The patient wears the Virtual Reality tool and controls a virtual copy of their lost limb.

I never expected to see the use of virtual reality going beyond the limits of therapy.  Its applications reached the motor rehabilitation of stroke patients, neurological trauma and physiotherapy.  Virtual reality technology is used to track body movement. This allows the patient to use the exercises as an interactive game in virtual reality, which, of course, is entertaining as well as stimulating, and facilitate the development of improved rehabilitation programs by studying the interaction of people in virtual reality.  Numerous studies have found that virtual reality has many more applications in the treatment of diseases than ever thought possible, such as the paralysis of the entire spinal cord. This remarkable result has a particularly dramatic effect on many paralysis cases in Saudi Arabia due to car accidents.

There is a growing interest among doctors and other disciplines in virtual reality and its use in health care, but it is a completely new therapeutic method.  Care needs to be taken to ensure patients do not stay in their virtual word forever. They need to learn different skills such as controlling their bodies and realizing the impact of their ideas, and then use the acquired skills later in their physical reality.

 

Fear

On the other hand, parents often have a different view of emerging technologies, stemming from their innate fear for their children and the results of new and untested technologies. As an ophthalmologist, I do not think there is enough research to support what we see in the market, and that you are actually fooling your brain without understanding the long-term impact, and possible results from cumulative exposure to virtual reality content. There are documented short-term effects due to the disruption of contact between the eyes and the brain. While the vision of both eyes is connected in the brain in the real world, this association breaks down n virtual reality, which confuses the brain and can causes eye strain, dizziness, headaches and sometimes nausea. These consequences have already appeared in the gaming world in the past years. Although physiology is taken into account when making virtual reality content, there is still a great deal of unexamined gaming content, which includes fast movements nearby or sudden strong flashes of light that increase the risk of stress.

Once you don a pair of virtual reality glasses, you become blind to your surroundings. Using these technologies without supervision or in a narrow space is extremely risky, as you expose yourself to injury if you do not follow the safety instructions. Consequences include hitting your head against a wall or breaking a bone. Having someone watch and supervise you is mandatory, but can we can never be sure that everyone will take the safety instructions seriously.

In addition, how can visual health concerns be ignored? Virtual reality almost completely depends on the concentration of the eye, and immersion in virtual reality can have a dangerous effect on your eyes, similar to what happens with the use of smart phones. This increases the negative impact on the eye, which may affect the growth in children or cause other vision problems such as myopia. Visual disabilities are already a growing concern worldwide, and I fear that virtual reality will exacerbate this problem. There are indications that four out of every five people suffer from visual impairment, and that nearly 80% of the conditions were avoidable.

I am also concerned with how virtual reality can affect one's perception of real life! The virtual experience of reality is stored in the memory center of the brain in ways that are frighteningly similar to real experiences. When a group of children exposed to a virtual reality experiment was asked about it a week later, their feedback was “the experience was real”. This may seem positive if the content is educational or inspiring, but can have very negative consequences if it is violent or frightening. I find that today's games tend to be extremely violent and celebrate murders, with games based on killing as many people as possible or even shooting yourself. This violence is worrying because it is spreading across video and computer games, and the gamer immersed in them.

The terrifying or violent content causes the body to interaction with the virtual reality effects, such as increasing heart rates and blood pressure. It can even lead to psychological reactions in high levels of stress such as anxiety or fear, or even post-traumatic stress disorder, especially in teenagers and children. The question then is how this will affect their interaction in the real world and their consciousness and cognitive development.  Society needs to be alert and aware not only of virtual reality, but of all the media exposure that children experience. Direct supervision can mitigate the negative effects of this technology. Monitoring children is essential, especially in regards to any involuntary muscle tension or imbalance. These indications may signal potential health problems and therefore should never be neglected.