Our technological prowess and achievements mimic what occurs in our universe: both continue to expand seemingly without limits. Humanity has created thousands of tools to help itself survive and thrive in a usually hostile and cold world, and with great success. We've managed to keep our bellies full and our heads dry, all while being able to protect those that are important to us and launching steel drones to other worlds. However, even with everything we have, we still dream and fantasize about things that science has deemed to be impossible in this universe. That may change within the next few decades.

Originating from science itself, the invention of virtual reality will become a topic that may be used to help solve the world's problems, or exacerbate them. In virtual reality, the laws of physics that govern our real lives may or may not be the same, and the methods of communication may even be completely different. In a sense, it is a world where one can start life anew. Such a thing can be very exciting, but opponents might say that such a simulation is bad because, well, it's fake. However, how do we define what is real while in this state? Is it from what you experience, or how you affect others?

Sometime last week, my younger brother introduced me to an interesting show called "Sword Art Online." In this show, by putting on a special virtual reality helmet, people can enter a virtual world which is governed like a MMORPG, similar to "World of Warcraft," but with humans as the only race. They are fully capable of interacting with any other person in the game as well — in a sense, it's like the real world, but with skills and mechanics meshed in, like the video games you play today.

The idea of it sounds really fun and enjoyable; who wouldn't want to become a swordsman and be able to name and use your own skills? However, the game brought up a great thought experiment. Many characters within the show questioned the worth and value of what they had experienced while in the game. Even though they knew they were in a simulation, they had communities and roles within the game, making it seem as though the game was more "real" than real-life.

This brings up an important question — if you were put into said virtual reality simulation, in which all of your senses were completely blocked from the real world and immersed into the simulation, would you be able to differentiate the feeling of "realness" in this state? The only way you would be able to tell that this virtual world was not real was because of differences in how the world was governed. That's how we distinguish what's real and what isn't; we compare what we humans experience normally to the conditions or states that we move into, such as the simulation.

Even if the world we were to live in were fake, however, would that depreciate the joy or pleasure that we would experience in the virtual world when measured against the same joy or pleasure in the real-world, assuming the joy or pleasure in both cases come from the same action? For those who want to lead a full, real, and happy life, be friendly, strong-willed, and have your own, unique personality that transcends whatever medium of communication you use, be it a chat box or your own voice.

— Jan Urbano is a junior in biochemistry and molecular biology. He can be reached at jurbano@utk.edu.