The ethics of virtual reality and telepresence
Maslen H., Savulescu J.
© Oxford University Press, 2018 and University of Tartu Press, 2012. Present-day biohybrid technologies increasingly allow us to escape the experiential confines of our biological bodies. However, as human agents spend more time in virtual environments, and as the prospects for telepresence become more sophisticated, a number of philosophical and ethical questions arise. This chapter considers a range of examples of virtual reality and telepresence technologies. It examines the value of the virtual experience, asking how virtual experiences contribute to our wellbeing. It asks whether human agents can be authentically “themselves” in virtual environments, and how to understand the relationship between virtual and real acts. It considers the ethical principles governing behavior in virtual environments, addressing how these will or will not differ from the ethical principles governing behavior in non-virtual life. Finally, the chapter addresses the ethical questions raised by the prospect of acting at a distance through telepresence technology, focusing particularly on the moral responsibility of the telepresent agent for her remote acts, and on the harm that might be inflicted on the telepresent agent.