The coming ubiquity of VR may change how we interact and socialize in ways good and ill alike. Photo via

New Book Explores Societal Benefits, Ethical Considerations of VR

Tech news site VentureBeat’s Ian Hamilton recently reviewed the release of Experience on Demand: What Virtual Reality Is, How It Works, and What It Can Do, after calling the book a “must-read” on the subject. Written by Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford University communications professor and director of the university’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Experience on Demand focuses primarily on the dawning effects that such profound technology might have on humans and society. Drawing from his own expertise in the field from two decades of study, Bailenson’s newest work follows the success of an earlier book on VR Bailenson co-authored, Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives.

According to Hamilton’s glowing coverage of  Experience on Demand, most of the book’s chapters focus on ways in which increased exposure to VR may help individuals and society, including examples gleaned from the book such as “changing a person’s worldview for the better, becoming better at your job or a sport through lots of practice in a simulation, the fun of visiting a virtual world rich with things to discover, or changing the perception of pain by distracting someone.” Experience on Demand, however, doesn’t focus exclusively on potential benefits of VR, and Hamilton notes that Bailenson’s analysis doesn’t shy from criticism of  VR’s potential pitfalls and includes ample though-provoking content questioning VR’s risks to society, “including learning bad behavior from others and escaping the real world for too long.”

Overall, Hamilton concludes that “those who closely follow the VR industry will find sections of Experience on Demand familiar and skimmable” but still “recommend[s] the book to practically anyone”, going so far to describe Bailenson’s thoroughly thought-out and well-researched prose as “the most accessible way to get a solid understanding of this technology, what it could be good for and, yes, what we should be careful about”.

For the rest of the review, including commentary from Bailenson and an overview of some of the book’s other ethical and societal predictions, read Hamilton’s full review at VentureBeat.