( Courtesy of the artist <a href="http://touchon.com/" target="_blank">Cecil Touchon</a> and the <a href="http://searspeyton.com/html/artistresults.asp?artist=80&testing=true">Sears/Peyton Gallery</a> i
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In our exploration of media spaces this week, we became increasingly uncomfortably aware of how quickly the gap is closing between where we live in the physical world and the vast landscape inside our heads. It's not a new observation.
We've devoted a lot of time to the addictive nature of virtual experience offered by the likes of World of Warcraft or Second Life.
Way back in 2003, we talked with Rich Young, who had a jones for the massive multiplayer online game EverQuest. RICH YOUNG: At one point, I was playing it almost 8 to 12 hours a day, nonstop. On the weekends [LAUGHS], if I wasn't sleeping, I was playing.
I think the big trap is the social aspect of it. When you log in and you say, how's it going everybody, all of your friends, everyone that's in your guild says, hi, what's up, how you doing? I got to the point where I was burning out. I was starting to lose a little bit of perspective. I realized, hey, wait a minute [LAUGHS], this is not the path to absolution. BROOKE GLADSTONE: No path to absolution, no more than in the real world - but maybe to something else. The virtual world feels real. In fact, a study published in 2006 found that when your personal space is violated there, you'll flinch just as you would in the physical world.
So there is potential for real healing. Therapists use virtual reality as safe environments in which their patients can confront phobias and stress, just one of the advantages of virtuality. It can be safe or risky. You can be the same or someone else. It is virtually limitless.
Currently, NASA is using Second Life to test collaborative technologies and hopes that someday soon civilians will be able to use avatars to hitch a ride on real lunar road missions and help the professionals by spotting, say, unusual geologic formations.
Yeah! You could go to the moon, part of you, anyway. And because we live mostly in our heads, it might be the part that matters most.