Counter-view: Virtual reality isn’t the moral game-changer some make it out to be

It’s Ridiculous to Use Virtual Reality to Empathize With Refugees

EXCERPT: [...] Although all of these simulations have an unpleasant component, they are engaging -- you don’t need to coerce people to use them; they will line up to try them out. [...] And if you were indifferent to the suffering of certain people, it’s conceivable that the VR experience might do something to combat this indifference.

But VR is far from the moral game-charger that some make it out to be. In part, this is because it’s so focused on creating empathy, and as I’ve argued elsewhere, empathy is a poor guide to charitable giving. Who we feel empathy for is strongly influenced by irrelevant factors such as race and attractiveness and similarity, and our empathy often directs us in the wrong direction. Indeed, it can be exploited by unscrupulous actors to make the world worse. If you want to do good, you should focus on where your money will make the most positive difference, not on whose suffering you are prompted to feel more acutely.

But even putting this aside, it turns out that VR doesn’t actually help you appreciate what it’s like to be a refugee, homeless, or disabled. In fact, it can be dangerously misleading....
Yeah, there's a sort of cultural desperation or lack of a personal sense of dignity that no simulation will ever impress upon anyone. Americans attacked, like the civil war in Syria or ISIS in Iraq, would much sooner fight than flee. It's culturally ingrained.

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