In virtual reality, it may be possible to be “more you than you ever imagined.” But, what does this mean? And is it really true?

There is a difference between the person we want to be and the person that we in fact are. We would like to be x, y, and z, but we find that we are not. And we distinguish between “our true self” (or “our ideal self”) from the person you see in the mirror. And this brings up an interesting question, “Why are you not the person you want to be?”

But, what if the world was a different kind of place? And what if we could learn to control our natural impulses? It might be a different story, altogether. What if it was up to you?

The theory that “you are what you choose” is called “existentialism.” Jean-Paul Sartre is, perhaps, the most famous of the “existentialists.” In his early work, Sartre focuses on the role of choice and argues it is through our choices that we determine who we are. “Existence proceeds essence.” If go to church on Sundays, you are likely to be a different kind of person than if you go to an opium den.

In his later work, however, Sartre recants (like many philosophers before him – perhaps, most maddeningly, Machiavelli, Wittgenstein, and Kant), emphasizing that we do in fact have very little control over our lives. And it is true that our actions, our thoughts, and our behaviors are, to a large extent, preprogrammed by our life experience and our genetic inheritance. That is, we are conditioned to respond to various stimuli from our outside environment; and we find that we have less control over our lives than we would like to think.

In the Virtual World, however, we will have us greater power over many of the things that influence us. Virtual genetics and social engineering will give us greater control over ourselves, and virtual physics will give us greater power over the physical environment. In the virtual world, we will no longer be at the mercy of our social and biological circumstances; we will be able to define our circumstances, and thereby define who we are to become. “Who is in control?” “I Am.”

Virtual reality is an existential paradise. “Existence proceeds essence.”

In this way, virtual reality is a tool that may used to help us be more us than we ever imagined, a way to overcome our human limitations and transcend our social and biological histories. Yet, it is a tool, and it may be used for good or evil.