Virtual Reality and Empathy Enhancement: Ethical Aspects
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Frontiers Media SA
Virtual realityEmpathyEmpathy enhancementMoral enhancementMoral psychologyNeuroethicsApplied ethicsVirtual embodiment
Rueda J and Lara F (2020) Virtual Reality and Empathy Enhancement: Ethical Aspects. Front. Robot. AI 7:506984. [doi: 10.3389/frobt.2020.506984]
PatrocinadorMinistry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness of the Spanish Government FFI2016-79000-P PID2019-104943RB-I00; INPhINIT Retaining Fellowship of the La Caixa Foundation LCF/BQ/DR20/11790005
The history of humankind is full of examples that indicate a constant desire to make human beings more moral. Nowadays, technological breakthroughs might have a significant impact on our moral character and abilities. This is the case of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. The aim of this paper is to consider the ethical aspects of the use of VR in enhancing empathy. First, we will offer an introduction to VR, explaining its fundamental features, devices and concepts. Then, we will approach the characterization of VR as an “empathy machine,” showing why this medium has aroused so much interest and why, nevertheless, we do not believe it is the ideal way to enhance empathy. As an alternative, we will consider fostering empathy-related abilities through virtual embodiment in avatars. In the conclusion, however, we will examine some of the serious concerns related to the ethical relevance of empathy and will defend the philosophical case for a reason-guided empathy, also suggesting specific guidelines for possible future developments of empathy enhancement projects through VR embodied experiences.