Friday, 1 October 2004

Virtual Environment

Since birth, our senses (hear, touch, taste, sight, …) constantly feed signals to our brain which progressively builds a model of the environment we are living in.

From elementary science, we say that matter is made up of atoms. For a solid, like the desk on which I am typing this post, feels solid me to. However, from the atomic theory, we say this “solid space” is basically empty. Our feeling of solid comes from the sense input that our finger cannot penetrate into the desk. An atomic explanation is that there is a strong repulsive force between atoms of our finger and the atoms of the desk when these atoms are too close (touching in our normal sense).

Once, human believes that the earth is flat. Today, most people would agree that the earth is more like a sphere. Not everyone has traveled around the world for a first person experience that the Earth is round. We have, instead, been collecting information which eventually convinces ourselves that the earth is spherical despite against the intuitive everyday experience with our immediate physical surrounding.

These examples illustrate two points I would like to raise in this post:
1. our concept of “real” is created via our senses
2. some concepts are learnt, e.g. via secondary or third person experience.

Once all these concepts are incorporated into our holistic system, do we still have the ability to make a distinction between them? I mean can we still be able to separate out which concepts are formed from our first person sense-based experience and which concepts are formed because we were told about it and unconsciously exposed to such concepts?

I may not go as far as questioning whether we are “life” in some higher order intelligence game (Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?). However, I do want to think about which of the following two is more powerful for education and training purposes:
1. imagined reality generated by the creative minds of the player, or
2. virtual reality generated by computer algorithms based on some subject matter experts’ concepts of the model.

Again, I don’t think there is an absolute black and white answer to my last question. “Quality is a matter of the fitness for the purpose”. However, I do challenge you, yes YOU, to ponder the potential of harnessing the imagined reality created by the learners themselves, as a strategy to promote learning.

Just before you arrive at the conclusion that I am psycho, I would also like to ask you to ponder the following two questions:
1. Are chickens the way eggs reproduce?
2. Is our biological body just an embodiment of our mental self?

Is real really real?

ps When I have time, I would like to read these books:
The Wake of Imagination: Toward a Postmodern Culture
To Dwell With a Boundless Heart: Essays in Curriculum Theory, Hermeneutics, and the Ecological Imagination (Counterpoints : Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education , Vol 77)

No comments: