Prozac in Metaverse: Mental Illness in the Virtual World | Science and Technology

Pills and capsule on a light pink background.© Iggy Sayuga (Getty Images)

Takeshi travels in style, always alone. It doesn’t need much to get around: just a working electricity grid, fiber-optic internet connection, a TV, a powerful computer, a modern video game console, and heaps of instant ramen. Without leaving his room, he could sail the virtual seas for years. Takeshi is an agoraphobia, a modern vampire who has surrendered to his coffin, as afraid of fresh air as he is of the electricity of human contact. and he hikikomori, or “parasite celibate”, as the Japanese began to call young people like him. His tendency to abandon physical reality in order to live in the virtual world is becoming more and more common among young people around the world.

Young people like Takeshi are more likely to experience high levels of social anxiety, psychosis, and depression. Or at least that’s what Dr. Tamaki Saito diagnosed in his book. Hikikomori: Endless Adolescence. Saito sees hikikomoris As a local consequence of two clashing elements in modern Japanese society: on the one hand, the social stigma around difference, and on the other hand, the growth of digital spaces that provide space for individual expression. When young people see their limited opportunities in the “real world” – a term that is becoming increasingly blurred – they can turn to the endless possibilities of the digital world. Saito warns that the cultural phenomenon could grow to include up to 10 million young Japanese. And if metaverse visionaries succeed, there could be plenty of them around the world.

Drunk at their success in changing the modern world, Zuckerberg and his Silicon Valley followers set out to change reality. Not only did they irreparably change the social life of more than half of the planet’s population, these T-shirt millionaires, having launched the Big Brother machines, now aspire to completely conquer the senses of consumers.

But beware: anyone who gets carried away by metavirus will need a kilo and a half of aspirin every day. Our experience of reality is already teetering on the brink of stability every day, and our perception has been altered by natural elements like light, fatigue, hunger, and love. To what extent will our brain be able to manage our crossing between two different worlds?

Metaverse presents itself as a variety show where negativity pays little dividend. If its inhabitants aspire to escape from external assumptions, then it will become a universe in which boundaries become blurred, selfishness constantly grows and control It is just a brand of condoms. But, unfortunately, the more its creators hope that the metaverse will resemble the physical universe, the more they have to give it uncomfortable experiences. And if the big fashion brands are already in the NFT space, how long will it take drug companies to start selling metaversal antidepressants? Mental illness is a lucrative industry, and those who spend all their time in this artificial paradise will become new customers, buying cybernetic doses of serotonin. If, as Amartya Sen said, we do not discover our identity, but construct it, then identity in the metaverse is a construct based on a distorted understanding of who we are. The images we project into this alternate dimension will allow us to rebuild ourselves as we wish, and will remind us of all that we would like to be and what we don’t wish.

In a recent article, Ricardo Duda quotes Adam Phillips, who argued the “importance of not knowing yourself.” Self-knowledge involves identifying one’s own traumas in narrative form, without escaping from them. “You can only restore your appetite, your appetite [for life]Phillips said. Building our lives around avatars involves constant questioning. Once you step away from these avatars, reality reveals how much we hate our physical selves. We tend to be our own worst critics. Self-loathing can lead us to do anything, even sell our souls to cyberspace. As Phillips says, “The vocabulary of self-criticism is very poor and cliched. We are at the height of our self-loathing. In the future, we can fight this self-loathing in two ways: a tangible Prozac can appear on our doorstep from an Amazon drone, or we can spend Our days of mining crypto-currencies for Meta versus digital antidepressants for our avatars.

This does not look like a desirable future. Forty years ago, it would have been absurd for a group of companies in California to turn us into bundles of data whose behaviors could be monetized without limits. Or that social relationships will be mediated through digital profiles, or dating will be managed by a non-personal app, where some photos and short descriptions are supposed to create attraction. Given these changes, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that we’d all succumb to hikikomori reality.

The Metaverse could become “the great magical cauldron in which the world history bubbles”, as Arnold Rouge described Paris at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but I fear it could become the home of those minds devoid of everything but “themselves”.

We can remember SimsThe famous game whose goal was to create a family and build a world that meets their needs. After about an hour and a half of gameplay, the typical dynamics generally gave way to creative ways to play with the characters. After being forced into all kinds of physical and emotional collisions, the player exercised his existential frustrations by sending Sims to the hospital, abandoning them on clogged rooftops, or leaving newborns without food until their children died. rot. There was a distinct sense of depersonalization around these characters. But as with tamagotchis, digital people were the prerogative of the player who found himself enamored with sadistic curiosity. I don’t understand why the metaverse should be different, except that those thrown into dissolution wouldn’t be anonymous characters, but other people, embodied in anthropomorphic avatars, experiencing bullying.

The metaverse can become a psychotic haven to fuel a form of sadism. Our society can push towards schizophrenia, detached from reality, and turn truth into a series of delusional interpretations, leading to paranoia, delusions, and disturbances that remain as unknown in one world as in the other.

Boxes of antidepressants will then be circulated around our digital mahogany tables or our used IKEA desks, where we’ll rest our heads when the combination of cleaning solution and sleeping pills makes us drop the two dimensions.

This is what happened to Takeshi: The smell of his rotten head on a large pot of Samyang Ramen alerted the authorities. His inactivity in the alternate universes he plunged into – electronic suicide – surprised thousands of other parasitic bachelors, who were waiting for him in artificial dungeons where they would continue to hide from reality, indifferent to Takeshi’s death.

Sharpen your sense of smell. Sooner than you think, Takeshi may be living and perfuming the next door.

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