I was reading this piece on io9 about the relationship of being a superhero in a virtual reality can lend itself to you being altruistic in the real world. The article went on about how the test subjects used the VR tech. There were two groups – ones that could fly under their own power and another that flew but in a helicopter. When the experiment was over, the tester had knocked over a jar of pens. Of those that flew under their power were the ones that helped over those who did not help and flew in the helicopter. The article as went on to say that the power of flight might have contributing factor.
Now, those who follow this blog would undoubtedly want to have a superpower for a variety of reasons. Flying, I believe, would be high on the list for many people including myself. As an experiment, I typed in the word “superhero” on the 3 big search engines. Yahoo, Bing, and Google each had similar results when it came to images. (Give it a try.) A flying superhero or a Superman image appears first; which is kinda interesting. My guess is the concept of flying is so ingrained in our imagination and that it is logical to associate with the word of superhero.
Thinking further on this point, I had Maslow’s hierarchy of needs concept stuck in my head. When I was laid off from work and wasn’t going to school, I was at the lowest point in my life as the very basics – food, shelter, clothing were at times not being met. Moving on the Maslow’s next level can only be done when the level below is fulfilled and so on. Recently, I ran a 1/2 marathon which is the top-level, Self Actualization. This was something that was beyond I had ever done and could have only done in Maslow’s order. What if this sudden injection of superpowers such as flying would make leaps and bounds over the Maslow’s level and in some cases skipping them? In doing so, we have this new perspective on the world around us? In other words, if I was in the same experiment and was unemployed, would I yield the same results with the jar of pens? Were those flying in the experiment working and secured the each of Maslow’s level? If the answer is yes, than I would conclude my outcome would have become less than altruistic and here’s why.
If you remember the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I think this is what would happen to me because the Maslow levels are not satisfied. For example, I was poor and hungry and suddenly, I found a million dollars. Now, I am not poor but I’m still hungry. I may have security with my new wealth but not satisfied my hunger. In the process, I could become reckless with the money and lose it all. There would an element of instability/corruption because there was no foundation. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, First Officer Will Riker was given the powers of Q who is omnipotent. While he used his powers for good, he was getting corruptible each time he used those powers. He did not grow into those powers over days, week, years or even a lifetime; it just happened in a flash.
What do you think?