Augmented Reality in the Bible
“Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”
“And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.”Mark 8:18, 24
In the last two decades, what people want is less of what is real, and more of what they imagine is real. The term ‘virtual reality’ rose to popular use in the 1980’s, and in recent years the variations of digital media have boggled the mind. The scenes of life that were thought to be enjoyed best with the naked eye now seem dull and boring without a device to enhance them.
Animation, or moving pictures are fine for simple recreation, but modern minds crave immersion. Realistic looking graphics are still expensive to come by, however. Also, the human brain knows when it is being tricked. Animation, as a means to virtual reality hasn’t been able to escape its artificial roots.
Augmented reality is the next step: blending real life visual information with an overlay of additional data or graphics. Heads-Up-Displays (HUD), 360-degree videos, photo editors and lens filters, 3D imaging, immersive apps and holograms all point to devices or programs that modify what you see. Thus, adding to what you see by how you see. And there are many more to come.
Nancy Gupton of the Franklin Institute lists four different categories of alternate realities: virtual (VR), augmented (AR), mixed (MR)and extended (XR). In a mixed-reality experience, real world and digital objects interact. Beyond that even, the article states: “Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term that covers all of the various technologies that enhance our senses, whether they’re providing additional information about the actual world or creating totally unreal, simulated worlds for us to experience.”
That lost men are blind was captured never-so-well as John Newton’s enduring hymn. “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now, I see.” A man may be blind, unable to receive light, or he may be blind, as in seeing something that is not really there.
Augmented or Bewitched?
Optical illusions have been around since man left the Garden of Eden. Late-night/early-morning drivers have often felt the effects of the ‘witching hour,’ the wee hours just before daybreak. Often images will jump into your peripheral vision and cause you to swerve or brake for a phantom crossing the road. The scene of many a night-time traffic accident is attended by a host of these unreal creatures. Those tricked to follow these ghosts often pay with their life.
Between asleep and awake lies a hazy realm where much of the world resides. It is a land of half-enlightened, half-shaded truth. Though man’s destiny lies in one of two absolutes, Heaven or Hell, the present is clouded with a gray area large enough to swallow the soul. This life is the final fantasy for mankind, the only chance of the Devil to bewitch man’s mind from beholding Christ. As Paul said of the early church age ‘witching hour:’
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1) In other words, you can look right at Someone, and not see Him.
In this Scripture, we find a man who progressed from blind to bewitched to beholding.
Humans have a funny aversion to wanting to be deceived. The ‘blockbuster’ movies that release every month both spend AND raise millions of dollars for one purpose: to make an act look real. We don’t actually want millions of people to die for an end-of-the-world fiction, we just want to PRETEND like millions of people die. We don’t want to actually rape, murder, lie, steal, infect, destroy, etc. we just want a good PORTRAYAL of them.
One hundred and twenty years ago, the primary medium was paper, and books contributed either to the education or the dissolution of men. A pastor of that era warned:
“I counsel you to avoid all those books which give false portraiture of human life. Life is neither a tragedy nor a farce; men are not all knaves or heroes; women are neither angels nor furies; and yet much of the literature of the day would seem to give you the idea that instead of life being an earnest, practical thing, it is a fantastic and extravagant thing.
An indiscriminate reader of novels is inane, useless, a nuisance, unfit for store, bank, office, factory, street, home–anywhere.”–The Burning Books, T. DeWitt Talmage
You could surely replace “books,” “literature,” and “novels,” with “devices,” “apps,” and “games,” and not sacrifice the integrity of the warning.
Notwithstanding the massive amounts of money expended by modern visual media, our God-given brain suffers from the exposure to the make-believe. As with food, saccharin sweets often have a bitter aftertaste. We KNOW its not real, therefore, we consume lots of it to fill a real void.
You have felt this addiction at the end of watching a video, no matter how long or short. As soon as you see it is over, as the credits roll or the end screen ads pop up, withdrawal sets in, and the user is expected to scroll his phone for additional fake pictures to watch. Fictional presentation has made us all junkies. Artificial reality has left its needle tracks in our arms and leaves us looking for more.
See More, See Less
It is the truth that ‘we know when it’s not real’ that is both the defense of the 3-hour movie binger, and the argument for a new societal opioid: augmented reality: the movie that never has to end.
Since the typical American life is so incomplete and unsatisfied, it must have purpose given to it somehow. There is no struggle to survive (overall), so to gain a feeling of success we adopt fake causes from the news, fake feelings from movies, and fake displays of our lives from and through social media. Most men care less about what their next-door neighbor is doing, but they can be moved to rage or suicide over what someone thinks (or dare, says) about their online ‘status.’ Our reality has become augmented- moved to something it should never have been.
Numbers 32:14 is the only Bible appearance of the word, ‘augment’. You are always wise to consider what the Scripture states, even if only one time. As Pastor Steve Leathley once said, “When a word shows up often, it is important; when it shows up only once, it is valuable.”
“And the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed,
And, behold, ye are risen up in your fathers’ stead, an increase of sinful men, to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel.
For if ye turn away from after him, he will yet again leave them in the wilderness; and ye shall destroy all this people.”Numbers 32:13-15
Without much speculation on this solitary usage, I believe you can see that augmentation adds to a thing more than it ought to be.
Secularly, in an article titled Potential Dangers of Augmented Reality, Naveen Joshi presents five dangers to adding more information to our visual senses through technology:
- Information Overload
- Perception Impairment
Sadly, it is a minority of people who will approach this topic with caution. Biblically, we have a curious case here that ought to make us stop and think about what our devices are doing to us. It is an important lesson that a man can leave blind, while he believes he is seeing.
Nevertheless, to give over completely to “deceiving and being deceived,” (2 Timothy 3:13) the latest and greatest minds are buying into augmented reality.
We, quite literally, can’t see the forest for the trees… walking.