Using VR as a Tool to Cultivate Compassion with Condition One

Voices of VR Podcast – Episode #508

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Danfung-DennisDanfung Dennis of Condition One has an ambitious vision for the potential of virtual reality, and it’s one of the most radical ones that I’ve come across. He believes that VR can be used as a tool to cultivate compassion through having an embodied experience of witnessing suffering within VR. He says that the process of witnessing suffering can be used as a type of advanced Buddhist mind training to focus your attention, contemplate on your visceral reactions, and grow compassion through taking action. These brief VR experiences have the potential to impact day-to-day consumer decisions that people make, which can taken collectively could radically change the world.

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I know that this is possible is because I had one of the most powerful reactions I’ve ever had from watching Condition One’s Fierce Compassion / Operation Aspen VR experience. This live-action, cinéma vérité VR experience shows animal rights activists breaking into a factory farm to perform an open rescue and document the horrendous living conditions of Chicken in cages. It’s a guided tour of the many untreated heath ailments and barbaric conditions that are common in these types of industrial-scale factory farms. Having a direct embodied experience and bearing witness to this suffering had such a powerful impact on me that I vowed to never purchase anything other than cage-free Chicken eggs.

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Condition One has also been producing guided meditations that are designed to be watched after experiencing some of their other animal rights experiences. Factory Farm is the most graphic and intense experience I’ve ever had in VR in that it shows the slaughter of two pigs as they go through a factory farm in Mexico. After witnessing this horrific scene in VR, I can why Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.

Condition One has also been tackling larger issues like global warming in VR> They produced the Melting Ice companion VR piece to An Inconvenient Sequel, which is a follow-up film to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. The An Inconvenient Sequel film lays out all of the latest science as told through the personal narrative of Al Gore, and the VR experience doesn’t attempt to delve into that much depth of the science. Dennis pulled back a lot of the narrative and story elements and just focused on trying to create an embodied experience of transporting you to locations of melting ice as large chunks fall off the side of cliffs, the cracking sound of steady dripping, but also entire rivers of melting glaciers cutting through sheets of ice.

melting-ice-vr-1One of the challenges with complex topics like global warming is that it’s very difficult to provide a singular embodied experience in VR that tells the entire story of the systemic causes of global warming. Standing on melting ice that’s disappearing at an accelerated pace due to global warming is as good of a experience as any, but it’s still difficult to tell that entire story within the confines of VR. So rather than convey the science of it all, Dennis decided to take a more contemplative and Zen approach of creating an sparse experience with limited narration in order to cultivate a direct experience with the sounds and visuals of a rapidly changing part of the planet.

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Dennis believes that VR has the potential to be tool that can inspire humans to cultivate compassion by taking actions that relieve suffering. He’s interested in creating VR experiences that allow us to witness the suffering in the world, and that ultimately help us to expand our sphere of compassion beyond just our immediate friends, family, and pets to eventually include all sentient beings and the planet earth. These embodied virtual reality experiences stick with us in a deeper way, and become a part of our memories as we are making decisions of either continuing to participate in a system of violence or choosing more sustainable and ethical options that cultivate compassion and takes into consideration the impact on the next seven generations.


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  • Nigerian Wizard

    Compassion? More like Politics.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Yup – thank you.

    • PK

      whether it’s cultivated or manufactured, it’s still compassion. which is a powerful thing.

      • james harrison

        Have you not been reading the responses here?

        Compassion is just a leftist plot to get you to feel something.

        • PK

          nope hadn’t read any other comments, it’s playing out about as expected!

  • If they really want to impress people, they should make a video from the point of view of the chicken..

  • MdM

    Since when is simply viewing the inside of a factory farm propaganda? You think they fabricated the whole thing, don’t you? “Leftist propaganda” = “anything conservatives don’t like” apparently.

    • Nigerian Wizard

      If you are so dense that you cannot see that they want to deliver a political message on animal cruelty, then you have no say here.

      • JMM21

        So you seem to think its OK to treat animals in such a way? Have you even bothered to watch any videos on the lives and deaths of cows, pigs and various poultry? I am guessing not. Some of the things done to them make you think the ppl that work there are messed up in the head. They have been caught doing very cruel things. Anyway I will stop now or this could become very long. It is compassion when you wan to STOP the brutality of it. They could find a more human way of killing and at least let their short LIVES MATTER……

        • Nigerian Wizard

          Have you ever stepped outside of your gated community and gone hiking into the wild? Do you not understand how the wild operates? You think animals hold hands and run around asking for consent before murdering their prey? You think the chickens were on their knees praying for their family and children before getting their heads chopped off? Get real.

      • MdM

        If you do not care that animals are being treated horribly at these facilities, then by all means, express your opinion. But, what, exactly, makes you think that you’ve got the right to decide who gets to post here?

        Look, I get it… you’re just one of those people that doesn’t think it matters how animals are treated. At least, I hope that’s it… what if these people were trying to show that HUMANS were being mistreated? Would you still be whining about how this is leftist propaganda?

        • Nigerian Wizard

          Yeah. That’s still leftist you idiot. You are missing the point entirely. I don’t care if it’s leftist or right-wing. I never once stated my affiliation yet you call me some kind of crazy conservative. VR is a platform for politics is all I said originally. “Compassion” is just a facade this video uses to express their political opinion by appealing to emotion. Nothing else.

          But if you really want to talk about what I really think about the food industry: I say they’ve nothing wrong. We are the most arrogant animals in nature. We get all up in arms about how we slaughter our food so we can put a jewish label on it. Nature is cruel by nature and this is survival. Evolution does not teach you how to kill competition with “compassion”.

          • MdM

            First of all, I never called you anything, much less a conservative. In fact, I wasn’t even talking to you at all. But for some reason, you decided to reply to my post directed at Brandon. I wasn’t even talking about whether the video was political. I was talking about whether it was propaganda.

            I think you need to chill out a bit. You sound very angry. You don’t own this forum. Don’t get all upset just because someone expressed their opinion and it doesn’t match yours.

            I think you also need to THINK a bit. Compassion is just a facade to express a political opinion? I find it sad that you are driven by evolution and find no reason at all in life to be compassionate to other living things. Maybe you should get a dog.

            I’m curious where you draw the line. In recent history, we’ve discovered that dolphins are about as smart as humans. Did you ever see the documentary “The Cove”, which uncovered Japanese mass killing of dolphins? Do you consider this to be leftist propaganda? Does it matter at all the intelligence of the creature in question? What about a human with mental disabilities? There are certainly some dolphins who have a greater mental capacity than some humans… if you still believe it’s ok to kill the dolphin but not the human, then what is your criteria?

          • Nigerian Wizard

            Oh I can never read the reply chain in this forum since its all indented.

            I draw the line elsewhere and no that doesn’t mean I need a dog to show you my compassion. Sucks for the dolphins but that still falls in what I believe: we are part of the cycle of nature. It is natural for us to exploit other species. Don’t say it as if humans are the only species to do this. Because that’s just the arrogance I was talking about earlier.

            “mentally disabled” is far too loose of a term. You will have to be more specific. But I assure you there are diseases that make people suicidal. So that should answer your question.

          • MdM

            Consider also that humans are not the only species that are known to show compassion for lower lifeforms.

            What makes you think that the cycle of nature you are talking about isn’t supposed to be broken? What immutable truth tells you that things HAVE to be this way? I’m not a vegetarian, but I know (some) vegetarians believe this is a way to break that cycle of nature. Technically, you don’t HAVE to kill things to live. You can survive off the fruits of other living things without destroying them. Since that’s possible, it would seem that evolution would eventually push to move living things in that direction, since, in general, we benefit by having other living things alive around us. It’s pretty obvious that when human beings destroy or consume things around us without regard for other living things, it affects the ecosystem in a way that tends to come back and bite us. So, it would benefit us to move away from killing things in general.

            Nature is only cruel because living things are flawed. To me, that’s where the spiritual side of things comes in. There’s so much hate and violence in the world (all due to human flaw, IMO)… you can either decide to accept this as natural, or you can choose to go against it and try to find ways to live in peace with ALL living things.

            In my life, I try to balance my love for and talents in science with a thirst for truth and spirituality. That doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in God, but I do believe that there is a yet unknown reason that a living creature would want to be net positive on other living things. To give more than take. Whether it means you go to heaven, or you ascend to a higher spiritual state, or you reincarnate to a higher-level lifeform… to me it’s irrelevant which of those you believe, because we currently can’t prove or disprove any of them.

            Out of curiosity, are you either religious or spiritual?

          • Nigerian Wizard

            No I’m not religious. And this is really going too deep for me to justify eating a burger.

            There are no immutable truths. We’ve been for millions of years competing for survival and it wasn’t until the last few thousands of years when we
            started to turn against this natural flow just because like-minded people got together and started exploring alternatives. They could be more efficient but that doesn’t really matter. The strong always prevails over the weak. So even if there are alternatives to keep the weak, it should not matter if they exist or not. Thus, the only reason we would keep them around is because of exterior reasons like compassion. But this is a form of arrogance. Because we pity them so much we let them live. It’s an act of superiority over the weak. Yet we won’t kill them? Sounds stupid to me. I say kill them and embrace natural order. Also because I like eating chicken.

          • MdM

            It was genuinely good discussing this with you. I constantly feel compelled to seek out and understand people who think differently from me. I could tell you felt strongly and had put some thought into what you were saying, so I wanted to understand better… I just had to get you past calling me an idiot.