In a society where full-immersion virtual reality is common, how much more of a hurdle would it be to trick the mind into accepting a different passage of time?

For example; you enter a virtual reality and seem to spend a year in it, but in reality only a few hours have passed.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ 1) You should watch the movie Inception. 2) That's really not how VR works, but given that we don't actually have full-immersion VR (or data for it yet), the story possibilities are endless. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 14, 2017 at 5:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That's one of the plot elements in the Otherland series by Tad Williams, which involves full immersion VR. $\endgroup$
    – user39523
    Jul 14, 2017 at 6:10
  • $\begingroup$ Also seen in "boy and his tank". $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Jul 14, 2017 at 7:25
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    $\begingroup$ Easy. Step 1: load up VR video game. Step 2: Play for "a couple of hours". Step 3: take helmet off, realize "a couple of hours" was actually more like eight and it's now 3am. I did this all the time at uni, minus the VR part. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ECiurleo Sorry many people have answered in a similar way, but I can only ping one and I chose you. Time moving feeling differently is absolutely not the same as time passing at a different rate. One example: No matter how boring your traffic jam is, you will never be able to master the trumpet any faster compared to the outside world no matter how boring your traffic jam is. $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:28

1 Answer 1


This is a hard one.

Let's imagine that our VR device can read/stimulate every output/input neuron to the brain and thereby completely simulate a different reality. The problem remains that the internal processing of the brain is based in wetware - biology, going at biological speed. For the same quality of experience, time must pass at about the same rate. Otherwise you'd be watching reality in 'fast-forward', just like fast-forwarding a DVD you were watching. Not the same quality of experience.

An even more immersive experience would be where the state of the brain (i.e. all neuron states, all connections and connection strengths) could be read and copied (this is a tricky problem). Now we can put it on an electronic substrate, we can run it at any speed; running it faster would make the outside world appear to slow down. The problem here comes when you want to leave VR, because your brain-state is significantly different to that of the left-behind biological brain. A tricky merge operation would be required, limited by how quickly the biological brain could be updated.

So to answer the question, from a theoretical standpoint it's perfectly possible to trick the brain in this way, from a practical standpoint it's very very hard.


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