The Nuclear Biscuit: the VR experience that puts you in control of the "nuclear button"

The Nuclear Biscuit: the VR experience that puts you in control of the “nuclear button”

What would you do if you were the head of the world’s leading military power and the nation was under direct threat from enemy nuclear missiles? This stressful scenario, to say the least, is that of The Nuclear Biscuit, a VR experiment conducted by Princeton University. The participant is directly immersed (in VR) in the Oval Office of the White House. The hour is serious, and intelligence agents direct the president-guinea pig to a secure and top secret room.

The brief is quick: hundreds of Russian nuclear warheads are heading towards the United States, and we must decide on a retaliation. The participant can decide to do nothing, to release a few missiles from nuclear submarines which would result in the death of 15 million Russians, or to choose an all-out attack strategy that would result in at least 10 to 25 million of victims. To make matters worse, the decision must be made in less than 15 minutes!

In this context of intense stress, most of the participants in the experiment chose… the most lethal option, that is, all-out nuclear war! With this experience to say the least original, Princeton wanted above all to evaluate the decision-making process in an extremely restrictive framework and limited in exploitable information. However, the majority of test results must still be put into perspective according to the researchers. Above all, under a VR headset, the participants know very well that their choices do not lead to REAL consequences, which obviously changes the situation …

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