Things are getting weird…
My son has been acting strange lately.
He’s been walking. Outside. A lot. If you have a teenage son I’m sure you appreciate how weird this is.
I come home and the TVs off. The Playstation is shut down. And he’s out ‘walking’.
As a dad you start to get worried. What’s he up to. Is he breaking into houses? Is it drugs?
Nope. It’s Pokémon.
My son has been caught up in the Pokémon craze, and now he’s hardly at home. He’s wandering the streets looking for Pikachu or whatever his name is.
So I’ve got mixed feelings about it. We’ve had to have more than a few chats about limiting time on the game machines in our house. And I have to tune in with each game he gets to make sure I feel ok about it.
(I’ve sent a couple back. Man, I can’t believe the stuff they put in games.)
So, part of me is not excited that he’s spending more time on computer games, and becoming even more intimately connected with his devices.
But on the other hand, he’s getting out of the house. He’s exercising – a lot. And he’s meeting people and having real human interactions. So that’s a big plus.
And then there’s this augmented reality technology that has just been released on humanity without any considerations for what negative impacts it might have. No control group studies. No congresses of philosophers to discuss the ethical implications.
Nope. Just here you go humanity. Here’s something that shifts your understanding of reality. You go deal with it.
What could go wrong?
I think it’s the human story, that our technology always marches miles ahead of us. When a new technology arrives, its out there. There’s no scope to stop and think, do we really want guns on the planet?
And so we’re just left to adjust to the change. But there’s no going back. If the technology spreads quickly (and all of them do these days), then the adjusted state becomes your new normal, and there’s no way of unwinding the adjustments that have happened.
I was reading the other day about some scientists who wanted to study the affect online porn had on young men. In the end though they had to abandon their research. They just couldn’t find the subjects.
That is, they couldn’t find the control subjects. In any study you need a control group – a group that isn’t influenced by the thing you’re trying to study, so you can isolate its impact.
But they just couldn’t find any young men who DIDN’T watch online porn on a regular basis. They searched high and low, but they just couldn’t find them. (I know. Who wouldda thought?) The only people men they could find lived on Amish communities, but that lifestyle is too different to work as a control group.
The technology was out of the box. By the time we got to wondering if it was a good thing (or to even try and figure out what impact it had) it was too late. It was too widespread.
I think in a few years we’ll be looking back at Augmented Reality (AR) in the same way. Right now AR is pretty basic – there’s a cartoon Pokemon showing up on your real time camera, as you look at the real world. But you know how quickly technology is moving these days.
Here’s a million dollar idea. A pair of glasses that, when you’re walking down the street, overlays images of naked bodies on the people that you come across, to make it look like everyone in your city is naked.
Or maybe it could overlay the face of Brad Pitt onto your lover’s face. Maybe you could both wear those glasses and experience the unique ecstasy of Brad Pitt making love to himself.
How does the human mind adjust to that?
(Sorry professor, we just can’t find anyone who hasn’t made everyone in their life look like Brad Pitt.)
So I would like to humbly suggest to humanity that maybe we should stop and think about this AR business for a bit. But I know it won’t happen.
And I think the consequences could be scary. But probably not in a predictable way. Take video game violence. There’s was a lot of worry that violent video games would make people violent. But there’s been no evidence that they have.
Because we’re able to abstract. At some point, someone made a video game where you had to save babies falling from buildings. But it didn’t change the game-play. Players just saw it as a game, and figured out strategies to maximise points.
Turns out, thankfully, that we’re pretty good at discerning reality from non-reality. I guess this is a learnt skill. When cinemas were invented, the first shows had images of a train racing towards the camera, or a bandit pointing his gun at the camera and shooting.
People ran screaming from the cinema.
But AR takes us closer to that edge where we can no longer discern between the real reality and the generated reality.
This is a total twilight zone.
My hope is that we might begin to understand the malleable nature of reality. That is, once we’ve understood that we can influence our digital reality, and then our Augmented Reality, I think we’ll naturally start taking an interest in our ‘real’ reality.
How do I change it up? Who’s telling this story anyway? How do I hack it and make it more to my liking?
Becoming the authors of our Augmented Reality is one step closer to becoming the author’s of our own actual reality.
This is a very exciting space.
Potentially we stand at the gates of a great Pokémon Enlightenment.
A man can only hope.
What do you make of this whole Pokémon business?