July 20, 2016

Pokemon Go (or no)?

Over the past week or so I've been keeping close attention to the latest smart phone craze, Pokémon Go (PG) out of sheer awe, amazement, confusion, and (if I were to be honest) disgust and fear.  I have considered all points of view with an open mind and, to this point, I still have more questions than answers.  I thought it may be a refreshing change to ask more questions in this post than provide answers (or opinions). 

Question #1: Could this craze become the next "bread and circuses" of our generation diverting our attention from what's really important?

The Roman government of the past had a great idea when it came to dealing with the masses and the potential uprising of society.  Through the provision of free bread and entertainment (i.e. the Roman Coliseum events) they were able to shift the focus of the crowds from fighting for social change to watching gladiators fight to the death in the ring (sound familiar?).  

I was reminded of this while reading the latest articles on PG suggesting that it is creating a healthy diversion from the terrible happenings in the world right now.  So my question is...is this a good thing or taking our global attention off what desperately needs our attention for positive social change??????

Question #2:  Are we lowering the bar of physical activity so much it may become more of a public health issue than living a sedentary lifestyle?

I'm consistently hearing the argument that PG is introducing many sedentary people to physical activity.  According to the articles, many people are walking for miles with phone in hand (whilst bumping into things, walking into traffic, and disconnected from the natural environment).

Will this lead to problems we have yet to even comprehend? Problems related to gaming addiction, or an inability to truly connect with nature without seeing it through a techno-buffer? Is this really bringing people together as suggested or disconnecting them even more as all thought, manners, and respect go out the proverbial window?

I am not that comfortable with the argument that "at least it is getting kids out of the house" because of my own critical thoughts about what creates or fuels a true connection with nature. Can one authentically be a part of nature while looking through a smart phone focused on capturing fictional creatures?  If PG can serve as a gateway to introducing kids to physical activity and nature (while giving up the smart phone and interacting with the real - not augmented - environment) then I'm all for PG!

Question #3:  If augmented reality is the future, does this future reduce the human race to zombie-like meat suits void of critical thought?

Sifting through the on-line news reports I do see huge groups of people "socializing" together and hear of instances where this game is promoting social connection.  What I'm confused about is the pictures I have seen so far, while you do see people in large groups, show these people looking at their smart phones...not at each other.  Running into these people on my own hikes in the woods and walks on the beach, I'm witnessing families (parents and children) walking like zombies through the woods (doing nothing else but looking at their hand helds and tripping over the branches). 

Then you have the security and business bureau people warning us of the security issues and potential problems with these downloads, yet people still download. People are waiving their rights to confidentiality to play a game.  Are we losing the ability to think critically just to be one of the first people to play a game? Is there a line we have drawn in the sand or are there boundaries we have set for ourselves for future games or have we even given it a second thought? These questions scare me.

Question #4:  What does this mean for the future?

I take that back, THIS is the question that is keeping me up at night.  I'm no techno-genius and I have to admit, I haven't played a "video game" since Pac Man was popular, perhaps it is because of this I don't get the punch line.  I do know that this new PG game is the first of its kind to augment reality and we will most certainly see better, brighter, more strategic, more visually stunning, and (in my opinion) more dangerous improvements on this new idea in the future.

Are we ready for this? Will this have an effect on our social connection, injury rates, disconnection to social problems, personal confidentiality, and how we relate to our environment?  If we have failed to respect the present technology (ie. use and abuse of cell phones), how are we able to relate to new technology in a safe, healthy, and effective way? Do we have a plan in place to teach kids how to respect this new technology? Do we, as the adults in the world, have a plan for ourselves?

I think I just broke my brain.

While I do understand the many benefits that have already been observed with this new game (i.e. the anxious and social phobic stepping out into the world easier) we cannot even fathom how augmented reality is going to effect our health and well being.  I may be risking coming off as the grumpy old woman popping the party balloon, but I think it is important to ask some questions before jumping on the band wagon and I'm happy to do it.

That's all I got.


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