We recently saw detection of quantum entanglement and gravitational waves; massive scientific advancements for which our era would be remembered for ever; but a new and highly unlikely contender is added to this list of great events of our time in form of a game.
From the day of the launch of Pokémon GO, reality as we knew it has changed, as this game has taken humanity a step forward (or backward) by adding an artificial dimension to our reality.
To those uninitiated, Pokémon GO is a game that has integrated global positioning system available on smart-phones with a popular Japanese game of capturing imaginary creatures. So, one fine morning planet Earth became populated with imaginary creatures that only your phone can sense. A player can “see” these creatures by pointing phone camera at them and capture them to own them, making the game a deadly mix that exploits human curiosity and desire of hoarding.
If we look carefully, Pokémon GO is also playing with brain’s ability to distinguish the real from imaginary, making it a very dangerous proposition as human brain is not equipped to do reality check all the time. Evolution of brain surely never faced a possibility that its beholders will play the dangerous game of fooling themselves.
The brain that we have is completely incapable of cognizing that photo of Sunny Leone it “sees” is not real woman, and responds to it just as it would respond to a real woman. It is also unable to realize that what is showing on the camera screen in selfie mode is not the entire reality, leading to people falling down mountains. In short, our brain, when under an unrelenting siege of unreal, ends up helplessly firing neurons without being able to distinguish between real and tech-augmented reality, as in past, it has never encountered the unreal.
So, an innocent looking game poses a serious question. Should technology be allowed to play with brain’s ability to cognize reality?
To find the answer, we need to look in exactly opposite direction, i.e. outwards. Just a little while ago, humanity thought that Earth could take all the exploitations we threw at it for our gratification. Now we have realized how fragile our environment is. Today we have become wiser, hence environmental impact analysis is mandatory for all interventions we make.
Time has come to look inwards and realize how fragile our brain is. We have been exploiting it for gratification and are taking is closer to self-destruction. So, the time has come to get wiser and do brain impact analysis for technologies we develop.
Though such restrain is surely a regressive step, it is becoming necessary as the only test any technology goes through today is of profitability. As science has moved from academies to houses of commerce, technologies are no longer tested for their social appropriateness.
If we allow an unrestrained growth of technology with commercial gain defining its direction, we are surely heading for a disaster. Under such circumstances, precious resources and talented brains will be wasted in scientific pursuits aimed at exploiting gratification circuits of brain. And, such an artificial gratification will be like a global addition that will turn us all into happiness-zombies with hollow and meaningless lives getting lived in an imaginary world.
Human brain is the most precious resource in existence. With its problem solving ability, we are now beacons of hope for the entire living world. Upon our shoulders is the massive responsibility of taking life out into the stars. We can’t allow our brains to get hijacked by the unreal while such a vast universe awaits us.