The “Walking Dead” Are Real
The ongoing explosion of advanced virtual-reality technology has a strong foundation to build on — a culture, a world, especially among millennials and those even younger, primed to become fully addicted to unreality.
The smartphone and all its comparable cousins, not even a decade old, are the source of numerous studies confirming a generation increasingly addicted to their devices.
Scores of studies around the globe are building consensus that digital addiction is real, growing — and wrought with physical and psychological effects.
As studies now confirm, the energy individuals put into operating their devices while attending events, for example, becomes the experience — instead of the actual experience itself.
Less than a decade ago, it was unimaginable that it would be normal to attend a concert, play, sporting event or family gathering and experience it by recording it on our devices, watching it later and sharing it with others.
All while missing the actual sensory experience.
Nor was it anticipated that populations would aimlessly navigate sidewalks with heads bowed, pecking away at their handheld devices, utterly oblivious to their surroundings.
Or, that many of those same people would identify their smartphone as the “most important thing in their life,” as concluded by Mark Griffith, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University.
Before iPads, smartphones and related technology became affordable and mainstream, there were virtually no studies that examined how use of these devices would alter the human experience.
There was no way to accurately anticipate how chronic smartphone (and other digital gadgetry) use would lead to addictive behaviors that would come at the cost of actual human engagement.
Only now is research catching up to the societal, psychological and emotional effects of digital addiction.
This technological revolution is not a generation old, yet the unprecedented speed at which technological advances make it to market challenges researchers to gauge and anticipate its impact.
I like to call it the “walking-dead phenomenon.” Portability and affordability of modern technology have completed a journey into the hands of just about everyone. While anti-technology, pro-human experience movements are picking up some steam, the “walking-dead phenomenon” is fully entrenched.
Today, on the verge of an avalanche of VR technology ready to saturate public consciousness, the what-to-expect indications from the scientific, technological and business worlds are focused on only what can be measured: commerce, physiology and technological advances.
The focus is on the bottom line, not the human mind.
That’s just as it was with mobile devices. Absent in the analyses of VR’s future are assessments or measurements of the human, aesthetic and abstract effects that can virtually transform human consciousness.
It sounds bleak, I know. But VR isn’t just going to make zombies out of future generations.
VR applications in education, higher learning, healthcare, tourism…I could go on and on…will allow for more immersive — but educational— experiences.
Medical students will learn quick-thinking techniques in a VR emergency room…high schoolers will visit the Great Wall of China through VR headsets…PTSD patients will find haven in a calming VR environment when reality becomes overwhelming.
Yes, VR technology will disrupt numerous industries, and maybe the human psyche.
But for the better.