Newspapers and magazines have been quick to celebrate the amazing popularity of Pokemon Go. The stock market followed quickly and Nintendo share sky rocketed as a result of an excess of enthusiasm, before investors that Nintendo was not at the origin of the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
Besides the marketing and financial success we should reflect on what Pokemon Go tells us about ourselves and our Society. This may actually be the biggest lesson.
The augmented reality thing
Augmented reality is not new. It’s been used in a variety of applications as the google glass for instance. As a market research agency we helped launch one application based on augmented reality in the health sector 4-5 years ago.
Yet augmented reality remained a peculiar technology and me must recognize that Pokémon Go is perhaps the first massively adopted augmented reality application so far (although most players seem to deactivate it quite quickly).
Interestingly it’s a game, an entertainment application, that helped diffuse this technology.
How much does it tell us about the power of gamification and our need to be entertained with everything ? Will we be motivated to go to vote by online gamification, the ability to “check in” at voting booth as Evgeny Morozov predicted in his book “to save everything click here” ?
This massive gamification success reveals, in my opnion, the very drivers of our actions. The BinCam project is yet another example of our to turn serious things (recycling) into a game. In the end the question is this : Are we still able to unite and react as a group without gamification ? And by the way, are we still a group species or are we becoming individuals, living on their own, and connected virtually to others ?
`Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a much more dicult time in addressing social problems. People may even find it hard to understand one another’
C. R. Sunstein. Republic.com: XA-GB. … Princeton University Press, 2002
Are our brains being rewired for multitasking
My concerns about the evolution of our species are not limited to the approach of humans as groups or tribes. They also regard what happens in our bodies and how technology drives the rewiring of our brains.
The success of Pokemon Go gives a bright illustration of our addiction to our smartphone and further increases our propensity to switch from one task to another. In another post I was describing this situation as mediocre but after reading the book “What technology wants” by Kevin Kelly, I’m now wondering whether we are experiencing a transitional behavioral state that will force our brains to rewire. We know that our brains can rewire and that new skills and capacities can be acquired (see for instance the excellent book by Cyrulnik et al. 2012).
My guess is that we should accept that the amount of stimuli in our environment will kept increasing and that this evolution is inescapable. Maybe it is utopic to try coping with old ways of working (focusing on one task). Maybe we, as a species, have not yet adapted to a new technological situation where stimuli are myriad and will keep increasing.
What’s next ?
There is little chance that the trend will reverse. Big Data technologies make it possible to process larger amounts of data every day and the IoT (Internet of Things) trend promises to have sensors everywhere in the future. The opportunities for us to keep connected to the outer digital world will therefore increase. There is no way back.
Here is what I think will happen. We will increasingly wear connected devices and even carry in our bodies such devices (most probably in the form of chips or CPU’s). This convergence of our bodies and technology may actually be helpful to keep up with the growing number of signals and tracks we receive and emit. Our brains have not yet adapted to the explosion of data and implants may be the solution needed to keep up with all stimuli we’ll be increasingly faced with.