We cleared some land a few years ago. The forester did his cutting in the fall, skidding and stacking the logs up in the cleared area. The truck to take them to the mill didn’t arrive until several months later, though, waiting for the ground to freeze. In the interim, we had quite a recreational area – a perfect adventure-land for our young boys. We made sure that we were nearby and they stayed safe, but they had a great time climbing and jumping and crawling around. Who needs a theme park when you’ve got a log-slide?
We also created a perfect home for critters: chipmunks, porcupines, field mice, and anything else that likes to chew and hide. It was no surprise to see hawks and kestrels hovering overhead. And that may be why we attracted a nesting pair of barred owls. Nightly, we’d hear them call back and forth to one another: “Who cooks for yoooouuu. Meee tooooo!” Between the playground and air-shows and nightly concerts, we had no lack of entertainment!
But much of our entertainment today is simulated reality, rather than the real thing. It gives us an echo and shadow of what’s out there. We don’t have conversations, we have tweet-storms and snap-chats. We don’t tell stories, we do narratives on Instagram. Public libraries used to be places where we could gather and do research; now we have virtual meet-ups and do searches with Google and Wikipedia. We even have special designations for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (XR). It can be hard to tell the difference.
A big difference though, is that games and experiences are specially engineered to provide just the right amount of stimulation and reward to get their participants hooked. A decade ago people got addicted to Farmville, then Angry Birds, then Candy Crush, Minecraft, and the list goes on. When the “Pokemon Go” AR game first came out, it caused numerous traffic accidents.
Traffic advisory in Florida. Source: Wikipedia
Computer games and the virtual world are an involved and intense form of entertainment. And the entertainment industry has always been a place where new technology is tested and stretched. Thomas Edison invented the carbon microphone and phonograph on the to inventing the light bulb and movie camera – all used in entertainment before they became essentials of modern life.
When our kids played on the log-pile, we had to be sure the logs were stable and the kids were safe. In the same way, parents today need to be sure the technology our children use isn’t creating its own instabilities. The last thing we want to hear is them telling us that they can quit gaming any time they want to; they just don’t want to.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”