Recently there was a popular story about a baby girl who starved to death while her parents were off at a cyber-cafe playing a video game. A video game in which users raise a virtual baby.
It’s not surprising that a story so equally horrifying as it is ironic generated some discussion. Slate‘s William Saletan‘s two cents win the prize for Loudest Alarm Bells:
Maybe this is just a weird story about a sick couple on the other side of the planet. But look in the mirror. Every time you answer your cell phone in traffic, squander your work day on YouTube, text a colleague during dinner, or turn on the TV to escape your kids, you’re leaving this world. You’re neglecting the people around you, sometimes at the risk of killing them.
That’s the real horror behind the Korean story: The balance of power between the worlds is shifting. Here and there, virtual reality is gaining the upper hand. The clearest evidence is death. When people consumed by the digital world begin to die and kill in the physical world, flesh is losing its grip.
The truth of the matter though, after both the horror and the novelty wears off, is that many people play “Farmville” but don’t eat enough vegetables let alone garden, and that never causes us to herald a war between the corporeal and the Matrix. For a more sober take, the Guardian notes that in a study, “a small proportion of internet users were classed as internet addicts and that people in this group were more likely to be depressed than non-addicted users.” i.e. This story is more about mental health than it is about the robot apocalypse, which I agree with.
Not that Saletan’s panic doesn’t drive him to some genuinely useful life suggestions:
So get the hell out of here. Go kiss your spouse, hug your kids, or walk down the hall and say hello to your colleagues. There’s a beautiful world out there. Live in it.
Not bad ideas. But maybe he could have included something about feeding your kid?