Five Minutes of Common Sense: Should Russia ban Pokemon Go?

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July 24, 2016 – 

Ruslan Ostashko, PolitRussia – 

Translated by J. Arnoldski

Pokemon has blown up the internet and we are once again witnessing not only a conflict between generations, but also a conflict between those who believe that everything must be banned for security reasons, and those who believe that bans make Russia a backwards country. I, as always, suggest that, instead of joining this crowd, we stand back and look at the situation with some common sense.

Let’s start with the conspiracy. Yes, the startup that developed the game Pokemon Go indeed might be tied to the CIA on more than just the level of funding. Yes, there is a high probability that the pictures that the system collects will be used for spying, and smartphones with Pokemon Go installed will probably be used in wiretapping the surrounding space. That being said, I would ask that we note that this is nothing fundamentally new in terms of eavesdropping and peeping, which this game did not bring into the world for the first time. But if the staff of some-kind of security objects are so brainless to the extent that they are taking photos of their hunt for Pokemon, then it is not Pokemon that should be banned but those employees who should be. After all, as is known, an idiot will find any way to mess things up. He doesn’t need Pokemon to do so…

Posing special danger is the feature of this game that gathers large crowds in a single place on the hunt for some kind of rare Pokemon. This crowd can be blown up or plowed over with a truck as in Nice, or used in a mass political demonstration or next Maidan. This is bad. 

But over all, we are not dealing with flashmobs, Twitter revolutions, or other technologies for creating and controlling crowds. “Pokemania” indeed simplifies the process of gathering crowds in one place, but no more. In principle, Pokemon Go, when the need arises, would be much more difficult to shut off than Twitter, but this isn’t the point. 

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Why am I even talking about this? I am trying to convey the point that the apocalypse has not happened and Pokemon Go does not mean the end of the world. It is not worth angering our youth and not-so-young citizens who are addicted to this new technological game with various legislative prohibitions. In the USSR, the slogan “He who plays jazz today will betray the Motherland tomorrow” was already used to no avail. The version “He who has Pokemon in his pocket is spying for the CIA” would excite emotional patriots but, no good would come of such.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve already become accustomed to. The internet, as everyone knows, was developed by the American military. The internet is controlled by the USA to a large extent and America uses online services en masse for espionage and collecting secret and personal data which is then used for blackmail and recruitment. Not to mention the fact that the internet is an excellent tool for launching color revolutions across the world. So what? Is this a reason to give up the internet and become modern Amish who refuse electricity? Any technology is an instrument which can and should be made to serve us. We need to learn to use this instrument correctly and for the benefit of our society.

The technology of augmented reality which Pokemon Go is built on is a future which will not go away and which is impossible to cancel or ban. And this is a question facing us! How will we use this technology and how will we teach our children to use it? If we do nothing, then a significant portion of our society will be hooked on it like a drug and will in the future sit around their dirty apartments in virtual reality glasses thinking that they are actually in Hawaii surrounded by top models drinking champagne. 

But if we are going to plow, work, explain, and create attractive meanings, then our children would do well to search for the “Russian counterpart to Pokemon”, go camping and see through virtual reality glasses with their own eyes the intensity of the Battle of Kursk or the inscriptions of Soviet soldiers on the walls of the Reichstag during a virtual tour of Berlin.

The future is already here. Bans will not change it. But what the future will be like depends only on us. 

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