Monday, July 18, 2016

Pokemon Go: Considering the Possibilities

The television may no longer hold the distinction as the most effective mind control device ever invented. If any doubt remained that smart phones were making a serious challenge to the title, the recently released Pokemon Go app seems to have come along and knocked the TV right off its perch once and for all. It has mobilized the previously stagnant screen-staring masses, and the implications are profound for industries ranging from marketing analysis to global intelligence.

Chasing Pokemon

Early one evening last week I took a walk through Altamonte Springs, Florida. As I approached a park, I saw dozens and dozens of people flocking to the area. At first I thought perhaps there was a music event or some kind of festival. As I got closer, I realized they were all staring at their phones. All of them. 

They were chasing Pokemon.   

The scene was extremely surreal in a futuristic, sci-fi kind of way. The normally sleepy park, usually reserved for a few ambitious joggers and a dog walker or two, was filled with hundreds of people. Some were sitting, staring in silence at phones, as if perplexed, defeated, exhausted, or all three. 

Most were briskly roaming about. They stared at their phones with excitement and anticipation.

Anxiety seemed palpable, and I had a strange sensation of invisibility. They didn't see me. 

They ran past me. They walked past me. They sat silently, but none of them looked at me. They didn't care, not about me, not about each other, not about the beautiful scene of the sun setting over the lake, or anything else. They were chasing Pokemon. 

Vid uploaded to YouTube by user ampedin,
showing Pokemon hunters in Washington

"It connects us to our childhoods," explained someone I approached who identified them self as a 28-year-old corporate worker. They told me they grew up playing the game, and supposed people enjoyed its link to their younger years.

"I just got off work about an hour ago, and here I am," they added with what I interpreted to be more than a bit of remorse. 


Not surprisingly, the origins have been explored of the latest incarnation of Pokemon, and it's less than a few degrees of separation from In-Q-Tel, an "innovation technology solutions" arm of the CIA. In a manner of speaking, it really doesn't even matter who develops such habit-forming technology, at least not initially, because its existence is extremely relevant one way or the other. As a matter of fact, it's potentially game changing.

The implications cannot be overstated. We are witnessing the implementation of an app that potentially accesses personal data, reveals location, and provides a virtual image of surroundings, all while rendering its user just this side of oblivious. 

Such apps offer much food for thought to capitalists and marketing professionals as well. You can potentially bring a Pokecrowd to the parking lot of your business, supposing you'd want to, and presidential candidates have staffers on top of it already. It should also come as no surprise that accidents and public nuisances have been attributed to the craze.  

It is truly remarkable that such an idea as a Pokemon program could move masses of people to change their routines and descend upon areas as instructed - in a fever pitch, no less. The intelligence community is destined to explore the virtually unlimited possibilities. Initial interests might include influencing players to unknowingly conduct activities for advantageous purposes, as well as rendering metropolitan areas inaccessible and lawless due to an unforeseen influx of large mobs of people. Traffic jams, utility overloads - all kinds of burdens on public services and related possibilities stand to loom on the horizon. 

YouTube user The Culture shares footage 
of the Pokemon hunt in Central Park


  1. Kind of like the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Game."

    Interesting times. Vote Pokemon!

  2. I have not played the game, but I told my wife that we should quit our jobs and chase Pokemon. It was time to live the dream. Like this guy:

    The idea didn't go over very well.

  3. I think its appeal might be strictly generational. I played a little bit and wasn't impressed. In fact, it quickly got boring. Watching people play feels like living in a science fiction movie. They behave much like robots or a herd of sheep. It's unnerving.

  4. Watching this from the sidelines I conclude that it is a new class of virus. Machines will not take over the way we think but the way they think.

  5. I think one should be careful in placing so much meaning on this new kind of game. It just came out, give it Another 6 months, and maybe the hype will dry up.

    In any case, imagine then when they release "google glasses" (or whatever they are called), you won't even have to reach for your phone. You will practically be connected through glasses all the time, for directions, phone calls, codes, translation, etc.

    In one way its funny, not that long ago we all laughed at the Soviet Union and Eastern Germany for being totalitarian... look where we are now.