In March, Facebook acquired the virtual reality firm Oculus Rift. At Fox News, Keith Ablow—identified as "a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team"—has reacted with a rant that reads like a parody of panicked rhetoric. Combining a fear of new technology with a fear of popular culture, Ablow issues a call for a federally enforced precautionary principle that doubles as a call for censorship, all of it offered in a tone that fluctuates unsteadily between unhinged letter to the editor and trust me I'm a doctor. Here's an excerpt:
Is no one concerned that Mark Zuckerberg's zeal for completely immersing people in alternate realities might be toxic for them? Has anyone wondered whether his quest reflects an underlying contempt for something he lived through for real—or for our shared reality, our real relationships and solving our real problems?
I can't be the only one wondering whether someone who encourages people to make hundreds of false "friends" and block unwanted feedback and transport themselves into games where they pretend they are knights or murderers is the best shepherd to follow.
There is no FDA in the technology space to make sure that new inventions distributed to tens or hundreds of millions of people aren't going to hurt them. But maybe there has to be. Because any agency worth anything would be proactive about the data streaming in about Facebook users suffering a disproportionate amount of depression and video game aficionados increasing their risk of attention deficit disorder. And any such agency would insist that 1,000 people or more use the device as much as they want, then look at what happens to them over the course of a few years, before deploying it to the whole country as something "fun."
Adding that "Facebook is an addictive technological drug," Ablow predicts "an epidemic of psychiatric illness—with features of narcissism and depression and dissociation and violent behavior—such as the world has never known." So let's watch for that.
Bonus link: "A Short History of Game Panics."