The focus on “virtual reality” concerns me…

Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 12.14.56 PMIn class last week, we watched some video demonstrations of Oculus, the virtual reality goggle developer recently bought by Facebook. One wearer virtually rode a roller coaster, and another shopped online in a virtual store.

What do those two things have in common? Both are framed as some technological advancement, but neither solve a problem.

My question when I see complex technology being used purely for amusement: With the enormous knowledge we now have about these technologies, why aren’t we doing more helpful things with them? There seems to be an increasing population with the knowledge and training to solve massive problems through technological development focusing on virtual reality and “concept startups.”

Of course, I know that many are doing useful things. We’re using technology to advance medical research, prevent disease, and solve our global energy crisis. But there is so much more work to be done, in those areas and in hundreds of others.

Increasingly, it’s so clear to me that simply because we can do something does not necessarily mean that we need to focus our finite amount of energy and resources on it. We have an actual reality that requires a lot of work. Can’t we focus on—and more importantly, fund—the widespread solving of problems, rather than increase our focus on innovation simply because “we can” and because “the graphics look cool”?

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