With 24/7 access to endless social media content, videos and news, it’s no surprise that many people are concerned that the modern-day need for constant stimulation is affecting us negatively. However, this pessimistic outlook doesn’t take into account how our desire for entertainment can actually benefit our society. In a time when playing video games, sending photos via Snapchat and watching Netflix are often thought of as mindless activities, it’s important to recognise just how much our love of being entertained drives cutting-edge technology.
Virtual reality is a prime example of a technology rapidly advancing due to the desire for entertainment. As one of the biggest proponents of VR, the games industry has rolled out systems like the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR to allow people to have immersive game experiences at home.
But the use of VR for everyday entertainment has wider implications: the desire for better graphics and wider capabilities within games means that this technology is constantly being improved upon, and that these developments can be applied to VR’s other uses, as well. Educational VR programmes will improve as VR gaming improves, allowing students to learn about current events, history and culture firsthand. VR scientific visualisation will be able to express more complex information than ever before, helping scientists and researchers communicate their ideas to audiences. VR therapy for PTSD and anxiety will become even more effective in treating conditions that are psychologically crippling for many.
Big name investors are realising that entertainment has the potential to produce great strides in the tech world: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to champion the power of VR, and our own founder, Tej Kohli, launched an investment fund earlier this year to target technologies like AI and robotics – fields that are massively driven by recreational applications.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos provides yet another example of of entertainment’s impact on technology with his private space company, which centres on making reusable rockets to carry tourists to space. Speaking at the Satellite 2017 conference, he explained that practical technologies often evolve from recreational technologies, and that his company’s developments could be used to make space exploration more affordable for scientific purposes as well as for tourism. He also believes that space tourism will put us on track to live and work in space at some point in the future.
The progress that can stem from our insatiable desire for entertainment is impressive. But in order to ensure that our need for stimulation remains productive, we must continue to harness our curiosity towards innovative outlets, as well as those that entertain us. In the launch of his new impact investment fund, Tej Kohli emphasised that the projects supported with this money should generate social and environmental impact. This stipulation communicates the idea that innovation should not be sought after purely for the sake of entertainment, or even for the sake of innovation itself. Rather, we must consider how new technology can help the greater good – even while we use it for fun.