Do you remember Pokemon Go? It was a mania that for most came and went during a few months of 2016 financed by Google. The Pokemon Go app was created by Niantic, a subsidiary of Google. Millions of people downloaded it and then ran around all over the place hunting down Pokemon’s to play the app game.
Some people even died playing it walking in front of cars and falling off cliffs. You can go to the website www.pokemongodeathtracker.com and see a list of over 1,600 player fatalities. Such tragedies can make for great fodder for comedians.
But what you may not know is that this game was actually an experiment in social control. Google has made money over the years by having advertisers pay to deliver ads in front of people all over the internet. I have run ads with them and you can see others run ads on this website and blog post even.
With Pokemon Go though Google did something new and that is not simply run ads at people, but to socially engineer human behavior itself. They wanted to see if they could make people go from place to place under direction of the app. If they could then they could create crowds by remote control.
According to Shoshana Zuboff, the author of the book Surveillance Capitalism, companies paid Niantic to bring Pokemon Players to business locations. She says in an interview with the CBC, that the company used “the incentives of the game to reward, punish us, shape our behavior, to actually get us to the places that were going to pay Niantic Labs for our presence, our bodies, our feet, falling on their floors,” she said.
“Here is Pokemon Go, promising these establishments footfall rate, predicting footfall rate, on the basis of actually now be able to intervene in our behaviour.”
This is the next level of internet social engineering. When people get caught up in this game they not only lose control of where they are going, but also become unaware of their own surroundings. Last year a man was shot while caught up playing the game in a Virginia neighborhood.