As Seinfeld’s George Costanza might say: “It’s a company about ‘nothing’, Yes NOTHING.” Groupon, Linkedin, Twitter, to name a few, have yet to make a profit but their hyped up value is based on “potential”- the potential to know, and sell, not tangible goods, just everything about you. Zynga, creator of mind-wasting/time-wasting virtual lives in Farmville and Cityville, is different than the aforementioned because it’s actually profitable, which has Wall St. singing its praises as it shores up interest in Zynga’s IPO. With this plethora of virtual “friending” and virtual living, working in Farmville and Cityville, Mafia Wars, etc. we must ask what value do these alternate realities create? While the Supreme Court failed to regulate the sale of violent/mature content in video games to children, the argument should not have been the negative affect on the minds of youth, valid, but the resultant costs of a population that wastes time, productivity and activity, and continues to decline in every categorical measure of industrial and commercial competitiveness.
We are unlikely to foster a culture of innovation when hours are spent buying virtual pigs, or weaponry. And as we lament our youth’s math and science declines among other nations, and the epidemic obesity numbers, we ignore the negative contribution these virtual experiences yield. I see no difference from the West’s profiteering that reduced millions of Chinese during the Opium wars to addicted zombies, resulting in an unproductive population for decades. Drug dealers also peddle products with alternate reality but there’s a critical distinction-they actually sell a tangible good, also of dubious/negative value to its customers, but without the hefty marketing costs, generating even higher profit margins. Stay tuned for the next buzz worthy investment- IPO for pot- after all -it makes a profit too!