Facebook’s recent $2 billion acquisition of the virtual reality company Oculus VR means that millions of people — lots of them teenagers — will be able to put on an Oculus Rift headset and, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg puts it, “enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment.” Zuckerberg says people who have tried the Oculus Rift feel like they are “actually present in another place” and say it’s “different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.”
Here’s the problem: If the Oculus Rift were a pharmaceutical or a medical device, rather than a gaming headset, the FDA would study it for years and demand rigorous clinical trials in volunteers before approving it. It would want to make certain the device had no unexpected side effects — like depression or attention deficit disorder or anxiety or delusional thinking. And it would want to make sure it was not addictive.
Is no one concerned that Mark Zuckerberg’s zeal for completely immersing people in alternate realities might be toxic for them?