Dealing with addiction

We jail drug dealers but we celebrate the creators of addictive computer games.

It is a peculiarity of our brains that we get addicted to things: alcohol, drugs, sex and so forth.  And it doesn’t do us any good because when hooked on one particular stimulant we lose touch with real life.  Luckily, society often recognises the dangers of addiction and tries to do something about it.  Efforts to curb addiction are not always successful – look at the war on drugs – but at least there are efforts: you can’t stand by when people’s lives are being wrecked.

Now there is a new category of addiction.  Computer games such as Candy Crush are deliberately designed to be addictive.  Internet gaming addiction is now recognised as a mental disorder [1] and there is a growing list of people who have died as a result of this addiction.  But rather than jail the promoters of such games as we jail drug dealers, we celebrate them as great entrepreneurs.

This is bonkers and it is time to think holistically about addiction of all sorts, its costs and the people responsible for promoting it.

Why is this important for someone wanting to cut emissions?  Surely it would be a great way of reducing emissions to get everyone sitting at home addicted to their screen, not travelling long distances, not spending lots of money on consumer goods.

It is important because we are rewarding talented people for the wrong things.  They should not be devoting their brilliance to hooking millions of people on inane, time-wasting games.  We should try to give talented people worthwhile ambitions.  What about, for example, spending their time on how to solve the biggest addiction of all: addiction to fossil fuels?

Kill-joy?  Yes, if you define joy as wasting your life being zombified at level 286 of Candy Crush.

[1] See the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

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