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Why Oliver Stone Thinks ‘Pokemon Go’ Could Create Totalitarianism

A light-hearted question leads to a very serious answer from the "Snowden" director at San Diego Comic-Con.

Pokemon Go

“Pokemon Go”


It’s the craze that’s sweeping the planet… but it has Oliver Stone very, very worried.

In speaking with fans at San Diego Comic-Con today, the director had the chance to explain his approach to bringing the story of Edward Snowden to life in his appearance in Hall H, along with some heavy discussion of issues regarding cybersecurity and the role technology plays in our lives.

And things got specific — and a bit scary — when the subject of “Pokemon Go” came up. An audience member asked the panel for its thoughts on Nintendo’s massively popular game, specifically how using your phone’s location settings to collect critters in the real world stands out as an example of people willingly giving up their data to corporations.

While Zachary Quinto (who co-stars in “Snowden”) doesn’t enjoy the idea of the game — instead preferring the opportunity to put down his phone for periods of time and connect more directly with people — Stone’s concerns over “Pokemon Go” went far deeper.

“It’s not really funny,” Stone said. “What’s happening… is a new level of invasion. Once the government had been pounded by Snowden, of course the corporations went into encryption — because they had to for survival. But their search for profits is enormous here, enormous. Nobody has ever seen in the history of the world [a company like] Google. It’s the biggest new fastest growing business ever and they have invested a huge amount of money into what surveillance is — it’s data mining.”

Stone added, “They’re data mining every single person in this room for information as to what you’re buying, what you like and above all your behavior. So ‘Pokemon Go’ kicks into that.”

The problem isn’t strictly limited to “Pokemon Go,” though. “This is everywhere,” Stone continued, “it’s what some people call surveillance capitalism. It’s not for profit at the beginning but it becomes for profit at the end, because it creates its own awareness and it gets to us everywhere in the world, until it manipulates our behavior and we start to act like that. It has happened a bit already out there on the Internet but you’ll see a new form — frankly, a robot society where they all know how you want to behave and they will make the mock-up — the mock-up that matches how you behave and leads you into another form of behavior.”

“It’s what they call totalitarianism,” Stone concluded, to applause.

It wasn’t the first time that Stone invoked similar themes — George Orwell’s “1984” was referenced a great deal during the panel. But for “Pokemon” fans, Stone’s paranoia might hit a little closer to home.

“Snowden,” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, arrives in theaters Sept. 19.

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