Is virtual reality an addictive drug?

A man wears an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at a electronics trade show in January 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Will virtual reality a become a "toxic" experience?

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

While Stephen Hawking is busy worrying about a future dominated by super-intelligent robots, Fox News's Keith Ablow has a more pressing concern: virtual reality addiction.

The psychiatrist writes that Facebook's $2b (£1.19b) purchase of virtual reality headset-maker Oculus ensures that the technology will become accessible to the masses, including teenagers who may disappear down the virtual rabbit hole.

"My theory is that Facebook is an addictive technological drug that, like every drug, gives people temporary pleasure and, ultimately, causes many people to become psychiatrically ill," he writes. "And my theory is that the Oculus VR will make matters worse."

He says Facebook's acquisition shows that the company's founder Mark Zuckerberg has an "utter contempt" for real life.

"Is no one concerned that Mark Zuckerberg's zeal for completely immersing people in alternate realities might be toxic for them?" he asks.

Ablow calls on the government to study and regulate this kind of technology, just as the Food and Drug Administration reviews and conducts clinical trials for new medicine.

The US public needs to know if there are possible side-effects to virtual reality devices, such as addiction, depression, attention deficit disorder, anxiety or delusional thinking, he says.

"We are deploying powerful technology drugs to our young people and expecting that they will have no untoward impact on them or the world," he concludes, "even as data stream in telling us that these technology drugs are toxic - even in their current, relatively weak form."


A government "in denial" - Nigerian member of parliament Abike Dabiri tells BBC's Newsday that the latest news about the 230 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram is "very, very depressing".

She calls for a setting a deadline for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to find the missing girls. "Those girls will probably be destroyed if nothing is done immediately," she says.

"If we don't know where they are after three weeks, what's the next step?" she asks. "There is no confidence in the president's assurance that they will be found."

She concludes by calling Nigeria "a failing state".

"Our problem is leadership," she says.

United Kingdom

Don't credit austerity for growth - Although the UK has the fastest growing economy among the Group of Seven nations, says former US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, it does not vindicate the austerity British leaders have pursued since 2010.

"While growth has been rapid very recently, this is only because of the depth of the hole that Britain dug for itself," he writes in the Washington Post.

If it seems like the UK is doing well, he adds, it's because the government has tapered its fiscal contraction policies and provided emergency support for loan programmes.


Putin isn't a communist, he's a fascist - Above all else, writes Der Spiegel's Jan Fleischhauer, Russian President Vladimir Putin fears other nations trying to encircle and control his nation. This, he says, harkens back to the days before World War Two.

"It won't take long for those who step inside the world of echo chambers and metaphors that colour Putin's thinking to identify traits that were also present at the birth of fascism," he argues.

"There's Putin's cult of the body, the lofty rhetoric of self-assertion, the denigration of his opponents as degenerates, his contempt for democracy and Western parliamentarianism, his exaggerated nationalism," he writes.


Western entitlement on Mount Everest - Jamling Tenzing Norgay tells the Times of India that the recent tragedy that killed 12 Sherpas on Mount Everest must bring about reform.

The son of Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who climbed Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, Mr Norgay calls on the government to raise pay and insurance for Sherpas and offer them helicopter rescue if injured - a service currently only available to Western climbers.

He says the attitude of Western climbers has "completely changed" since his father's time: "They sit back on the mountain and have coffee while the Sherpas do all the work."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the week

Russian newspapers react to the recent violence in eastern Ukraine, as government forces crack down on rebels.

"If Washington gives you a free reign, it doesn't mean that you can stain your hands with blood. What is the problem if someone wants to live in Russia? Or live like in Russia? Must they be killed for that?" - Editorial in Tvoy Den.

"The West, including Obama, has openly expressed support for Kiev's punitive operation [in eastern Ukraine]... From chaos and anarchy Ukraine is rapidly turning into a neo-Nazi criminal dictatorship." - Editorial in Izvestiya.

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