Smartphones can turn urban dwellers into zombie pedestrians

What happens when urban residents and visitors are engrossed in their smartphones? It can lead to zombie pedestrians.

But the growing ranks of these cellphone addicts are turning cities like Tokyo, London, New York and Hong Kong into increasingly hazardous hotspots, where zombified shoppers appear to be part of vast games of human pinball…

Tokyo Fire Department, which runs the ambulance service in the megalopolis, says that in the four years to 2013, 122 people had to be rushed to hospital after accidents caused by pedestrians using cellphones.

As well as the vaguely comedic incidents of businessmen smacking into lamp-posts or tripping over dogs, this total also included a middle-aged man who died after straying onto a railway crossing while looking at his phone…

Phone fidgeters dawdling along at snail’s pace, forcing cyclists and pram-pushing mums to swerve out of the way have become such an irritant in Tokyo that public notices have started to appear warning offenders to expect “icy stares”, appealing to the Japanese sense of social harmony — assuming people look up from their phones in the first place.

Smartphone apps activated by sensors that flash warning signs or display the pavement on the screen have also been developed in response to the problem.

An unintended side effect of technological advancement. Walking in a big city can be a dangerous task, particularly given the emphasis in many places on helping cars get to their destinations faster. Things that distract pedestrians – just like things that can distract drivers – can lead to negative outcomes.

It is interesting to note the last piece above that tries to solve a problem created by technology with a technological advancement: just have an app that alerts people. It’s technology all the way down! Would something like Google Glass help get rid of these issues since people would still have their eyes facing forward?

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