Twenty years ago, when millions of people were displaced by a storm like Hurricane Matthew, we’d see convoys of temporary trailers being towed into stricken areas to shelter the newly homeless. We’d hear appeals for donations from charities like the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross. And we’d be impressed with stories of neighbors and rescuers pitching in to help the unfortunate.
In the near future, information technology may provide new, more effective ways to organize disaster response. We’ve already seen the power of Twitter to coordinate political revolution, and we’ve seen the Pokémon Go augmented reality game motivate tens of thousands of people to get outdoors and chase imaginary monsters. What if, in response to crises, augmented and alternate reality games like Pokémon Go switched into a mode that rewarded players for donating blood? Delivering water bottles? Filling sandbags? Offering temporary housing? Or evacuating areas threatened by storm, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, or other hazards?