Menus Subscribe Search

The Gadgets Among Us

• January 05, 2011 • 5:00 AM

The downside to the digital revolution, our readers remind us, can be funny. Or fearsome.

The editorial on computer gadgetry by John Mecklin (“The Gadget in the Gray Flannel Suit,” November-December 2010) was particularly precious. I LOL’d at the comment from The Onion: “New Social Networking Site Changing the Way Oh Christ, Forget It/Let Someone Else Report on This Bullshit.” Computer illiteracy isn’t so shameful!

Albert J. Kubany, Ph.D.
Flint, Mich.

The appalling inevitability of virtual addiction
I do find myself happier after a good dinner party or a night spent in bed with my girlfriend or talking with my mom on the phone than I do sitting in front of a computer terminal or futzing with my iPhone. I do also know that I have significant gadget-attention disorder, in that I feel if I don’t get constant information feeding my mind, it feels uncomfortable.

It’s easy to attribute that to the fact that while technology helps us, it’s no replacement for real interactions. But then, as a technologist and not a humanist, I thought no, that’s not the answer. The answer is that technology isn’t good enough at replacing those things yet. Technology is like the junk food of the mind — a human’s distilled view of what makes information appealing. People on Twitter don’t want to tweet, they want to engage in a global conversation about their interests; people using the iPad don’t want to play with a touch screen, they want an extension of their mind connected to a portal to cyberspace. If we could one day make a pill that felt like eating a healthy delicious meal, most people would probably use the pill rather than eat the food. Perhaps it’s the same with technology. If people couldn’t tell the difference between Twitter and being in some global agora — then we could be in trouble.

January-February 2011 Miller-McCune That leads to, of course, the next obvious thought: What if technology becomes good enough to replace those? We already see things like people dying from playing too much World of Warcraft because it’s so addictive. People are finding more satisfaction being a heroic warrior in some fantasy world than in real life, and that fantasy world is rich enough for them. They’d rather die in it than live in ours.

Maybe we’re living in an age where things like love, sex, communication and friendship can be distilled to enough richness by technologists that it’ll replace our desire to have those things in the “real” world. Then the battle will truly be between technologists and Luddites for the minds of humanity. I have no doubt who will win, though; our ability to stave off addiction has never really impressed me.

David
Via Miller-McCune.com

The bacteria within
Fascinating article (“Bacteria ‘R’ Us,” November-December 2010). Considering that not only Crohn’s and colitis but also irritable bowel syndrome pain and symptoms are thought to have no known cause or cure, possibly bacterial disruption is the missing link. In 1996, Dr. Albert Schatz, who discovered Streptomycin, suggested that balancing microbial populations to deal with disease conditions would be far more effective than trying to kill them off. Perhaps we are now moving to that approach?

K. Alison
Via Miller-McCune.com

On the weight of germs
“Strictly by the numbers, the vast majority — estimated by many scientists at 90 percent — of the cells in what you think of as your body is actually bacteria, not human cells.” But by the kilogram, we are overwhelmingly human. Human (eukaryotic) cells are typically 100 times or 1,000 times the size of bacteria (prokaryotic) cells. Don’t panic! We are not mostly bacteria.

Ben
Via Miller-McCune.com

But how meek is the plague bacillus, really?
Verily, the meek shall inherit the Earth — unicellular organisms, unfortunately for us.

Screaming Squalling
Via Miller-McCune.com

Aphorism for a new millennium
Bacteria evolved humans to spread them to other worlds. …

Brian H.
Via Miller-McCune.com

Probably? Probably?
Probably the best article on carbon capture and sequestration that I’ve seen (“The World’s Best Bad Idea,” November-December 2010). Personally, I think all CCS projects are a waste of time and money. That time and money should be solely diverted to bringing down the cost of clean energy. I actually did a cost analysis on investing in CCS projects or using that money for clean energy to replace the CO2-emitting power plants that the CCS project would go on. Guess what came out the winner? http://blog.mapawatt.com/2009/03/13/carbon-capture-and-storage/

Chris Kaiser
Via Miller-McCune.com

Has there ever been a 2,000 percent tax on the cost of anything?
“Do humans have the collective willpower to wean themselves from fossil fuels?” In a world driven by capital, the answer to this question depends on the price of oil and coal. Make it high enough, and the answer should be yes! The problem is that the “humans” don’t make decisions. The decisions are made by politicians who are powerfully influenced by (or, put another way, they work for) the industries that directly or indirectly depend on fossil fuels. If a pack of cigarettes can get to $8, then why not impose a 2,000 percent tax on oil and coal? Which is more dangerous in the long run?

Tony
Via Miller-McCune.com

Sleepy students aren’t new
We’ve known for decades that it would be better to schedule later school start times for teenagers (“A Day in the Life of a Sleepy Student,” November-December 2010). However, school systems have resisted change, in this as so many areas, primarily for the convenience of administrators and also, in some cases, because of bus schedules and related safety concerns. In the latter instance, it would require rearranging bus schedules to pick up younger students earlier and older students on the later run, which, in many places, would mean elementary school students would be waiting for the bus before dawn. In administrators’ view, it would be too expensive to add more buses and drivers so that every student could be picked up at a decent time, so they sacrifice the health and educational well-being of teenagers instead.

Of course, they could require more high school students to walk longer distances to school, but that probably would inspire a rebellion on the part of parents.

David Merkowitz
Via Miller-McCune.com

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Miller-McCune Readers
Our readers react to our articles. Sometimes, they even overreact.

More From Miller-McCune Readers

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

July 30 • 4:00 PM

Still the World’s Top Military Spender

Although declining in real terms, the United States’ military budget remains substantial and a huge drain on our public resources.



July 30 • 2:04 PM

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.


July 30 • 2:00 PM

The (Mostly Awful) Things You Learn After Investigating Unpaid Internships for a Year

Though the intern economy remains opaque, dialogue about the role of interns in the labor force—and protections they deserve—is beginning to take shape.


July 30 • 12:00 PM

Why Coffee Shortages Won’t Change the Price of Your Frappuccino

You’re so loyal to Starbucks—and the company knows it—that your daily serving of caffeine is already marked up beyond the reach of any fluctuations in supply.



July 30 • 10:00 AM

Having Difficult Conversations With Your Children

Why it’s necessary, and how to do it.


July 30 • 8:00 AM

How to Make a Convincing Sci-Fi Movie on a Tight Budget

Coherence is a good movie, and its initial shoot cost about the same amount of money as a used Prius.


July 30 • 6:00 AM

Are You Really as Happy as You Say You Are?

Researchers find a universal positivity bias in the way we talk, tweet, and write.


July 30 • 4:00 AM

The Declining Wage Gap for Gay Men

New research finds gay men in America are rapidly catching up with straight married men in terms of wages.


July 30 • 2:00 AM

LeBron James Migration: Big Chef Seeking Small Pond

The King’s return to Cleveland is a symbol for the dramatic shift in domestic as well as international migration.


July 29 • 4:00 PM

Are Children Seeking Refuge Turning More Americans Against Undocumented Immigrants?

A look at Pew Research Center survey data collected in February and July of this year.


July 29 • 2:00 PM

Under Water: The EPA’s Ongoing Struggle to Combat Pollution

Frustration and inaction color efforts to enforce the Clean Water Act.


July 29 • 12:40 PM

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it’s probably in your local river.


July 29 • 12:00 PM

Mining Your Genetic Data for Profit: The Dark Side of Biobanking

One woman’s personal story raises deep questions about the stark limits of current controls in a nascent industry at the very edge of the frontier of humans and technology.


July 29 • 11:23 AM

Where Should You Go to College?


July 29 • 10:29 AM

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.


July 29 • 10:00 AM

The Monolingual American: Why Are Those Outside of the U.S. Encouraging It?

If you are an American trying to learn German in a large German town or city, you will mostly hear English in return, even when you give sprechen your best shot.


July 29 • 8:00 AM

The Elusive Link Between Casinos and Crime

With a study of the impact of Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino, a heated debate gets fresh ammunition.


July 29 • 6:00 AM

What Are the Benefits of Locking Yourself in a Tank and Floating in Room-Temperature Saltwater?

After three sessions in an isolation tank, the answer’s still not quite clear.


July 29 • 4:00 AM

Harry Potter and the Battle Against Bigotry

Kids who identify with the hero of J.K. Rowling’s popular fantasy novels hold more open-minded attitudes toward immigrants and gays.


July 29 • 2:00 AM

Geographic Scale and Talent Migration: Washington, D.C.’s New Silver Line

Around the country, suburbs are fighting with the urban core over jobs and employees.


July 28 • 4:00 PM

Border Fences Make Unequal Neighbors and Enforce Social Inequality

What would it look like if you combined Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, demographically speaking? What about the United States and Guatemala?


July 28 • 2:00 PM

Are Patient Privacy Laws Being Misused to Protect Medical Centers?

A 1996 law known as HIPAA has been cited to scold a mom taking a picture of her son in a hospital, to keep information away from police investigating a possible rape at a nursing home, and to threaten VA whistleblowers.


July 28 • 12:00 PM

Does Internet Addiction Excuse the Death of an Infant?

In Love Child, documentary filmmaker Valerie Veatch explores how virtual worlds encourage us to erase the boundary between digital and real, no matter the consequences.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

The Rise of the Nuisance Flood

Minor floods are afflicting parts of Maryland nearly 10 times more often than was the case in the 1960s.

America’s Streams Are Awash With Pesticides Banned in Europe

You may have never heard of clothianidin, but it's probably in your local river.

How Textbooks Have Changed the Face of War

War is more personal, less glorious, and more hellish in modern textbooks than in the past. But there’s still room for improvement.

NASA Could Build Entire Spacecrafts in Space Using 3-D Printers

This year NASA will experiment with 3-D printing small objects in space. That could mark the beginning of a gravity-free manufacturing revolution.

The Most Popular Ways to Share Good and Bad Personal News

Researchers rank the popularity of all of the different methods we have for telling people about our lives, from Facebook to face-to-face.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.