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

August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


August 27 • 11:05 AM

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”


August 27 • 9:47 AM

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.


August 27 • 8:00 AM

A Skeptic Meets a Psychic: When You Can See Into the Future, How Do You Handle Uncertainty?

For all the crystal balls and beaded doorways, some psychics provide a useful, non-paranormal service. The best ones—they give good advice.


August 27 • 6:00 AM

Speaking Eyebrow: Your Face Is Saying More Than You Think

Our involuntary gestures take on different “accents” depending on our cultural background.


August 27 • 4:00 AM

The Politics of Anti-NIMBYism and Addressing Housing Affordability

Respected expert economists like Paul Krugman and Edward Glaeser are confusing readers with their poor grasp of demography.


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

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 fast-food-big-one

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