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A History of Media Technology Scares

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the and-they-didn't-even-have-to-deal-with-twitter dept.

Media 119

jamesswift writes "Vaughan Bell at Slate has written an interesting article on the centuries old phenomenon of hysterical suspicion surrounding new media and the technologies that enable them. 'A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both "confusing and harmful" to the mind. The media now echo his concerns with reports on the unprecedented risks of living in an "always on" digital environment. It's worth noting that Gessner, for his part, never once used e-mail and was completely ignorant about computers. That's not because he was a technophobe but because he died in 1565.' The best line comes near then end: 'The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.'"

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Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157750)

CNN reported that "Email 'hurts IQ more than pot'"

Well from that article,

He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

Well, not that I trust psychiatrists that much but I guess the only thing this is telling me is that marijuana really isn't the brain destroying demon they've made it out to be. Doesn't really convince me that email rots my brain.

Not a single shred of evidence underlies these stories ...

Well, to be fair, these are psychiatrists conducting surveys and "research." Probably counts as a 'shred.' I think the surveys are a better bet than research but your blame doesn't lie with the media ... rather the institutions giving these psychiatrists degrees and the "peer reviewed" journals publishing this work and research.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157830)

You get a double whammy if you use wireless; what with all those large email attachments flying though the air, and some of them getting lodged in your brain.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159086)

"I hear...radio waves...in my head."

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159184)

You get a double whammy if you use wireless; what with all those large email attachments flying though the air, and some of them getting lodged in your brain.

Is that why all I can think of is porn at the office?

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31163752)

No, the redhead with the short skirt over in Accounts Receivable is why all you can think of is porn at the office.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160630)

You get a double whammy if you use wireless; what with all those large email attachments flying though the air, and some of them getting lodged in your brain.

I keep a green carpet in my office for exactly this reason. When one of those attachments lands on it, I point to the paper sign that says "get off my lawn". Keeps the place tidy.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157870)

Somehow, I don't think that missing a full night's sleep causes a permanent drop in IQ, otherwise slashdotter's would probably be some of the dumbest people alive. Same with checking email. The effects are likely temporary. I don't find it hard to believe that there is a permanent and compounding effect associated with drug use, however i doubt that it's a full 4 point drop EVERY time you use... likely there is a temporary drop then a rebound that's not a full recovery which over time stair-steps down.

Mind you, I have done no research in this topic.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (4, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158412)

Well considering that IQ really isn't an accurate representation of actual 'general intelligence', this makes perfect sense.

Think of IQ as just another standardised test. You lose 10 points (compared to your own baseline score) by juggling e-mail messages (however they measured that) or missing a night's sleep and lose 4 points from baseline after smoking pot. In any case, these are temporary effects, and a perfect example of why IQ has jack shit to do with how intelligent you actually are.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (5, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157970)

He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

So... If you go to hospital, you might be safer with a stoned surgeon, than one who's been up for 36 hours? Strange, the things we make illegal, and the things we don't.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158018)

The one who's been up for 36hrs has probably been dipping into the dispensary stash, too. That's where all the really good stuff is, anyway.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158212)

I'm not sure about that. I've been around stoned people and I've been around really tired people. Really tired people don't seem to have the same mental differences from their normal state than stoned people. Stoned people seem to lose certain asepcts of their personality. IQ? Sure, maybe that doesn't go down. But IQ isn't all you want your doctor to be. You'd also like to have your doctor, say, empathetic to your pain, realize what time it is, etc. Really tired people don't seem to have quite the same brain "skew" that someone who is stoned does.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (5, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158626)

I've worked those hundred-hour weeks in a busy hospital; trust me, it does a lot more damage to your ability to take care of patients than a puff or two would do. People who are that tired -- and I don't care how tough you are, by the end of it, you are that tired -- display some of the worst aspects of alcohol and drug intoxication, without any of the relaxed happy feeling which is why people like to get drunk and stoned in the first place.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31163774)

What I've always wondered is why they horribly abuse medical staff like that. Is there some sort of shortage of doctors, or are the hospitals just being cheap and not hiring enough doctors to cover reasonable amounts of time? Or is it something else entirely?

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (4, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158628)

I'm not sure about that. I've been around stoned people and I've been around really tired people.

Oh really? The rest of your post doesn't give that impression.

Really tired people don't seem to have the same mental differences from their normal state than stoned people.

I'd agree with you if you were using "It's 22:00 and I normally go to bed at exactly 21:30" as an example of "really tired". Now if we're talking about really tired people (like an ER surgeon who's been up for 36+ hours and working hard for most of that time) then we're looking at seriously bizarre behaviour, hallucinations and an inability to concentrate that would make my cats seem like geniuses in comparison.

The average marijuana user just tends to be a bit more relaxed, giggly and goofy and most likely lacking in concentration but at least aware of these shortcomings.

Stoned people seem to lose certain asepcts of their personality.

What parts of their personalities would this be? Because I can't say I've observed this outside of state-sponsored anti-drug propaganda.

IQ? Sure, maybe that doesn't go down. But IQ isn't all you want your doctor to be. You'd also like to have your doctor, say, empathetic to your pain, realize what time it is,...

Most people don't become emotionless zombies when they are under the influence of cannabis (unless we are talking about the aforementioned state-sponsored propaganda). If anything most people become more emotional after smoking marijuana (but will seem "emotionless" when asked to take out the trash or clean the dishes, sort of like how someone who is drunk will laugh similar things off while under the influence).

As for perception of time, cannabis does impair your ability to keep track of time but unless we're talking about a doctor who's so stoned he/she can't stand up then this really isn't that much of an issue. It's a much bigger issue when you have nothing important to do and you forget to go out and buy more soda before the grocery store closes because you're "busy" watching a movie.

etc. Really tired people don't seem to have quite the same brain "skew" that someone who is stoned does.

Obviously the effect isn't the same, but I'd rather be in the hands of a doctor who's had a few hits of a joint an hour ago than a doctor who's been up since yesterday morning.

/Mikael

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (2, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159148)

Stoned people seem to lose certain asepcts of their personality.

What parts of their personalities would this be? Because I can't say I've observed this outside of state-sponsored anti-drug propaganda.

For what it's worth, I had a friend that was amused because he smoked some pot and then spent 2 hours trying to figure out how to turn on a Playstation 2, then smoked another and went off and played with a balloon that was SO FUCKING COOL for another hour or so. The drugs can be sort of unpredictable... so hell with that. Sleep loss we know is bad, so hell with that too; but at least I'm decently able to estimate what's going to go wrong while I'm telling you to stay the hell away from me.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159348)

Saw a very interesting BBC show where the lady went to Amsterdam for a month.

What I got out of it was

MJ users of high THC, low Cannabinoid pot were high and creeped out, paranoid.
MJ users of low/high THC, high Cannabinoid pot were high and really happy.

If I were to use it, I'd want the really happy kind myself. No idea what names that might go for. In the show, they had at least two dozen varieties.

I've heard about K2 lately-- it sounds like it is more of a high THC high without the happy part.

It also pointed out that pot users are more cautious while booze users are overconfident.

Lack of sleep can make you hallucinate after only 30ish hours. I'd prefer to avoid hallucinating doctors. I think the current hospital system is evil to nurses AND doctors.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31165768)

High THC to CBD ratio means you get a very "trippy" high, a low THC to CBD ratio gives a "couch lock" high, this is pretty well known and basic stuff.

I've heard about K2 lately-- it sounds like it is more of a high THC high without the happy part.

Actually, from what I've gathered K2 is a 70/30 Indica/Sativa hybrid so it should have a fairly low THC to CBD ratio.

/Mikael

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159568)

I'd agree with you if you were using "It's 22:00 and I normally go to bed at exactly 21:30" as an example of "really tired". Now if we're talking about really tired people (like an ER surgeon who's been up for 36+ hours and working hard for most of that time) then we're looking at seriously bizarre behaviour, hallucinations and an inability to concentrate that would make my cats seem like geniuses in comparison.

The average marijuana user just tends to be a bit more relaxed, giggly and goofy and most likely lacking in concentration but at least aware of these shortcomings.

None of these traits are really represented in an IQ test, and particularly not to the magnitude that they would affect a surgeon's ability to perform surgery. It tells us nothing of motor skills or many other important abilities. The tired person will probably test more poorly than the high person on written or oral tests, but we have no way to infer their abilities as a surgeon/musician/laborer/receptionist/etc.

In other words a 10-point IQ drop compared to a 4-point IQ drop only indicates a general loss of cognition. Nothing more, nothing less.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31162810)

Really tired people don't seem to have the same mental differences from their normal state [...]. Really tired people don't seem to have quite the same brain "skew" that someone who is stoned does.

Define "really tired". I've had chronic insomnia for decades, and by insomnia I mean that I've gone on hideously long stretches of getting from 0-3 hours a sleep, and other stretches where I might get 5-5.5 of non-restorative sleep.

From personal experience, I can tell you that short-term sleep deprivation (as in not getting nearly enough sleep, not getting no sleep) causes a significant drop in cognitive function. Medium- to long-term sleep deprivation is worse: hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, severe attention deficit, amongst others.

The relationship between sleep and healthy mental function is well-known.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158580)

So... If you go to hospital, you might be safer with a stoned surgeon, than one who's been up for 36 hours?

Trouble is, you'd probably end up with a surgeon that's stoned and has been up 36 hours. Yeah, it's proven time and time again that lack of sleep seriously impacts your performance, you should never be operated on by someone that's gone 36 hours without sleep unless it's an emergency. But practical matters dictate there won't be operating rooms and doctors everywhere and not enough so in a major accident they just do what they got to do. If it wasn't for that, they should certainly be no less restricted than truck drivers with mandatory rest stops and such. Seriously, would you let someone unfit to drive a road vechicle cut you open with a scalpel? I wouldn't.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160604)

But practical matters dictate there won't be operating rooms and doctors everywhere and not enough so in a major accident they just do what they got to do.

Actually, it's state-enforced licensing that results in this shortage. So instead of being able to choose a surgeon who has gotten full sleep but isn't as skilled, you have to take the skilled zombie surgeon.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158380)

Well, not that I trust psychiatrists that much but I guess the only thing this is telling me is that marijuana really isn't the brain destroying demon they've made it out to be. Doesn't really convince me that email rots my brain.

Just to play devil's advocate regarding this point. Pot had an immediate 4 point drop while high. There may be cumulative effects that add up over time that lead to a permanent x point drop plus the 4 point drop immediately after smoking marijuana.

Personally I don't think marijuana is bad at all but I just thought I'd throw this out there.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158840)

If you take an IQ test five minutes after smoking a joint, you will score ten points lower. However, the next day your score will be what it was before you smoked the joint. In short, DUH!

I imagine if I took an IQ test drunk I'd score quite a bit lower than ten points down.

They've found that twisting the truth is more believable than a bald-faced lie, even though the anit-pot warriers do tell some whoppers.

As to email, if you take an IQ test with something important on your mind (like the hot chick sitting next to you, or an important email) you'll score lower as well. Anything that hurts your concentration will hurt your IQ score.

Re:Enjoyed the Marijuana Story (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160852)

Well, not that I trust psychiatrists that much but I guess the only thing this is telling me is that marijuana really isn't the brain destroying demon they've made it out to be. Doesn't really convince me that email rots my brain.

But you're talking about two different things here. On one hand you have transitional factors (keeping track of few things at once, being tired, being high) and then you jump to something which is long term ("brain destroying demon", "brain rot").

Being active mentally (many tasks at once), while apparently harming momentary IQ score, is actually very good for your brain, long term. Rare lack of sleep or rare(!) marihuana usage don't really register, long term. But chronic lack of sleep or frequent usage of marihuana...yeah, I can see how that can make a brain rot. I mean, I really do see that around.

Good quote (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157842)

Gotta love the Douglas Adams quote, I can agree with it to a point, as I am only 30. Also, lots of technology that I thoroughly appreciate, I find my nephew just expects to work, and work well every time. (He's 16). I Can't imagine a technology that I would ever be suspicious of though, but then again I'm a nerd.

Re:Good quote (3, Funny)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157888)

Yeah, and you probably still think digital watches were a good idea...

Re:Good quote (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158176)

... you probably still think digital watches were a good idea...

Heh. Some of us tried them out when they became reasonably cheap back in the 1980s, and after a while decided that they weren't really an improvement on the old kind. So I went back to an analog watch for a while. Then I developed a mild rash under the watch, and stopped wearing it for a while. Before I found another watch I liked, I'd noticed how rarely I actually needed one. This was somewhere around 1995, I think, and what I'd noticed was how difficult it had become to be out of view of a clock. By then, clocks of some sort seemed to be easily visible no matter where I was, and a quick scan around would usually spot one in a second or two. OK, if I was walking around out in the woods, there weren't any clocks, but out there it didn't matter if I got back an hour early or late, and it didn't matter.

So I never got another watch. In recent years, I've read a number of articles explaining that I may have been in on the start of a movement of sorts. It seems the watch-making business has gone downhill quite a bit in the past decade or so. People one by one are noticing that they're redundant in a society that has visible clocks almost everywhere. So unless you're involved in some specialized activity where you need a special watch that does something that the other clocks in your environment can't do, or you just like a watch as jewelry, there's not much reason to wear one any more.

In the rare case I don't see a clock during a quick 2-second scan of the environment, I now reach for the phone in my pocket. Are there any cell phones that don't display a clock when "asleep"?

It is curious to think that we may have returned to pocket watches ...

Re:Good quote (1)

sewiv (171989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158688)

I like watches, especially interestingly odd ones, and I have quite a few, but I've quite wearing one for the same reasons, I just don't need one.

Surprised the heck out of me.

Re:Good quote (2, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159200)

I'm not functional with an analog clock. It has to be digital. It's like driving a car, it has to be manual or I can't drive it safely; can you imagine me driving while doing slide-rule calculations in my head to estimate what time it might very well be, gauging by the vague display that seems to give different answers as to the current point chronology readout depending on the exact 360x360 6 point defined spatial coordinate I examine it from?

Re:Good quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31159442)

"I'm not functional with an analog clock."

You are not functional. Full stop.

"It's like driving a car, it has to be manual or I can't drive it safely"

Completly and stupidly non functional.

Re:Good quote (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31162622)

Wow. You're able to gauge passage of time better with a bunch of abstract etchings than with a line denoting how far through a part of a day we are?

Does your car have digital speed and rev readouts too?

Re:Good quote (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159396)

In the rare case I don't see a clock during a quick 2-second scan of the environment, I now reach for the phone in my pocket.

In the long run, that may not turn out to be a good thing.

It used to be that doctors told people with a propensity for heart trouble to "stop wearing a watch", in order to remove time as a stressor.

As you've characterized conditions, it is now impossible to remove time pressure from our lives.

(There must be a good joke/trenchant observation about relativity in there somewhere, but you'll have to fill it in yourself; I've gotta run.)

Re:Good quote (1)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159512)

I stopped wearing watches years ago myself. Speaking of specialty watches, though, the GPS running/biking watch I got for Christmas is still a pleasant novelty. I really enjoy being able to go out for a run, not worry about how fast or far I'm going and then get home and browse oodles of data about my run.

Re:Good quote (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31161070)

This is essentially my experience. I work in an office where I stare at a screen with a clock in the corner for eight hours. The rest of the time I have my phone. I've not seen a need for years. Plus, after a while you become very good at guessing the time when you happen to be away from a clock.

Re:Good quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31158254)

You bet they were. They matched my Member's Only jacket perfectly.

Re:Good quote (2, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157986)

I don't trust that twitter thing. Up to no good I say.

Re:Good quote (3, Informative)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158038)

I Can't imagine a technology that I would ever be suspicious of though, but then again I'm a nerd.

Really? [wikipedia.org]

Nothing at all? I'm only 21 and I'm already suspicious of half the patent filings that get reported on here.

Re:Good quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31158516)

Patent filings are not technology. They're legal fodder. At least that's the /. line.

Re:Good quote (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158050)

Although his quote might be generally true, I am not yet 35, but highly suspicious of any technology that tries to lock me in. Yet I'm an early adopter of anything that genuinely work for me, and I always will be.

I'll be first in line for those Deus Ex augmentations, so long as I don't have to phone Microsoft to re-activate my microfibral muscles, because I changed too many body parts.

Re:Good quote (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158132)

I think it's business practices that lock you in, not technologies.

Re:Good quote (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31161370)

I know Douglas Adams is popular around here, but I've got to say that the quote that's attributed to him in this article is really dumb. It's something that someone who's trying very hard to sound clever would say.

I know lots of people well past age 35 that are taking to absolutely cutting edge technologies. There's a musician I play with on a regular basis who is constantly developing exciting controllers for MIDI instruments, and the 73 year-old retired surgeon who lives across the alley from me is my go-to guru for Linux issues. She (that's right, "she") has come over more than a few times to help me with the Ubuntu server that I use for offloading real-time effects and rendering chores from my digital audio workstation.

Hell, I use technologies that were developed after my 35th birthday, by choice to make a living. Digital Audio Workstations were starting to show up around the time I was 35 and DAW plug-in technologies like VST and DirectX didn't show up until later, and they completely transformed the way I work.

No, I don't care much for twitter or some other "social media" type things, but not because I'm "suspicious" of the technology.

My mother-in-law over in Belgrade, who is in her late 70's, asked me to send her a couple of decent USB webcams so she can talk to her lady friend in Italy. She never once called me to ask for help setting them up. In fact, I didn't even know she had received them until she popped up in my Skype one morning. Oh, I'm pretty sure that skype or VOIP didn't show up until after my 40th birthday, either.

I think it might be more interesting that so many people under the age of 35 are "suspicious" of any computer or mobile technology that lets them install applications that weren't vetted by Steve Jobs or whose technology requires them to make choices.

Re:Good quote (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158058)

I still can't imagine how people live that treat technology like magic. "I don't know how it works, I just turn the key and it goes." -- Alf.

Re:Good quote (0, Troll)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159274)

The sad part is I know I'm uniquely strange BECAUSE I roughly understand how EVERY SINGLE THING in the universe works. There's nothing I can't explain on at least a basic level. Cell phone? Yep. NAND? Yep. My guitar amp? Yep. My computer's entire architecture, front to back? Yep. My car? ... is annoying with its computerized drive-by-wire bullshit, but yep. YOUR car? Automatic sucks, but I know how the (unbelievably complex shittastic) transmission works in that too. Cruise missiles? Vaguely. Satellite TV? Yeah. Bread? Of course, that's easy. Sourdough bread? Even easier, it's yeast AND bacteria in a symbiosis, with the bacteria deriving more food for the yeast by taking complex parts off the starch and inadvertently emitting single-molecule glucose for the yeast to consume. Beer? Yeah easy enough. Metallurgical properties that make superalloys function? ... well I know that nickel-steel-tungsten based superalloys can handle temperatures above 1100F, or even some above 1800F; it's something about the nickel, tungsten is present in trace amounts though and does have a huge impact on hardness in particular. The list goes on, and on, and on....

Re:Good quote (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31159380)

Don't forget to report back to us when you figure out how humans compute aesthetics. Or if pressed for time, how humility works.

Re:Good quote (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31161488)

Aesthetics - those with a brain possesing aesthetic sense similar to "proper" current human one were leaving, for many reasons (one of which would be: what's "aesthetic" is healthy, good for you), more offspring. Even if only slightly more.

Similar with humility; a survival-enhancing trait in primate social groups.

Re:Good quote (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158106)

Would you be 100% comfortable with having a brain-chip installed inside your head?

Re:Good quote (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158198)

All surgery has risks. If you are 100% comfortable having anything installed anywhere inside you, you're naive or misinformed. I wasn't 100% comfortable when my daughter had earrings installed in her ears, and that procedure is mostly reversible.

That said, when brain implants are 10x safer than LASIK is now, (and as cheap) I'll go for it.

Re:Good quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31158814)

Installed? What's your daughter, an android? Do you just unistall them normally or also rollback to a previous snapshot?

Dude, that's just scary.

Re:Good quote (1)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158160)

Terrible quote.

I'm 50 -- I'm not afraid of technology.

I'm sensitive about privacy and and how information about me is used, but I'm not afraid of it.

Re:Good quote (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159166)

Didn't say anything about being afraid, also the quote doesn't have to be perfectly true to be good

Re:Good quote (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158978)

I Can't imagine a technology that I would ever be suspicious of though

The guillotine?

But although I haven't yet reached the age where I'm suspicious of any technology (I'm 57), I saw it in my dad and in my maternal grandfather. With my dad it was cell phones and computers, with my grandfather it was indoor plumbing. In both cases they said "I've done without it for n years, I don't need it now."

As to your nephew, I agree with him -- even brand new technology I expect to "just work" because damn it, I've seen a LOT of new tech in my time; microwaves, VCRs, TV remotes, self-opening doors, motion sensors, the list goes on, and until recently it DID just work, and work as advertised. The new business method is "ship the goddamned thing, we can send a patch later." Too bad you young people put up with that shit or stuff would still "just work." There's no excuse for shipping garbage, but people accept it these days.

Re:Good quote (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159114)

Depends on how one defines "suspicious". I'm well past the age of suspicion defined by Adams. I'm just as much of a gadget/technology nerd as I ever was (probably more so, now that I have more money for gadgets). What I'm suspicious of are any claims of revolutionizing the world. Because of my advanced age, I frequently ask (to use one common Slashdot whipping boy) "how is this different from the CueCat:?", or three-tier, or punch cards, or whatever else has been done in a similar vein. It's going to "change the way I..."? Umm, yeah, sure. I guess skepticism is a more accurate word.

But suspicious as in "my set-top box has a camera so Comcast can spy on me"? I don't believe age is the issue for anyone born in the last fifty years (i. e., grew up with relatively fast-moving technology). There are paranoid nut jobs of varying ages.

Roles (4, Insightful)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157886)

Isn't this just different age groups acting out their normal roles?

The young take the world as they see it and learn from it, adults try to use it productively, and elders warn people about observed and potential dangers.

Re:Roles (3, Insightful)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158370)

It's more like....

Equal parts of wisdom...

The young take the world as they see it and learn from it, adults try to use it productively, and elders warn people about observed and potential dangers.

and ignorance...

The young think they know everything and the older generations are out of touch.
The adults think they know everything. The older generation is out of touch and the younger generation is inexperienced.
The elders think they know everything and the younger generations are inexperienced.

Suspicion is Healthy, FUD is Not (2, Insightful)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157992)

As you get older, you generally become wiser through your experiences. For most of us, we have learned to 'believe it when we see it' after a while and tend to act accordingly when met with some new technology promoting some grand advancement. That seems a very reasonable approach considering the unforgiving world we live in.

That said, fear due to uncertainty is not healthy and certainly what the TFA seems to allude to. In a way, TFA is just describing how FUD affects how technology advancements are viewed by those over 35 or so.

Gessner's Book Arguing Against Books? (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31157998)

From the article:

A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data ... His warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press.

So he chose to release his findings in the exact form of what was 'overloading people with information'? A printed book?

Boy I'd like to design that back cover:

"Find out how things like this very book you hold in your hands right now is destroying your mind and plaguing you with confusing and harmful thoughts ..."

"You'll pick it up, read it, burn it and never read another book again!"

"Tell your neighbors to buy this book so you can outsmart them and take their cattle!"

"Your feudal lord's new tool of oppression: Printed word?"

Re:Gessner's Book Arguing Against Books? (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158090)

Hell, it goes back way further than that.

Plato, and some of his contemporaries, did a fair amount of whining about how the advent of writing was destroying people's powers of memory(oh boy would he have hated Google...).

No extra credit will be awarded for guessing what technology allows us to know what he said on the subject...

I have a guess (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#31161922)

No extra credit will be awarded for guessing what technology allows us to know what he said on the subject...

Well, once I was reading a book I stumbled upon a song titled "The Printing Press is for porn", and Plato wasn't into that.

Could it have Project Gutenberg? ;-)

Re:Gessner's Book Arguing Against Books? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158114)

From the article:

So he chose to release his findings in the exact form of what was 'overloading people with information'? A printed book?

I presumed that his book was hand written and hand copied. But, maybe not. I'm sure there are blogs that say how blogging will ruin the world.

Re:Gessner's Book Arguing Against Books? (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158446)

The printed press was developed more than 100 years before that book came out so it was probably printed.

Re:Gessner's Book Arguing Against Books? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31161106)

Works for cigarettes

Sig preservation (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#31161862)

So he chose to release his findings in the exact form of what was 'overloading people with information'? A printed book?

Boy I'd like to design that back cover:

I think this fits well with your signature:

Surgeon General's Warning: Reading this [book] may cause death

(s/[book]/signature/ for the signature as it really was at the time of my posting)

Don't read this! (1)

dsavi (1540343) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158088)

Too late! Information overload!

Just Great! (1)

LowerTheBar (1741458) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158128)

based on what Adams said: "The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion" I have to be suspicious of everything I develop now that I am older that 35

Re:Just Great! (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159066)

I have to be suspicious of everything I develop now that I am older that 35

Why? I'm almost twice your age, and the stuff I develop is good.

Re:Just Great! (1)

Ghubi (1102775) | more than 4 years ago | (#31163058)

It's the stuff everyone else develops that you have to be suspicious of.

Reinventing the Wheel (3, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158174)

For some reason, and I still do not understand exactly why, people tend to re-invent things. Once you have seen this happen a few times, you don't tend to be impressed with every latest doo-dad.

As for the reason, there are lots of factors. But the ultimate factor is that nothing is really permanent, certainly not humans but not even ideas. Communication and education have high costs. Information storage degrades, in human memory and in physical forms. Even interpretation of long-stored information is a challenge. There are all sorts of incentives not to share innovation, both inherent and by design of various political and economic systems.

If you're being sold a better video player or a better cheeseburger, it might actually be better for you. But it is almost as likely to be worse. It may not even be better for the person who created it. It may just be newer instead of better. Progress is not a given, and the vast majority of people ("consumers") tend to be uncritical automatons.

Re:Reinventing the Wheel (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158616)

For some reason, and I still do not understand exactly why, people tend to re-invent things. Once you have seen this happen a few times, you don't tend to be impressed with every latest doo-dad.

Hear, hear. I consider myself the most electronically inclined out of all my friends and I still couldn't (without Googling) tell you about the difference between LCD, LED, and plasma or the iPhone and the Blackberry like my friends, who've settled into gadget fetishism, can.

TV became pointless when the Discovery channel quit being educational and became "reality". I use my phone for calls, texts, and the occasional picture or video while shunning an online presence altogether. Do the content providers believe that their content will be less crappy when shown on obscenely large screens? Maybe not, people are watching shows on their phones. It seems that the content, the whole reason for doing, matters much less than the novelty of how it's done.

Re:Reinventing the Wheel (1)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159634)

I'm being a stickler here, but I noticed you didn't post as an AC, so you aren't exactly "shunning an online presence altogether." Still, good for you!! Cheers!

It's madness I say! (2, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158214)

An 1883 article in the weekly medical journal the Sanitarian argued that schools "exhaust the children's brains and nervous systems with complex and multiple studies, and ruin their bodies by protracted imprisonment." Meanwhile, excessive study was considered a leading cause of madness by the medical community.

hmmm... I think they may be onto something....

feeble argument (2, Insightful)

YahoKa (577942) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158390)

the debates about whether schooling dulls the brain or whether newspapers damage the fabric of society seem peculiar

What? It doesn't to me, actually. Modern schooling and news media give us many of nifty tools, but also do damage to our education and ability to think independently, and so in turn to society. So, I'm not sure I agree we can dismiss debate like this. I pick this quote because it's an example of why this is a poor argument.

The whole argument the author uses assumes we have consistently progressed using media and surpassed the problems media critics pointed out, therefore critics in the past are wrong. Maybe it's true that they are always rather negative and forget the positive aspects of change, but there have been a huge range of critics with lots of criticisms that seem to have manifested true. Sorry, but you can't throw out an argument like this author did in a 1-page article, he just has too many presumptions for too complex an issue.

Re:feeble argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31158476)

And that is only one of the many problems with the argument. It also generalizes about all media criticism by picking on a few unrepresentative instances.

Re:feeble argument (2, Informative)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159078)

Exactly. Both Mark Twain and Einstein made disparaging remarks about schooling, but it was a different issue - not an "overload of information", but that they tend to stifle original thought.

Re:feeble argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31159126)

As for universal education, we have an excellent example of what can go wrong here http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?em=&pagewanted=all. "Education" in the US! Most /. followers are aware of how ridiculous it sounds to non-Americans what goes on there but it's still fun to point out :-).
But even getting everyone to read was known back in Roman times as a useful tool for mass manipulation of thought/opinion. But it's just more of the same when compared with organised religion (homogenising thought from the pulpit). Technology is rarely, if ever, the problem - it is those controlling the technology, whether it be the technology of audible speech or tweets arriving on my smartphone.
A++
ps. Anyone who claims that anything less than excessive (many joints), daily *abuse* of marijuana has ANY long term effects for 99.9% of the population has simply not read any of the relevant literature. There is the occasional church/right-wing-sponsored article that makes it into the journals but none of these stand up to serious scrutiny. And thankfully more and more governments are realising that, as it is obviously medically far less dangerous than both cigarettes and alcohol, it should be at least decriminalised and why not taxed! Good on ya California!

Not exactly an authority (1)

proslack (797189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158396)

Douglas Adams had an English degree. What the hell did he know about psychology and information science? He wrote one somewhat-funny book series. Why quote him? What did Leary say about this? Jung? Meade? Wilson? Just because DA said it doesn't make it so. I see plenty of old professors that are far more tuned into to technology and information processing than the twenty-year old students that sit in their classes. It's an overgeneralized stereotype, and a poor one at that. The initial analogy is idiotic in any event. There's a world of difference between the time it takes to assimilate information from a library full of books (ala Gessner; serial-processing - one at a time) and juggling email, a cell phone, tv, the radio, books, journal articles, textbooks, facebook, twitter, podcasts...

Re:Not exactly an authority (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159540)

Douglas Adams had an English degree. What the hell did he know about psychology

He knew enough about psychology to be able to make me laugh out loud.

...and information science?

He knew enough about electronics to have Marvin's diodes hurt.

He wrote one somewhat-funny book series

Somewhat? Please name ONE author who has written anything more than half as funny, besides Terry Pratchett, who comes close to Adams in the LMAO department.

Re:Not exactly an authority (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31160830)

Harry Harrison, Tim Powers, Morgenstern, Larry Niven, Vonnegut, Richard Hooker, Neal Stephenson, Robert Asprin, Piers Anthony, John Bellairs. By the way, Terry Pratchett is about as funny as the sole of my left shoe.

"We"? (2, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158560)

> The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were
> born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting,
> and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.

"We"? Speak for yourself, Adams.

Re:"We"? (1)

d1r3lnd (1743112) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160424)

"We"? Speak for yourself, Adams.

Oh, come on, you can hardly blame him; he is widely accepted to be a part of the great majority these days.

Trouble is on the production side (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158582)

There's more trouble on the supply side than on the consumption side.

The problem with news is that the pundit/reporter ratio has swung way too far in the pundit direction. There are too few people out digging up info, and too many people analyzing it. "News is what someone doesn't want published. All else is publicity." With so much incoming free information, willingness to pay people to go out and dig up real news has declined substantially. It takes minutes to rewrite a paragraph from a press release. It takes days of work to get the information for a real story.

Look at the front page of Google News. How many of those stories started as a press release? Most of them. Sometimes, all of them.

In the heyday of newspapers (say, 1880 to 1950), the printing process was far more labor-intensive. As a result, reporters were a small fraction of the payroll, and keeping head count down on the reporting side wasn't top priority. Most newspapers had reporting, editing, composing, and printing all in the same building or adjacent buildings. The big part of the business was printing and distribution.

Today, printing plants are remote, have few people, and may be outsourced. Composing is automated. Editorial is mostly automated; text goes from reporter to printed page without much editing. So reporting is the big labor cost. And it's so easy to just tap into some feed and pump it out to the printing plant.

Blogging isn't helping. It's mostly punditry and self-publicity.

That's where information overload is hurting. Information wants to be free, but free information is self-serving.

douglas adams (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158672)

god, or simply giant among men?

Not buying it (3, Insightful)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158716)

Sure, people have been claiming that we're close to the precipice for sheer ages, but that doesn't mean that big changes have arrived. I think the transition from hand-made books to printed books is orders of magnitude less dangerous than the sudden profusion of realistic images of things real and unreal. The most the former required was getting it into your gut that not every book was deemed a Very Important Book; the latter means that the apparent evidence of our senses no longer can be trusted, even as the scepticism needed to distrust is dampened by the profusion.

Yes, people can tell movies and television from real life, but repeated exposure really seems to have an effect. (Example: people think violent crime, and murder in particular, is much more common than in all but the poorest and least {cared-about-by-the-powerful} areas; why? ---because they've seen it, night after night, year after year, and the skill to avoid being influenced by this false evidence was not needed in the Serengeti.) It is certainly possible to over-influence people with words alone, but I can't shake the feeling that the reptile brain is privileged by The Image.

On the other hand, maybe people will be less influence by television and radio once they've gained the experience of making their own.

Re:Not buying it (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159602)

the apparent evidence of our senses no longer can be trusted

They never could, and the wise always knew this. My dad always told me "don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see."

I can't shake the feeling that the reptile brain is privileged by The Image.

Mammals don't have reptile brains; alligators and turtles do.

Mass media FUD (2, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158802)

Old media wants to protect its market. An easy way to do this is to discourage old media consumers from trying out new media. "Online scammers - we'll show you how to avoid them! Tonight after weather and sports." is a common teaser these days only because it helps re-enforce that the Internet is a wild, dangerous place (except for the TV station's web site, of course). Better just keep the TV on and relax, they can't get you here.

Perception vs reality (4, Interesting)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31158962)

'The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.'

The thing is technology that we are aware of that existed when we were born and is still in use when we get old enough to really think about it is proven. It works and gets the job done.
When new technology is developed before we turn 35 (or some other age, it started to happen for me when I was in my 20s) we see its possibilities and how it will change the world. We tend not to see its short comings, or how it solves a problem that nobody has. Additionally, while we are in that age, we have to spend as much time learning how to use existing technology as we do new technology, so they are equal footing.
After 35 (or whatever age this revelation occurs to the individual), you start to see how some new technology has the same sort of problems that some previous "new" technology had such that the previous "new" technology never worked out. Additionally, new technology means you have to learn a new way to do something where you had mastered the old way.

Re:Perception vs reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31159740)

After 35 (or whatever age this revelation occurs to the individual), you start to see how some new technology has the same sort of problems that some previous "new" technology had such that the previous "new" technology never worked out.

Like tablet computers, for example?

Re:Perception vs reality (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160846)

The thing is technology that we are aware of that existed when we were born and is still in use when we get old enough to really think about it is proven.

That's why I use Emacs [wikipedia.org] (*). It's 35 years old and proven tech that just works and beats the pants off the whippersnapper java based upstarts.

(*) Sith lords use vi.

I agree with Douglas Adams (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159212)

Scientists best, most productive years are those in their twenties. As someone that is 40, I understand that issue. I find I don't get "tweeting". It seems an insane activity to do or listen to. I am sure that there must be a reason for it, but I, a computer programmer, just don't understand why people want to tell the world their random, un-edited short thoughts. These are the things I am ashamed of. The better the idea the longer and more involved I wish to write about it. But I am 40, so I guess I am just too old to get it.

Unexpected old quotes (2, Interesting)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159306)

I love these old quotes that sound like they were made recently, but in fact are very old.
These are my favourites:

> Although they posses enough, and more than enough, still they yearn for more.
(Ovid (English Poet, 43 BC - 17 AD))

> I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless
beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and
respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and
impatient of restraint.
(Hesiod 800 - 720 BC)

> The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for
authority, they show disrespect to their elders.... They no longer rise
when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter
before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and
are tyrants over their teachers.
((allegedly) Socrates ca. 390 BC)

Re:Unexpected old quotes (1)

Colin Douglas Howell (670559) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160148)

Nice, but a couple of picky points:

Ovid (English Poet, 43 BC - 17 AD))

Ovid was a Latin poet, not an English one. At that time the languages which would evolve into English were being spoken by Germanic barbarian tribes.

> When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and

Should be discreet. (Sorry, personal pet peeve. :)

Re:Unexpected old quotes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31160154)

Ovid was not an English poet. The English language didn't even exist when Ovid was alive.

Re:Unexpected old quotes (1)

Twisted64 (837490) | more than 4 years ago | (#31162444)

I like newspaper topics from ~100 years ago. Sex education [blogspot.com] , violence in schools [vintagekansascity.com] ... nothing changes, at least in the papers.

Re:Unexpected old quotes (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31162528)

((allegedly) Socrates ca. 390 BC)

Socrates died 400/399 BC.

Re:Unexpected old quotes (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 4 years ago | (#31166272)

> Socrates died 400/399 BC.

I stand corrected (I read/heard the quotes somewhere, checked the exact wording etc online, and I guess I cut-and-pasted from a site with a mistake in it !!)

"Amusing Ourselves to Death" (2, Informative)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159318)

I'll have to RTFA since I've been reading Neil Postman's 1985 book "Amusing Ourselves to Death", which is a pre-WWW musing about how TV is changing public discourse in America.

Why is this news worthy (2, Interesting)

MrBrklyn (4775) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159390)

This is old news which we've all heard before. What is new about this? The NYC subway has a the "over 35 Year Old" quote on the walls in Barnes and Noble poster..

BTW - the better quote from that campaign is that "The limitations of a Man's view of the horizon is always mistaken for the scope of the Universe". Children under the age of 35 most often have a very small horizons :).

Ruben

So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31159658)

450 years of chasing those damn kids off our lawns.

Im Not 35 yet, (2, Funny)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31159784)

But there are many companies/technologies that have been around or been developed in my lifetime that I am wary/suspicious of.

Google, MicroSoft, Apple, DRM, I should own, Social Networking.

Maybe my life would be different if I was not a /. lurker.

Looks like... (1)

C0R1D4N (970153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31160676)

'The writer Douglas Adams observed how technology that existed when we were born seems normal, anything that is developed before we turn 35 is exciting, and whatever comes after that is treated with suspicion.'" Looks like Logan's Run had the right idea.

I turn 35 in May. Crap (1)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31162422)

Guess it's been a nice run, but since I turn 35 in less than two months, if that Douglas Adams quote has any accuracy all the fun is just about over. Technology, it's been nice knowing you, but my days as a network administrator are over. It's nothing but shaking canes and offmalawns from here on out.
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