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A History of Media Technology Scares 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-they-didn't-even-have-to-deal-with-twitter dept.
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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A History of Media Technology Scares

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:11PM (#31157750) Journal

    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.

    • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:17PM (#31157830) Homepage

      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 hear...radio waves...in my head."
      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        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?

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

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

      • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bsDaemon (87307)
      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.

      Mi
      • by Bakkster (1529253) <.Bakkster.man. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:52PM (#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.

    • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:25PM (#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.

      • by bsDaemon (87307)
        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.
      • 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 s
        • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:06PM (#31158626) Homepage Journal

          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.

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            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?

            • It's a combination of things. For interns and residents, it's partly a macho rite of passage; attempts to shorten the hours worked generally meet with cries from older physicians along the lines of, "We had to work those hours, today's kids are just soft and weak!" The fact that these insane hours kill patients has, finally, led to some reform, but it's still pretty grim. And yes, there is a personnel shortage on all levels -- physicians, nurses, techs -- and then there's just the unpredictability of hos

            • There is an artificial shortage of doctors maintained by restricting admissions to medical schools and even more so by restricting the total number of medical schools as well as increasing tuition for medical school much faster than costs.

              http://www.nytimes.com/1986/06/29/business/curbing-the-supply-of-physicians-who-said-we-have-too-many-doctors.html?&pagewanted=all [nytimes.com]
              While [the AMA] is devoted to improving the quality of medical care, education and the profession, it also operates as a cartel to protect

        • by mikael_j (106439) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:06PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

            by bluefoxlucid (723572)

            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.

          • 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 poi

            • by mikael_j (106439)

              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

              • Not sure exactly what would be "trippy" vs "couch lock".
                In the show, when they gave her the one with more CBD, she was laughing and very happy. When they gave her the one with high thc, she got very wierded out, paranoid, and unhappy. This had also happened to her the first day in Amsterdam when she took two hits and then felt nothing so kept hitting until she started feeling it (ignoring the advice of the coffee shop owner).

                I thought K2 didn't show up on pot tests so I can't see how it would be a hybrid

                • by mikael_j (106439)

                  "Trippy" would be more hallucinogenic, more "giggly", more energetic and a bit more unpredictable.

                  "Couch lock" is the effect of smoking high CBD cannabis (Indica), generally you're more likely to get sleepy, drowsy, tired and lazy.

                  The strain K2 is just another cannabis strain and just like other strains it will show up on drug tests.

                  /Mikael

                  • Wierd. Wonder how they are getting away selling it legally in head shops right now then?

                    I'm talking about what is being sold as "k2 incense". I'm still gathering info at this point but it was looking promising.

                    • by mikael_j (106439)

                      "K2 incense" sounds like some legal "smoke mix", I assumed you were talking about the cannabis strain "K2", apparently there are two things in the same "realm" both known as "K2". Oh well, that's what you get in an unregulated market.

                      /Mikael

                    • Ah. Yea, it's a currently legal smoke mix that several of my friends have now tried over a couple months. I'm very interested but cautious. So far none have shown ill effects. I'll probably order some before the loophole is closed. It sounds a bit more trippy than giggly.

          • by Bakkster (1529253)

            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 los

      • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:03PM (#31158580) Homepage

        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.

        • 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.

    • by wwfarch (1451799)

      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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      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

    • by sznupi (719324)

      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

  • 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.
    • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:21PM (#31157888)
      Yeah, and you probably still think digital watches were a good idea...
      • by jc42 (318812)

        ... 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 w

        • by sewiv (171989)

          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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bluefoxlucid (723572)
          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?
          • 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?

            • my exact speed is neither denoted by a combination of multiple needles on the chart nor particularly important. +/- a few mph is fine; +/- a minute is not, and it takes me a minute to figure out what time it is just about these days anyway (though I keep coming up with ridiculous times because I read the fucker wrong). Oddly enough, 2/3 of my Japanese class couldn't learn to tell time in Japanese because the teacher used a mock-up analog clock and apparently 3 people in the class could read them.....
              • You can't even read a speedo accurately?

                Wow.

                I never knew there were people who can't tell the time, yet are able to function normally otherwise. Honestly, this is difficult for me to grasp; hence very interesting.

                • I can't tell if I'm going a little over 45 or just at 45. My speedo's marked at 5mph intervals so I know I'm roughly around 40..43? or 42..45? Or somewhere in there. In any case, the needle's "on 45" in multiple positions so I might be at 44.5 or 45.5 or whatever. It doesn't honestly matter.
        • by wrencherd (865833)

          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.)

        • 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.
        • 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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 0racle (667029)
      I don't trust that twitter thing. Up to no good I say.
    • Re:Good quote (Score:4, Informative)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:30PM (#31158038) Journal

      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.

    • 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.

      • I think it's business practices that lock you in, not technologies.
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        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 g

    • 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: (Score:1, Troll)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)
        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.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

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

          • by sznupi (719324)

            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.

        • by RMH101 (636144)
          Women? Nope
          • I have a fair grasp on how to deal with women. Some are complex though. They are after all individuals; but they're also driven majorly by cultural impressions of "how a woman should act" along with general personal ideals that can be quickly guessed by fingerprinting their rough personality after a minute or two.
    • Would you be 100% comfortable with having a brain-chip installed inside your head?
      • 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.
    • 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.

      • Didn't say anything about being afraid, also the quote doesn't have to be perfectly true to be good
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      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 see

    • by mikestew (1483105)

      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 "chang

  • Roles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:21PM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jbezorg (1263978) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:50PM (#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.

  • by moore.dustin (942289) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:27PM (#31157992) Homepage
    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.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:28PM (#31157998) Journal
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      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...
      • 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? ;-)

    • 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.

      • by Whalou (721698)
        The printed press was developed more than 100 years before that book came out so it was probably printed.
    • 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)

  • Too late! Information overload!
  • 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
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      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.

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:38PM (#31158174) Homepage

    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.

    • 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 Discove

      • 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!
  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:40PM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YahoKa (577942) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @01:51PM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ltap (1572175)
      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.
  • 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 i
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      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.

      • by RMH101 (636144)
        DA said it, and it made us laugh. That's as deep as it gets. For the record, DA was one of the biggest geeks I can think of: he had the first Apple Macintosh ever imported into the UK, for example.
  • "We"? (Score:3, Funny)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:02PM (#31158560) Homepage

    > 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.

    • by d1r3lnd (1743112)

      "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.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:03PM (#31158582) Homepage

    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.

  • god, or simply giant among men?
  • Not buying it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by John Guilt (464909) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:13PM (#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.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grumling (94709) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:18PM (#31158802) Homepage

    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.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:30PM (#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.

    • 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.

  • 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
  • by Zoxed (676559) on Tuesday February 16, 2010 @02:57PM (#31159306) Homepage

    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)

    • 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. :)

    • ((allegedly) Socrates ca. 390 BC)

      Socrates died 400/399 BC.

      • by Zoxed (676559)

        > 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 !!)

  • 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.
  • by MrBrklyn (4775)

    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

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • Uh oh... I turn 35 this year. I guess I only have a few months left to appreciate new technology before I start yelling at kids to get off my lawn.

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments

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