A new rule is going into effect today: any time I get together with someone outside of work, no electronic devices are allowed.
This rule will apply to everyone – friends, family, neighbors… even people I don’t yet know. It means no cell phones. It means no laptops. No mp3 players, no e-readers, no hand-held game systems. And don’t even think about getting anywhere near me with an iPad. Not in a coffee shop, not in a movie theater, not at the beach. Nowhere. If we are going to spend time together, we are going to do so without the battery-powered paraphernalia.
The gist of this thought-provoking talk is that the mining of minerals used in cell phones and other popular electronic devices leads to serious human rights issues and conflicts in undeveloped countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The question that Mr. Mbubi is asking us is this: Shouldn’t we take responsibility for the manner in which the products we all enjoy are produced?
I often go for walks around my neighborhood after dark, and over the past few months I have developed a somewhat strange habit. As I walk past each house, I look to see whether or not there is a television on inside. I stay on the sidewalk and I don’t stop and stare, but as I move by I glance over once or twice to see if I can find that familiar, flickering glow.
It’s odd, I know, but it’s something I do.
I’m not concerned with what’s on the TV or who’s watching it or how high the volume is turned up or how big the screen is. In fact, I couldn’t care less about these things. I’m just curious, for some reason, as to whether or not a TV is on. That’s all there is to it.
Day after day, walk after walk, as time has gone by I have become more and more preoccupied with the houses and the televisions that I see.
The most recent non tech poll asked readers the following question: When was the last time that you went a full 24 hours without once using a single electronic device?
Here’s how you responded.
|I can't remember the last time I did that||18||49%
While around one third of respondents have taken full-day vacations from their electronic devices in the past month, over half have not unplugged in at least a year. Should we be making a more concerted effort to disconnect more often?
Most teachers believe that students’ constant use of electronic devices is making it more difficult for them to pay attention and to stay focused in order to solve difficult problems. 71 percent of teachers “said they thought technology was hurting attention span “somewhat” or “a lot.” About 60 percent said it hindered students’ ability to write and communicate face to face, and almost half said it hurt critical thinking and their ability to do homework.” These are the results of two different studies, coincidentally both released this week, as reported by NYTimes.com.
What these teachers are trying to tell us is that the way most young people use technology today is making it harder for them to learn.
Earlier this week, a team working for Google took specially modified Street View cameras into the Grand Canyon as part of an effort “to digitally map and photograph the world’s wild places.” Luc Vincent, Google’s Director of Engineering, called this an “iconic” first step. But are we really certain that it’s a step we want to take?
This is an interesting look at online gaming addiction in hyper-connected South Korea, where some people spend upwards of 15 hours per day playing games like Starcraft, Maple Story and Sudden Attack on their computers.
Most of us would probably agree that the behavior we see in this video is not healthy. It’s a waste of time. It’s different from the way we live our lives and it’s different from the way we want our kids to live theirs.
But are these “gamers” really so different from ourselves?
I don’t have an iPad, and I have no intention of getting one.
I don’t have an iPhone, either. Or any other kind of smart phone. In fact, I don’t send or receive text messages, don’t download apps and, dare I say it, I have absolutely no idea how to play Angry Birds.
What these things have in common is that they have all failed the test of a very simple question: will this make my life better?
That these gadgets and doodads all failed this test isn’t to say that they serve no purpose. Clearly they do something for us, or else no one would buy them. The iPad, for instance, can obviously do a lot of things, allowing users to send e-mails, watch movies, video chat and even play gyroscope-enhanced games. However, the question I asked wasn’t “can this do a lot of stuff?” My question, equally simple but much more important, was “will this make my life better?” And more often than not, when I ask this question I find myself yielding to an honest answer: no.
Two articles that caught my attention yesterday made it pretty clear just how much privacy we can all expect these days with regard to our electronic devices: none.
The first article, published on cnet.com, explains that Verizon Wireless, America’s second-largest wireless service provider with somewhere in the ballpark of 100 million subscribers, has begun selling a variety of information about its customers. Where you are at any given time, what apps you’re using, what websites you visit and when — Verizon knows all of these things about you and now sells that information to whoever is willing to pay the right price for it. In the words of one Verizon executive, ”We’re able to view just everything that they do.”
A study conducted by the National Cancer Institute and published earlier this year found that the more time we spend in front of the television, the more likely we are to develop life-threatening health problems. And that’s the case regardless of how often we exercise. To quote the study’s abstract: “Participants who reported the most television viewing were at greater risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality after adjustment for moderate-vigorous physical activity.”
Click here to take a look at the abstract.
For me, the most interesting and unnerving thing about these findings is that they seem to be telling us that we can’t make up for an otherwise physically inactive lifestyle with short bursts of activity throughout the week. Running or walking a few miles and then sitting down for the rest of the day might not be getting the job done.
This is a fantastic talk about the effects of constant connectedness on the way we communicate with and relate to one-another, and perhaps more importantly, the way we think about ourselves.
I agree completely with Mrs. Turkle’s idea that all of our tweets, posts, texts, etc…, do not combine to equal genuine conversation. There just seems to be a character to real-life conversation that can never be replaced or replicated by electronic intermediaries.
Are cell phones good for us?
If I asked 1,000 people this question, I think at least 999 of them would answer with a very quick “yes.” Many of those people would probably also be inclined to add something to the effect of “of course.” And a sizeable portion of those would probably also be thinking something along the lines of “That’s a stupid question.”
If I went on to ask those same people why cell phones are so clearly good for us, I might get a greater variety of answers. Cell phones make it easier for us to get in touch with the people we care about. Cell phones make it possible for us to get information on the go. They’re fun to play with. We can take pictures and videos with them and listen to music on them. Cell phones are even being used, as Bill Clinton pointed out in a recent article in Time magazine, “to lift people out of poverty” in places like Haiti and reunite families that have been separated by conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.
Cell phones are clearly doing a lot of good in the world. But what about the bad?