Thursday, September 25, 2014


AK Haart raised the question of how over-entertainment and superinformation are changing us. I think it's at least as serious an issue as the phoney drugs war.

Mentally Addictive Devices (MAD) seem to me to be shortening attention span, overstimulating and exhausting the mind with trivial and repetitive tasks, and fostering a hazy expectation of instant gratification in other aspects of life.

They also divert attention from pursuing action that furthers one's real long-term interests - there are students flunking college because of their addiction to computerised role-playing games.

And they override alertness to real physical risk. Look at those who walk blindly across a road while on their cellphones; and the poor girl murdered on a Birmingham bus last year had previously noted the strange behaviour of what was to be her killer, but had merely commented on it on her phone - I think the phone gives the illusion of society and so misleads one into a false sense of security.

What if Orwell's eternally ruling Party had realised that you could subjugate the people with endless dreams?


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A K Haart said...

Not so long ago we were waiting in a queue of cars for the traffic lights to change. A young mother crossed the road, a child about three years old tagging along behind. She was busy with her phone.

The child dropped something in the road and turned back to pick it up just as the lights changed. Fortunately the driver of the car at the front of the queue wasn't as distracted as that young mother and waited.

Mum noticed nothing.

Nick Drew said...

what Orwell failed to realise was that you don't need to make it compulsory to keep the screen on all day - people do it voluntarily !

(he was also wrong about Newspeak, BTW ...)

Paddington said...

The big issue is that we need science and mathematics (my discipline) for civilization to continue. These require intense concentration, which is becoming more and more difficult for people.

Sackerson said...

Nick - not sure he was wrong about Newspeak - look at PC-speak.

Sackerson said...

Paddington - can you quantify the required supply of STEM graduates?

Paddington said...

One estimate is a shortage of several hundred thousand engineers, computer scientists and others, possibly per year. The government labs and universities are facing a huge number of retirements on top of that.