Category Archives: technology influences

The Internet & the Illusion of Empowerment

Has this idea (from ~2000) aged well? Some parts yes, some parts no.

(This article is one of about 23 that ran as a weekly full-page “ad” in The New York Times.)

FROM: internet archive of at

Article archive (Word Doc)


Photo of Original NY Times Advertisement

The Internet & the Illusion of Empowerment

The computer revolution has been no boon to democracy. It has threatened personal privacy like nothing before, and it’s a serious toxics hazard, too. As for empowerment, let’s call it “corporate empowerment” because they gain far more than you do.

The communications revolution is an odd revolution since all sides agree about it. The conservatives and the liberals, the George W. Bushes and Al Gores, the engineers and the artists, the corporations and the activists who oppose them, accept computers and the internet as empowering to individuals and democracy. But are they?

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Filed under person: Jerry Mander, technology, technology influences

“It makes me feel like the car doesn’t care about me” (car with no wifi)

“It makes me feel like the car doesn’t care about me” (car with no wifi)
Commercial for Chevrolet 4G LTE WiFi In-Car Entertainment

Did she really just say that?!?!?!


– Novelty effect

– Shifting baseline

– Screen Addiction
(My take is that screens can suck you in and use up time (not necessarily “waste”…) but for most people (not just kids) it doesn’t get out of control, but for some % of people it does. Either due to a combination of genetics and/or personal circumstances.)

– Movie: Her (2013)

– Led by Robots, Roaches Abandon Instincts – New York Times

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Filed under novelty effect, shifting baseline, technology influences

Sherry Turkle: Alone Together

Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other

Read the 1 star reviews
e.g. “I think there is also a nostalgia at play here — treasuring the forms of communication one grew up with rather than the new because they are familiar and comfortable. Understandable, but not a great basis for a critique.”

I’m sure she has some (possibly) valid points, but she could probably sum them up in a 5 point outline or a 5 page paper or article. Not 360 pages.

My quick points would be:
1. easier to keep difficult emotions at arms length (text not phone not face-to-face)
2. can’t always easily discuss complicated stuff this way. some combo of online and F2F helps.
3. allure of the device (consumerism) and/or screen (we are wired for moving things, blue light, etc)
4. motivation of companies to sell devices and sell monthly plans vs our personal interests
5. personal info / privacy concerns
6. time suck

But it’s not all bad of course so have learn to live with it. Some huge advantages:
1. info resource of web/youtube/etc
2. cell phones/GPS–security

In other words, I think we can learn to live with it. Just as we’ve learned (eventually) to live with widespread access to books, radio, phones, tv.

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Led by technology, humans abandon instincts?

FROM 2007


November 16. Creepy news: Led by Robots, Roaches Abandon Instincts. From the abstract of the scientific paper:

“Even when in the minority, robots can modulate the collective decision-making process and produce a global pattern not observed in their absence. These results demonstrate the possibility of using intelligent autonomous devices to study and control self-organized behavioral patterns in group-living animals.”

I was about to say, in a few years they’ll be doing it with humans… but they’re already doing it with humans, and I don’t mean television — they’re doing exactly the same thing with human children, integrating mechanical robots into groups to study and control their behavior. Patricia sends this article from a week ago, Could robots become your toddler’s new best friend?

The scariest thing is that cockroaches, over tens of millions of years, have evolved an egalitarian cooperative society, and yet they can still be controlled by shadowy powers without their knowledge. Even if humans, say in a million years, catch up to cockroaches and learn deep resistance to hierarchy, we still have to learn resistance to subtle manipulation of collective decision-making. But Patricia is is oddly optimistic:

“As cool as cockroaches are, they are not very high on the individual consciousness scale. I think many humans are quite capable of out-evolving this type of control. If we were not, we’d all be sending large checks to anonymous Nigerian bankers, right? In short, cockroaches lack the ability to assume the worst, to withhold their trust or belief. They are innocents, pre-Fall, in the Edenic eternal now — until they get squished.”

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Filed under predictions, technology, technology influences

Jane McGonigal TED talk: Gaming can make a better world

Watch this TED talk on using gaming to “save the world”. I think it’s quite compelling. Maybe the logic falls apart if one thinks about it more than 18 minutes, but I think there is A LOT of truth to this based on what I see with my own kids and their gaming.

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Filed under alternative education, collaboration, community, contrarian, energy, evidence-based, experiments, gamification, green, health, motivation, screen-time, social media, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, technology influences, video games