Technology Invades The Bedroom?

CBS did a slightly sensationalist story this week about how peoples’ love lives are suffering because they bring technology into the bedroom.  An excerpt:

Therapist Ian Kerner said BlackBerrys, cell phones and e-mail are invading the bedroom and hurting our ability to connect with out mates.

"It’s part of a growing syndrome where we are tuning out of our relationships, and not tuning into each other," he said. "I think it’s just a feeling of wanting to stay connected. … afraid of being alone. And sometimes you can be in the bedroom with somebody and still feel alone. Technology is a way of feeling immersed and connected and present."

Kerner offered some tips for people who want to stop technology from encroaching on their love-life.

  • Reject: Get rid of everything that obstructs your relationship whether technology, TVs, piles of newspapers, and magazines.
  • Redecorate: Make your bedroom your own special place with new sheets, pillows or wall art.
  • Renew: Create new rules for inside the bedroom. No technology, no stressful arguments. No paying bills in bed

Link: Technology Invades The Bedroom, Gadgets Make Romance More Difficult – CBS News.

Via Regina Lynn at Wired, who says the issue has more to do with bringing work into the bedroom and not technology per se, and I tend to agree.

Anti-Tech Songs and More

Reader Mark Oshinskie pointed me to his site at humanfuture.tripod.com where he has posted original essays, reviews, and even songs about genetic engineering, reproductive technology, and other topics.

I quite like "Headless Hens":

Headless Hens make better eating
Engineered sheep, engineered feeding
Mammoth salmon spread altered genes
Big busted cows, bug killing beans
Miracle foods we’re promised if we try it
But hungry people can’t afford to buy it
/p>

Labs getting profits, DNA mixing
It’s not the crops it’s the world that needs fixing.

Link: Life Is Now A Commodity.

Reinventing Technocracy

A new group called Scientists & Engineers for America aims to put science at the forefront of US politics.  From their website:

Today a group of scientists and concerned citizens launch a new organization, Scientists and Engineers for America, dedicated to electing public officials who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.

The principal role of the science and technology community is to advance human understanding.  But there are times when this is not enough.  Scientists and engineers have a right, indeed an obligation, to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interests ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research.

We ask every American who values scientific integrity in decision-making to join us in endorsing a basic Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers.  Together we will elect new leadership beginning in 2006, and we will continue to work to elect reasonable leadership in federal, state and local elections for years to come.

Link: SEFORA,
via BoingBoing.

I’m no fan of the current administration, but I find the echoes of "technocracy" here a little alarming.  Technocracy, government by an elite group of scientists, is an old and not particularly democratic idea.

Update: Macht dissects a few of SEforA’s statements on his blog and also points to an interesting free book of responses to Chris Mooney: Looking for a Fight: Is There a Republican War on Science? (pdf).

How We Love to Hate our Cellphones

Wired News posted a moderately amusing little anti-cellphone rant by Momus yesterday.  A sample:

I don’t have a cell phone. In fact, I’m here today to tell you that they’re the work of the devil. Switch yours off for five minutes and I’ll explain why.

Interruptability

Phones have always been interrupting machines. Like a screaming baby
demanding to be fed, a phone demands your attention as soon as it
rings. It requires you to be interruptable. And a hell phone, unlike a
house phone, tags along with you wherever you go, nagging.

Link: Wired News: Cell Phones? Hell Phones!.

You won’t find much disagreement here, but then pretty much everyone agrees that cellphones are annoying.  It’s so commonplace to bitch about cellphones that a commentary like this can now safely appear in Wired, of all places, without anyone batting an eye.  Just don’t suggest people actually do something about it, like support a driver cellphone ban, or the techno-libertarians will be up in arms.  In fact, that’s the one cellphone annoyance conspicuously absent from Momus’s commentary — the dangers of driving while on a cellphone — obviously too sensitive a topic for Wired.

Update: Momus has set me straight in the comments.  I don’t read Wired very regularly, so I haven’t seen his previous columns, but I have newfound respect for him now that I’ve read (on his blog) that he regularly tries to "rip into a whole area of tech and tell the world it’s rubbish."

Asking for Greener Apples

Boyapples
Speaking of the environment, Greenpeace has a very slick campaign to pressure Apple about the toxic waste in their products.  Specifically, they want Apple to:

  • Remove the worst toxic chemicals from all their products and production lines.
  • Offer and promote free "take-back" for all their products everywhere they are sold.

Link: "I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green."

(Via Wrote.)

Environmentalism and Digital Culture

Soenke Zehle has an excellent article at Mute magazine about two recent books, mentioned here before, concerning the ecological cost of high-tech: Elizabeth Grossman’s High-Tech Trash and the collection Challenging The Chip.

Describing the books, he writes:

These two titles are not simply about the electronics industries, but about the widening scope of economic and environmental justice and creative grassroots responses to the global spread of the Silicon Valley experience. Supported by visions of technological transcendence, the electronics industry has effectively distracted public attention from the environmental and health implications of its products. Yet driven by grassroots organisations like SCCOSH the SVTC, it was Silicon Valley where the mythology of electronics manufacturing as a clean industry was first unmade. Sharing these histories, and they way they have resonated in centers of electronics manufacturing across the globe, can contribute to the a transformation of the way the electronics industry operates.

Link: Mute magazine – Culture and politics after the net.

Zehle goes further to make an appeal to activists who champion the new "digital commons" to consider the other, real commons:

Almost a decade ago, James Boyle called for a ‘politics of the public
domain’ and suggested reinventing ‘the commons’ as a shared point of
reference to bring about a convergence of info-political initiatives
comparable to the way the novel notion of ‘the environment’ had
succeeded in consolidating ecopolitical efforts in the 1960s.[4]
Since then, the politics around the digital commons have arguably
become the most vibrant and visible dynamic of net.cultural
mobilisation. Perhaps the time has come to revisit the metaphor of an
‘environmentalism for the net’ to talk not only about multiple forms of
resistance to an ever expanding intellectual property regime, but quite
literally of the ecopolitical implications of the very infrastructures
that facilitate and sustain the net.cultural dynamic of collaborative
creation.

See also David Bollier’s comments on this topic at OnTheCommons.org (which is where I spotted this): Can we have an "Environmentalism for the Net" without an "Environmentalism for the environment"?

The Future of the Internet: More Luddites?

The Pew Internet project has released another study.  This time they surveyed "internet leaders, activists, and analysts" for their predictions for what we’ll see by 2020.  Here are some of their conclusions:

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
  • Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.

Egads!  That last one seems a tad extreme and unlikely.

Link: Pew Internet: Future of the Internet.

See also the SF Chronicle’s report: Tech’s experts predict future / We may become pets of robots, Pew survey says.

Second Life at On the Media

I find the whole Second Life phenomenon fascinating (and possibly a little disturbing).  It’s been getting news coverage everywhere lately; NPR’s On the Media had a good story about it this weekend.  They talked with Mark Warner, the first presidential hopeful ever to make a campaign appearance in a virtual world, and also with virtual-embedded reporter Wagner James Au and real-world journalist Clive Thompson.

You can listen at On the Media –September 22, 2006, or read a transcript there after Tuesday.  More at Wagner James Au’s site as well: On the Media, on Second Life.

Bringing E-mail to Technophobes

Presto_printer
That’s the mission of Presto, a new company that’s bringing you a digital content delivery service with the "HP printing mailbox," making it easier than ever to drag grandma into the internet age.  It plugs into a phone line and prints e-mail it receives automatically.

Are people really that lazy or busy that they can’t pick up the phone or mail a letter to keep in touch with family?  Do we really need to force this crap on "technophobes" (as Wired calls them) — perhaps it’s not fear or inability; perhaps they just know something you don’t.

Via Wired Gear Factor.

FDA to look at Nanomaterials in Food

From The Center for Food Safety:

The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a its first-ever Public Meeting on October 10, 2006 to discuss the issue of nanotechnology, a powerful new technology for taking apart and reconstructing nature at the atomic and molecular level.  While this is FDA’s first meeting on nanotechnology, the agency is behind the curve: Many products are already on market shelves that contain unlabeled nanomaterials, including food and food packaging products.  Thus far, nanotechnology-laced products are treated by FDA like any other products or product ingredients; yet scientists agree that nanoparticles are fundamentally different substances that create new and unique risks to human health and the environment and need new forms of safety testing.

Link: Take Action: Tell FDA to regulate unlabeled and untested engineered nanomaterials in food!

Follow the link to learn more and send a letter to the FDA commissioner.