Tuesday, February 22, 2011

continuing computer concerns

I know, I know, but I can't let it go, at least not just yet.  Another New York Times article has captured my attention because it addresses my fears about the loss of humanity at the hands (make that chips) of the computer.  In "The Computer Made Me Do It" by William Saletan,  the author's opening statement reads, "Humanity is migrating to cyberspace."  He goes on to provide this sobering statistic:  "By age 21, the average young American has spent at least three times as many hours playing virtual games as reading."  
IBM's Watson & recent "Jeopardy!" contestant. Photo credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images
Like me, a Silicon Valley psychiatrist, Elias Aboujaoude, believes this trend does not bode well for us.  He argues that the Internet enables us to be at our worst, and he backs up his arguments with first-hand knowledge.  Aboujaoude treats patients with online compulsions.  He has written a book, Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.  I'm going to check it out.

Meanwhile, for all of you cyber-junkies out there, there is a counter argument.  Jane McGonigal's book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, suggests that because games are more motivating than real life (?) games made to be "good/moral" allow players to transfer those attributes into the physical world.  Frankly, I think this idea is rather far fetched, and hints at commercialism perhaps expounded by the computer gaming industry.

Is the Internet just another world, like the one you create in your mind when you read a good science fiction novel?  Both have the power to engage and interact with humanity, but I still feel threatened by the former, as opposed to enlightened by the latter.


Earl Grey said...

This is an interesting discussion, still. Many faculty hear the argument that students don't like to read. I don't know that that comment (and the supporting statistic cited in the blog post above) are limited to students. What is the last item that you've read?

A larger question arises, for me, about reading and interactive activity, such as viewing the internet (or navigating on computers in general). Why are these activities so attractive? Is it because they simulate entertainment and allow for diverse and multiple activity as well as multi-tasking in a way that reading does/cannot?

Is the Internet just another world? It is. And, it's limitless, in a way that our minds are not. Is that comforting to you? Or scary?

Prof. Darrell Kincer said...

I'm thinking we should have a social test in the department or perhaps the campus. I call it "The Black Out" in which we give up all internet-based activity for a week. Perhaps on top of that we could include television. Unfortunately I cannot give up email because my job depends on it.

And for something a little more scary, perhaps, check out Ray Kurzweil and the new documentary movie about him. Hmmm.