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I mean really… What the heck am I thinking. I made it through April by the skin of my teeth, yet here I am writing another verse. Sometimes I really wonder about me.

 

Our Own Worst Enemy

Technology is not the foe,

it’s not your enemy.

That AI that you dread so much,

is far less threat than me.

 

The science that grows beef in labs,

and soy that bugs won’t eat.

Is building apps to help the blind,

and other needs to meet.

 

It’s not the tech that ends us all,

but what we do with it.

It’s our own inhumanity,

will make our future shit.

 

A hammer’s just a hammer and,

can’t care what it’s used for.

The person using it decides,

to build or start a war.

 

All tech comes down to this same choice,

that shapes our future days.

To kill or cure, to build or burn,

I pray we change our ways.

 

Cheers, Winston

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I work in a cell phone store so I often hear about new tech is destroying people’s ability to communicate.  This always makes me a little crazy. You see I grew up without even a phone.  Trust me, I know a thing or two about living in a simpler time. 

It’s Fear The Future

A lot of ink gets spilled these days,
‘Bout our pervasive tech.
Midst all the furor where’s the voice,
Just says, “Meh, what the heck.”

It’s not the end, it’s just begun,
Like every time before.
And as things change they stay the same,
And then they change some more.

Yet every time things change it seems,
Some lose themselves to fear.
No matter what the benefits,
Some just refuse to hear.

They close their ears and close their minds,
They just refuse to think.
Then when the world has passed them by,
They want to cause a stink.

But good old days were not that good,
Let’s not do that again.
I lived like that when I was young
Like now much more than then.

So just remember technophobes,
The tech is not to blame.
It’s what you do when you get it,
That messes up the game.

So when your teen insists on texts,
No matter how you hate.
Don’t think that this must mean the end,
Text back communicate.

Cheers, Winston

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Like many other people, my daughter and I both have cell phones. The idea is for us to be able to quickly and easily talk wherever, whenever. The reality is quite different… sort of.

Earlier today my wife and I were (as usual) trying to decide what to have for supper. As a deciding factor, she asked if our daughter (a sophomore in college) would be eating with us or her boyfriend.

This according to the commercials is the very moment cell phones are made for. I whipped out my awesome new phone and called my daughter…. straight to voicemail. No problem. She often responds quicker to texts than calls. I send her a text message asking if she is eating at home.

We do some groceries. We do more groceries somewhere else. We decide to have subs for supper.

As we leave the grocery store I get a text saying she is eating with her boyfriend. I say “No problem. Thanks for the heads up.”. Two hours later, I receive another text apologising for not letting us know earlier. That for me is the great irony of super accessible instant communications.

By it’s very ubiquity, it is rendered mundane. Because it is so overexposed, we tend not to think of it as a communication tool. Instead it’s a cool gadget, a toy, anything but a phone.

A greater irony lies in its illusion of connectedness. I am fortunate to enjoy a very close and loving relationship with my daughter. We talk frequently and easily about anything and everything. A simple question about supper took longer to receive a reply to than it would if she were on Mars.

The very ubiquity of our connectedness has in some ways disconnected us. That’s the Techo iRony of it.

Cheers, Winston

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Once again the fine people at Maclean”s have answered the perennial question, “What shall I write about today?” Thank you very much nice people. As you can see from the title, this post is all about tech and how we use it. Specifically, it’s about portable technology and how we use it to abuse those around us. Because so many people seem not to have figured this out, it seemed worth sharing this quick set of guidelines.

Here at the LakeArt Institute For The Advancement Of Simple Simplicity (Proud Developers Of The V.A.P.I.D. Goal Setting System) we have a mission. Our motto is “Making Simple Things Simpler For The Simply Simple-Minded”. Our products are geared to those for whom the Herculean task of understanding even the simplest thing is just too much effort. If you or someone you know falls into this group, DON’T PANIC! We’re here to help.

** If you are on call twenty-four/seven in some sort of emergency or life-saving capacity, you are automatically exempt from the following guidelines. For the rest of you, stop texting for a minute and pay attention.**

1. If you are in the presence of actual human beings with whom you are interacting, they take precedence. Before any of you scream “Heresy!”, let me clarify. I know you paid a lot for your techno-thing and you want to get your money’s worth. I get that. You just need to keep in mind that everyone else paid just as much for theirs so they don’t care at all about yours. When in the presence of actual people, turn it off/down. If you absolutely must use it in public, excuse yourself, move away and then phone/text/send pictures of your naughty bits. When you have finished, put it away and rejoin the real world.

2. Treat your techno-thingy like your private thingy. Dont’t whip it out and wave it around in public. While you may think your techno-thingy/thingy is the most impressive one in existence, others probably will not share this view. Even those who are awestruck by the size of your display will likely pretend otherwise (although they may discreetly ask for your number later). Use of your techno-thingy during dinner/movies/social gatherings should be treated like urination. It should only be done when absolutely necessary. It should be done as far away from others as possible. And remember that no one wants to hear about it when you return.

3. Just because you can share doesn’t mean you should. You know what I’m talking about. Those late-night, drunken posts about how desperately you need to get laid. Or anyone who has ever posted a Lolcat. Or anything else that you are the only person on God’s Earth who might give a crap about. Oh, and that also includes anyone who sends pics of their naughty bits. I know that when you are far from the one you lust for it’s nice to think of them ogling a picture of your bits. Just keep this in mind. If they can’t remember what you look like naked, they probably aren’t going to remember your name either. Unless you get it tattooed on your bits.

(On a related note, a recent survey found that ten percent of people under twenty-five feel it’s okay to text during sex. Here’s a tip for them. If you’re thinking clearly enough to find your phone, let alone text, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!) If you were surprised when you read this and made some very rewarding changes in your life, you can thank me later.

4. If the person you are phoning/texting/sending pictures of your naughty bits to is that that important to you, invite them out to dinner/movie/club. That way they too can have the opportunity to be all impressed by your techno-thingy while you ignore them. Of course, there’s a fifty/fifty chance that they will also be playing with their techno-thingy. If they are, that doesn’t make it okay for you to do the same unless the two of you are totally alone. Here’s some basic math for you. One Total Tool + One Total Tool is not equal to Zero Total Tools. When in public, 1TT+1TT=2TT. Two Total Tools are in fact more annoying than One Total Tool. The formula is pretty simple. Annoyance = Number of Total Tools * Number of Non-Tools within earshot * the Relative Importance of the meal/movie/event to the Non-Tools.

So there you have it. A simple guide to Tech Etiquette. You are probably not the most important person in the universe. The people around you don’t really care about your half of your drama. The glow from you phone makes me very angry when I’m watching a movie in a dark theater. If your text is that important that it can’t wait for the end of the movie: Leave. Fill in the same sentence for meal, party, get together, sunset, cuddle time, etc. Yes, that includes sex too!

Remember. If no one is about to die. Keep it in your pants when you talk to me!

Cheers, Winston

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This information is indicative of a more open position on the part of the APA. As such, I felt it important to post it in the interest of balance and fairness.

In doing some further reading, I discovered the APA (American Psychiatric Association) classifies video-game addiction and Internet addiction as “reward driven behavioral disorders”. It will include these and others in an appendix of the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. See, they really DO right the book on addiction. They still aren’t considering it an addiction, but are including it to encourage further study.

In the previous post, I indicated only that the APA doesn’t view video-game “addiction” as an addiction. The fact that they are encouraging additional study indicates it’s still a possibility. In the meantime, let’s try understanding instead of labeling.

Cheers, Winston

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So I’ve been reading again. This time, it was an article about the perils of video-game addiction. I actually found it sort of refreshing. In amongst the drama of neglected family and career, there was an item rarely seen in such an article.

Turns out, the American Psychiatric Association (the organization that literally writes the book on addictions) doesn’t believe that video-game addiction is real. I think that is great news. It’s not because I don’t believe that some people do really bizarre things in the name of gaming, it just removes the easy reason. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Many people seem not to really understand the concept of addiction. I have a teenage daughter (your sympathy is appreciated), and she and her friends use addiction to describe anything they consume in excess amounts. A song, a tv show, a snack, a celebrity, all have been preceded by “I’m totally addicted to….”

The culture of their youth was saturated with a conflicted message. Public Service Messages told them that alcohol, tobacco and drugs are addictive, but the social message was that they are enjoyable. This creates the shorthand association between pleasurable excess and addiction. My daughter understands that she isn’t actually addicted to the song, snack or whatever. It’s just a figure of speech. The problem is that common usage corrupts and replaces the actual meaning in peoples minds. That leads to a larger problem.

My daughter says she can’t possibly do dishes right now because she’s “addicted” to the show she’s watching. Someone else says they’re not attracted to their spouse anymore because they’re “addicted” to pornography. Is it really surprising that someone will say their life was ruined because they are “addicted” to video-games?

Jackson Toby, professor emeritus at Rutgers University writes, “I do not believe that the concept of `addiction’ is useful; it only describes strong temptations; it does not explain strong temptations. What makes the temptation so strong? The memory of past pleasant experiences with the behavior that we are talking about – in this case video-games.” He goes on to say “I don’t believe that someone can be addicted to video games.”. Addiction is a label, and the label isn’t the thing.

As soon as you apply that label, you avoid responsibility. “It’s not my fault, I’m an addict.” The person isn’t choosing to spend sixty hours a week playing World of Warcraft, they can’t help themselves. It’s not accurate, but if they see it enough in the media, it becomes real. The addiction label is also incredibly disempowering. Once the person believes themselves addicted, they assume the addiction has power over them. Not only are they being told they aren’t responsible for their actions, they’re powerless to change them.

The video-game addiction label is also a mask. It’s a false image hiding the real cause of the behavior. If a person can’t actually be addicted to video-games, then why are they destroying their lives? It’s easier to accept the mask than look at what it hides. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but that’s what we want.

When I was a teenager, video-games weren’t the boogeyman. I guess Pong just didn’t get it done for everyone. Back then, Dungeons & Dragons was the mind destroying addiction. One person killed themselves when their character died in game. Another was killed during a “live-action” adventure. Grades suffered as kids cut class to game. It was the “gamepokalypse” of it’s day. Then people moved on to the next media sensation and the hype died. Everyone realized that D&D hadn’t caused the tragedies associated with it. It was just a vehicle for deeper issues. Video-game addiction is no different.

If someone loses their spouse, children, house, job or even their life because they won’t stop playing a video-game, you need to wonder what’s going on inside. Saying “addiction” isn’t going to help anyone. At least not anyone looking for an answer instead of a soundbite.

Cheers, Winston

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Earlier today I read an article on Maclean’s which argued whether Apple or Google had done more to change the world.  The author argued that Apple had simply refined what was already there, while Google had done something revolutionary.  My first thought was to side with Apple.  I use Google a LOT, but I use my iPhone a LOT MORE.  Of course, I have a Google App on my iPhone that I use too, so that kind of muddies the waters.  As I was debating with myself which is more important for me personally I realized something.  I was over thinking the question.   Let me give you an example.

I recently asked a friend of mine, “Why is the sky blue?”  They told me it’s about the light refracting through the water molecules in the air and so on.  I explained that they were over thinking it.   The answer is very simple.  The sky is blue because we’re told it is.  If we were told the sky is green, the sky would be green even though it would look exactly the same.

The same logic holds true for the Apple / Google question.  The answer is:  Neither one changed the world.  We are told that certain things changed the world.  The first stone tools, fire, bronze, iron, steam, electricity, splitting the atom were all “things that changed the world”.  Well, they weren’t.  What they did, was affect humanity’s ability to change the world.  This isn’t simple wordplay, it reflects our view of the world and our place in it.  All those things, from fire to Google, are just tools.  The idea that tools changed the world removes both our responsibility and our sense of engagement.

No tool ever changed the world.  Tools didn’t build the Pyramids, or the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge.  No hammer ever drove a nail on it’s own.  My iPhone doesn’t write this blog.  Google doesn’t research a political issue unless I ask it too.  Tools don’t change anything.  People change and shape the world for better or for worse.  The printing press didn’t change the world.  People used the printing press to change the world.  Splitting the atom didn’t change the world.  What people decided to do with that tool, changed the world.

We aren’t used by our tools, we use them.  Our tools allow us to influence our world in unprecedented ways.  Whether that is a good or bad thing remains to be seen.  What we have to remember is that the choice is ours.  Tools don’t change anything.

Cheers, Winston

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