SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Technology today has transcended the need to calculate complicated formulas or automate tedious manual processes, it’s become inextricably integrated into our lifestyles. Smartphones, tablets and laptops have transformed the way we see and interact with our world. But even these much beloved advances can’t escape the law of unintended consequences. In Nicholas Carr’s Pulitzer-nominated 2011 book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains,” neuroscientist Michael Merzenich warned that technology, like any major pharmaceutical, comes with its share of adverse side-effects. He cited a slew of potentially harmful byproducts that included disrupted sleep cycles, weakened memory, poor retention and recall, chronic forgetfulness, and diminished comprehension. But a new Republican-funded study discounts these “dubious and uninformed observations.” While still concluding that today’s technology is dangerous and perhaps deadly, GOP scientists praised Merzenich’s so-called threats as “real societal benefits to the Party.” The problem, they believe, is much more insidious: “The real peril is, in fact, uncensored access to vast amounts of information and facts, which are killing the economy and thwarting governmental efforts to keep people on the right path.” The other culprits? Wikis, e-cigarettes, Internet porn and digital books.
In the opinions of liberal, bohemian academics like Merzenich, Internet-based technologies are contributing to a sort of digitally imposed ADD that’s led to a rise in distracted behaviors. In short, our addiction to online media, a very real disorder, could be leaving us with the minds of drug-addled substance abusers. Dr. Tremaine Weldowhether, professor of media studies and digital content theory at San Narciso College, as well as a key participant in the GOP research project, called the theories of Carr and Merzenich “deceptive hogwash.”
“The impetus of our study came from Mr. Merzenich himself -- it arose from a need to dispute the bizarre and misleading findings offered by pundits of his kind,” Dr. Weldowhether explained. “It’s this sort of bipperty-bopperty pseudoscience that’s at the heart of the problems we’re discussing. The things Merzenich holds out as dangers are really tremendous benefits we’re reaping from technology. But what can you expect from some fading hippie who was educated in Oregon and then taught in San Francisco?”
To illustrate one misconception, Weldowhether chose the issue of sleep. “If technology truly is interfering with prolonged sleep patterns, due to the blue-enriched light that suppresses melatonin, what of it?” he questioned.
“Eight or more hours of rest is not only excessive, based on several recent studies, but counterproductive. We shouldn’t be crying over a nap when there’s so much work to be done. Employees today need to push themselves harder, commit to longer hours and drive output if our businesses are going to sustain record profits. Without that money, nothing can trickle down to the lower classes, and America won’t stand a chance at winning the labor war with Asia and Eastern Europe.”
He attributed the rampant spread of memory problems to the glut of information and facts that Americans try to digest, instead of focusing on only content curated by experts.
“People spend so much time poring over reports about alleged torture, police abuses, Wall Street corruption, illegal campaign financing, political scandals, bigotry, racism and correcting claims made by officials that they’re straining themselves to remember too much,” Weldowhether said. “Our minds weren’t meant to process all that. American voters put a new Congress into power, staffed with experts, visionaries and big thinkers. They’ve been installed to represent the people and provide needed guidance. If more citizens would simply accept what these economic and legislative authorities told them, they wouldn’t need to waste their intellectual energies trying to disprove or qualify that information. And then they’d be able to remember the essential things in their lives without distraction.”
So what technologies are rotting our brains? Here are the findings from the Republican research project.
Wikis and Blogs
The Internet provides an excellent platform for disseminating critical information to large audiences immediately. Every Republican lawmaker and representative can get his message out through congressional websites, Twitter, Facebook, professional blogs, YouTube, email alerts and other social media. This content is vetted and approved by Republican Party officials or their designated resources. Unfortunately, the free Internet also gives every lunatic, troll, narcissist and conspiracy theorist a competing forum.
By perusing user-generated sites such as Wikileaks or Wikipedia, gullible readers could be duped into believing the government is spying on or keeping secrets from the American people.
Personal blogs such as those published by counterculture conspiracists like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Salon or MoveOne would have the public accept that gun ownership has led to mass shootings, thuggish police are killing unarmed black teens, and that Republicans hate women and LGBT persons. Uninformed readers who stumble on these homegrown “news sources,” which have the appearance of legitimacy but are run by amateur or disgraced journalists, may be convinced that Steve Scalise cozies up to white supremacists or that Mitch McConnell wants to destroy the planet’s ecosystem for a bag of money. Obviously, none of that is true.
Sadly, for every reputable and government-sanctioned news agency, such as Fox News, there are spurious blogs and corporate-owned press that attempt to attack the truth with fabrications and out-of-context data points. Media Matters for America, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and NBC may look and sound like bona fide news publishers, but they’re little more than clever blogs that promote liberal agendas through the shrilly, disingenuous screeds of socialists and sexual deviants -- pariahs who hate American values.
Here is an example of a non-Internet technology that is killing the economy. Traditional cigarettes are made from tobacco and paper. Tobacco is a plant, and paper comes from trees. They are both completely natural products. In fact, tobacco smoking has been a prominent social custom in western society since the 1400s. Greedy liberal business tyrants want to end that tradition and the huge economic benefits it provides.
Electronic cigarettes are laboratory manufactured devices that imitate their earthly inspirations. A plastic, battery powered nicotine delivery system forces a raw chemical compound into the user’s lungs with vapor. A cigarette, conversely, allows smokers to inhale an herbal delicacy through an all-natural paper delivery system. The product, after use, dissolves and degrades, whereas spent electronic cigarettes will end up in landfills for centuries.
Sure, research shows that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic substances and have proven instrumental in helping smokers break their habits -- but that’s precisely the problem. Cigarettes, expensive and heavily taxed, are major contributors to the economy. The tobacco industry employs millions of Americans, including farmers. And the inevitable health problems that arise from prolonged tobacco use have spawned a multi-billion dollar healthcare industry that treats related ailments, such as heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and others. Eradicating cigarettes accomplishes nothing more than eradicating whole industries, leaving unfathomable numbers of hard-working American health professionals and agricultural specialists unemployed.
There was a time, not too far in the past, when lonely Americans purchased greeting cards, flowers and candy to woo the objects of their affections. The courting ritual was a healthy way for men and women to develop their interpersonal relationship skills, social networks and to contribute to the U.S. economy. Honing their bodies to alluring perfection meant costly gym memberships. Roses, chocolates and prom nights were not cheap excuses to get laid -- they were very expensive excuses to get laid. Bar tabs, fancy dinners, new wardrobes, movie tickets and romantic outings caused profits in niche markets to soar. And for those wretched souls too awkward to date, or those too perverted, the U.S. prostitution sector enjoyed substantial gains. Yes, love was lucrative. And in the 21st century, the honeymoon has ended. Abruptly and impoverished.
Internet porn -- cheap or oftentimes free, but always available and on-demand -- has killed the market once cornered by lust. Why spend any time, thought or coin trying to win over a drunken club rat or long-admired co-worker when you can masturbate the night away to a variety of sex objects, customizable to your preference or mood, in acts as dirty or fetishized as your unspoken yearnings? No planning, uncomfortable encounters, amorous banter, big restaurant bills, judgment or derision. Internet pornstars will never reject you or make demands of you. But they’ll also never love you or help you find your way back into the pure, unsullied grace of Christ.
There was a time when publishers and educators feared that the Internet would destroy the printed word. It may have, but it didn’t destroy reading. Literacy is on the rise. The Web’s very nature relies on content. More people today read and write regularly as a result. Electronic publishing, therefore, is booming. That’s a problem.
Literature has always been present in our culture, but going to a bookseller and doling out cash for prohibitively expensive novels usually served as a good deterrent. Like Internet porn, technology has enabled affordable, on-demand gratification in publishing. Our phones and tablets double as reading devices. And through vast digital libraries on e-commerce sites such as Amazon, iTunes and Google Play, millions of books wait at our fingertips to be opened.
Prior to the Internet, bookstores sold what they were told to -- what the corporations who owned them deemed appropriate, influenced by the recommendations of the congresspeople who supported those businesses. A casual shopper could find any number of useful and morally enriching literature -- the Christian Bible, the memoirs of Ronald Reagan and anything by Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly.
Today, readers have instant, unchecked access to obscene and dangerous materials. The 9/11 Commission Report, religious scriptures extolling the teachings of Judaism or Islam or Scientology, anything by Al Franken, and even a few highly flawed history texts by charlatans such as Jon Stewart.
The sad axiom has always persisted that people will believe anything they read in a book. The medium itself carries an aura of authority and veracity. Conservatives, much maligned and libeled in the pages of various tomes, have long understood the erroneous trust put into the written word. But technology has now diminished their control over the truth, in the printed and digital presses of this epoch’s computer-bedazzled dystopia.
2015. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.