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Technology as the solution to everything represents, in my mind, a simplistic, money-driven, and over-valued world view in the same way that placing computers in every classroom creates the illusion of genuine progress and learnedness.

My first real exposure to the world of hi-tech occurred in 2005 when I spent time working with the founders of a start-up that specialized in the rendering of real-time 3-D environments. Their technology was so dazzling that experienced observers thought they were being tricked or deceived during our demonstrations. To their credit the mostly very young programmers and algorithm writers were very idealistic. Most of them came from a “gaming” background, but had little respect for their previous work product. They were determined to limit application of their software to “virtuous” endeavors, which included the creation of 3-D learning environments.

On one occasion we met with representatives of a Northern California school district, which was experiencing a significant drop off in student enrollment. For every student lost the district lost thousands of dollars of government funding, which amounted to millions of lost dollars annually. Many of those students were being home-schooled and the district thought that by creating a rich, online, learning environment they might be able to recapture these disenchanted students and simultaneously reclaim their government funding. Our technology was a perfect fit for the mission, and we brain-stormed ideas for creating what amounted to a sophisticated, interactive, online school. One presumption I held, was that no matter how realistic and functional that online experience might be, it would pale in comparison to actually attending school and interacting with teachers and fellow students. Our virtual school was, at best, a compromised version of reality, whereas “real school” was, well, real. The young scientists disagreed. They in fact expressed a preference for the virtual learning environment. And that’s when I got it about techno-types. Reality isn’t their thing. Physical interaction isn’t their thing. Sociability isn’t their thing. The ability to isolate and avoid real-world settings actually appeals to them. The social realm, in many ways, is a distraction and a burden to them.

I bring this up because of a recent article in the New York Times (Drop Out, Dive In, Start Up) about PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and his Thiel Fellowship Program. In a nutshell, Mr. Thiel “bankrolls people under the age of 20 who want to find the next big thing.” The next big thing being (for the most part) some sort of technological gadget, which can, I assume, eventually be pitched to  some venture capitalist (like himself), and after that to Wall Street types who will then organize a highly lucrative and fee producing IPO - America’s 21st century version of a wet dream. There is, however, a catch. The young entrepreneurs must forgo college (during the term of the Fellowship), which seems to be as much of the point as creating the products themselves. College, for this collection of techno-achievers, is basically dismissed as a waste of time. Indeed, a parent of one of the Fellows stated “I can’t think of a worse environment than school….I detest American so-called education.” It’s always easy for elites (intellectual and financial) to disdain generally useful institutions like schools and government which are rendered non-essential to them by virtue of their unusual and elevated status. Why worry about public schools or universities when your little genius can always be home-schooled or attain a private school scholarship? Why invest in police and public parks when you live in a gated community or guarded high-rise, and belong to a country club?  

For a while now, I’ve been harboring a contrarian attitude towards our focus on all-tech all the time. Technology as the solution to everything represents, in my mind, a simplistic, money-driven, and over-valued world view in the same way that placing computers in every classroom creates the illusion of genuine progress and learnedness. Our society lacks something, but that something is not a deficiency in technology. That’s why I’m not so sure that what America really needs is the cultivation of a cadre of cosseted, socially isolated, narrowly focused techno-geeks rendering “solutions” for a better America. If Mr. Thiel was truly a “free thinker” (as described by the Times) he might recognize that there are pressing needs in America that might be better served by awarding $100,000 grants to free-thinking people under the age of 20 with the desire to ponder and shape policies and ideas that might create a more socially just, economically balanced, happiness-generating, and internationally attuned society. The gadgets of Silicon Valley don’t do that. They do produce riches, increasingly for a relative few (I suggest reading the following article at, and they do produce mass marketable products of dubious necessity and social effect. But too frequently they are solutions to little, if not nothing, that really matters.

This point of view was crystallized for me during the war in Iraq. On a daily basis I would read newspaper accounts of the war to my elderly mother-in-law Gogo whose eyesight was then beginning to fail. And those accounts, in 2006, were relentlessly morbid – mass killings, IED attacks, Mosque bombings, troop ambushes, atrocities. On and on it went, countless, and never-ending. Then one day, sometime in the middle of this protracted and unnecessary carnage, I came across an article about some sort of technological gizmo, the type of thing that Mr. Thiel might even have financed, that would enable American forces to detect from high and afar their enemies on the ground. For some reason, that article and its gleefully techno-oriented theme ticked me off. The one thing that America possessed in Iraq in spades was an almost imponderable degree of technological superiority - a reflection, no doubt, of our country’s greatness, as defined by people like Mr. Thiel.

Yet there we were the “exceptional” nation of genius engaged in a borrowed trillion dollar war of choice foisted upon us by an unstudied President who barely comprehended the distinction between Iraqi Sunnis and Shias. How did that happen? How imperfect were the lynchpin institutions of our society - business, media, government, - that we found ourselves bogged down in a politically engineered war hatched by a morally compromised government, and supported by an aloof and distant citizenry ever so content to allow an “all volunteer” Army to do their fighting? It wasn’t technology, inherently void of principle, perspective, and values that we lacked, but wisdom. Wisdom of the sort perhaps attained by attending college, immersing oneself in that social realm, and studying the “soft” qualitative disciplines of history, art, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology. In other words, the very setting and the very studies that Mr. Thiel and his “Fellows” find so unappealing.

What is our national purpose? We have extensive and new math standards. We are determined to compete with engineers from all over the world in the creation of alluring products. We are laden with gadgets, yet we are bereft. Unschooled in the very world and reality alluded to by that same parent who further stated “turn your kids loose on the world, introduce them to the rigors of reality most important of which is earning your own way.”  Iraq was literally teeming with engineers and technologists from  corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton, all of them very adept at earning their way in the world. A world they disrespected, misunderstood, and had little problem destroying. But hey, that’s just a free-thinking thought.

Originally posted to leaning left by Rob DeFulgentiis on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 12:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Is it technology ? (18+ / 0-)

    Is it truly "innovation", or is it simply more and better bullshit?  Some trivial incremental change embedded in a blizzard of marketing hype ?   I think you hit the nail on the head here:

    But too frequently they are solutions to little, if not nothing, that really matters.
    I wonder when (or if) people will wake up to the scam.  Today's so called technologies all seem to have the lifetime of a fruit fly.  They might seem  amazing and cool to a 20 something, but by the time they reach 50 they will have seen it all, and over and over again.  

    I'm a 50 something and I once was a perfect fit for your description of a typical "science type".  Not any more.  I look back and realize that little if any of it actually mattered.  That's a terrible conclusion when you're on the back half of your lifespan, but that's where I am.  

    •  It's What Makes Money (17+ / 0-)

      Anybody who has driven a car filled with teenagers each isolated with earplugs in their ears and an "I-Something" in their hands, barely acknowledging each other, and more importantly, deficient in their ability to actually communicate with one other in real terms, knows where this diary is coming from.

      •  Kids, nowadays! (15+ / 0-)

        When will they learn to interact like normal people, like pseudonyms on an internet discussion board.

        Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

        by pico on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 05:15:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  pico made me laugh. OK, it was a picochuckle. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico, myboo, glitterscale, koNko, caul

          Say, isn't that one of them sciency like
          measurement words right below milli?

          Still right to the concise and critical point.
          And notice that we are still interacting, for
          the most part, with a human technology
          that disenfranchised those who would or
          could not successfully adopt and wield it.

          I gather this storiest is not ambivalent about
          the benefits and wisdom that can be imparted
          via the magical process of the printed word,
          even if they are rendered in the somewhat suspect
          digital and electronic formats.

          All of this new stuff is coming faster and faster.
          Since the stone age gave way to the bronze age,
          technology has influenced human society,
          and not always for the better. I do think the arc
          of progress, when judged rationally from a
          statistical viewpoint, which carries its own bias,
          bends towards greater justice, liberty, and prosperity.
          See Pinker, or Johnson, or even E O Wilson.

          Unless I am mistaken, one can, if one so chooses,
          adopt a lifestyle, or faith even, that eschews almost
          all of the 19th and 20th centuries advances. Or go
          to live with newly discovered prehistoric indigenous,
          or at least the few that have not already been affected
          by all of our previous efforts of 'discovery' and 'education'.
          Is it because these are seen as not rational choices
          for the majority they are neglected, save for academia?

          My biggest critique of our education system, other than
          its patently unequal financing arrangements, is that it
          totally resembles the factories of the early and mid
          last century, which is only natural as that what was
          needed by those who designed and implemented it.
          It seemed to work out somewhat for quite a few in its day.

          I understand that there are manifold social and probably
          psychological impacts of this brave new world, but I see
          little difference between watching an engaging master
          instructing me personally via video or bits or even in a book.
          Now, will I fully understand and comprehend the
          significance of such dialogues? Can anyone explain the
          "King James" section of Joyce's Ulysses as narrative?
          Do those with poor literacy skills sign legal documents
          they do not fully understand? Are they exploited
          by those who are very aware of and encourage such?

          I think this author missed a great opportunity to help
          mold and shape what certainly will be coming in the
          very near future. It's OK, There are those who will
          see a virtual school or university as necessary and
          hopefully guide its implementation with love and humanity.

          The master/apprentice model is still alive and well, as it
          mimics the basic human relationships found in families,
          tribes, and clans, which were the sole progenitors of
          knowledge, morality, and wisdom, until fairly recently,
          when widespread education in reading became common place.
          Perhaps we can do a 'mash up' of sorts?

          It is difficult to reconcile the past with the present,
          all with an eye for might be coming next.
          I write this as someone who is a product of the very
          industrialized public school system, which I probably
          did not thrive in, for various reasons, who has had
          to become an autodidact, like most, out of necessity.
          Technology has impacted our careers and avocations,
          and our lives so much that it makes me dizzy just to consider it.

          But I then remember that my maternal grandmother, who
          was a young and strong peasant woman and a literal
          beast of burden, somehow found in herself the courage
          and will to leave her home, and immigrate to this land.
          She witnessed the industrial revolution first hand.
          She lived a very long life and had the usual agrarian huge family,
          but she never really, learned to read English so well,
          though I do not doubt of her ability to have done so,
          had the social and economic environments permitted.
          She was a very good person, but there was so much
          of modernity she did not understand or appreciate.
          Going from being an indentured servant hitched to a
          plow to witnessing space travel, this is understandable.

          I welcome the next steps for our young
          in their journeys towards progress and growth.
          I wish them Godspeed when I can join them no longer.

          Thanks for all of your efforts.


        •  touche! n/t (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico, caul

          Mitt Romney = Draco Malfoy

          by ubertar on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 05:04:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, pretty much. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ManhattanMan, pico, llywrch

          People have been complaining about "the kids these days" since the cave man era.  If it wasn't iSomethings today, it was transistor radios in the 60's - and pulpy paperbacks in the 1880's.

          C'mon, man.  That's not an arguement, it's an excuse for being out of touch with the young people.  

          No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

          by CrazyHorse on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 05:44:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I dont think the use of teenagers ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          myboo, koNko, caul

          in the example was intended as your reply suggests, ie, the youth of today doesnt measure up to us/fingerwag.

          More, to me, like they are a starkly observable example of tech over-saturation and how it lends to isolation and not, often, to depth and breadth of thinking/learning.

          But older people dont escape. Kids are, societally speaking, products of the elders' priorities.

          Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a lame party, or should it drive a lame party to break out? If it cant, should it break out?

          by NYCee on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 06:21:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  tech over-saturation (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Another Grizzle, caul

            Well, that is certainly a tangent to what I am saying - it is better summed up by a statement from a hockey player last year who had texted Derek Boogaard the night before he committed suicide. He asked Derek how he was doing, "fine" was the response. The texter wondered the next day - after Derek died - I wonder if I had actually seen or spoken to Derek if I could have "seen" or observed the reality of his circimstance and maybe have interceded.

            It's not my main point at all - but social networking, texting, tweeting creates the illusion of social cohesion and meaningful relationships and associations. They isolate in real terms IMO as much as they connect.

            My real point focuses on the Iraq war example I cited. A society awash with cutting edge tech, but deficient in institutional integrity, understanding, wisdom, insight and true global awareness. Kind of like an ape guiding a rocket ship.

            •  What is 'meaningful', though? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              I wonder if some of this comes from our attempts to what we older people believe about our social context to apply it to a new social context where it may not fit.  Certainly the the types of things we group up considering meaningful may not apply, but are kids today really isolated?  Do they not have meaningful relationships within their own context?  The kids I work with all have their own challenges, but they're well-adjusted and healthy and thoughtful in their own ways.  

              Or to flip it backwards: are these alleged declining values like institutional integrity, understanding, wisdom, insight, and true global awareness any more in evidence in the past, pre- the modern high-tech age?  High tech certainly hasn't solved many of these problems, but I don't see them as any worse.  They may just be unrelated to each other.

              Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

              by pico on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 03:16:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Do they not have meaningful relationships (0+ / 0-)

                I have kids and have a lot of contact with kids. The tech-connectedness of kids is also a buffer. Why text rather than talk? It's less real, less confrontational of reality - "I think you're a jerk" via text is a much easier thing than "I think you're a jerk" via conversation.

                I cited the young scientists I worked with - they did, generally speaking, lack a certain social/interactive quality - is that why they preferred the virtual learning environment they were constructing? It suited their weakness?

                Not to over simplify, but wasn't the creator of Facebook at Harvard a semi-social dweeb who lacked the ability to look a woman in the face and say he needed and wanted her? So he creates a buffer interface to overcome his weakness.

                Do any of you get frustrated when you feel the NEED to see a person face to face, "read" what's going on with that other person, bring the fullness of yourself to that other person, but an email discussion/meeting is what suffices?

                Much of the social media tech has the effect of favoring  less skilled social human beings and gaining advantage for socially wary or inept. It covers for them. Looking forward, what inherent attributes and personal skills will be favored by this tech arrangement - full throated human beings or tech-savvy dweebs?

                •  Not to over simplify, but (0+ / 0-)

                  you're dealing with scientists, so adjust your expectations about social interaction, heh.  Joking, I promise!

                  On a more serious note: the problem I have with your argument is that it doesn't seem like there's evidence of young people having 'less meaningful' relationships with each other or being less able to communicate meaningfully... but that you are having less trouble communicating with them.  I think this is a crucial distinction.  Social studies of the impact of tech on communication have an innate problem of confirmation bias, because they're generally written from, and on the expectations of, the experimenter.  Hard to avoid that sort of thing.

                  Here's my hypothesis: it doesn't matter, and it was always this way.  Victor Hugo blamed the printing press on the decline in spirituality and the inability of his contemporary Europeans to understand and appreciate the the heft of cultural heritage that proceeded them.  He may have been right as such, but it also created a new context where the old system of beliefs were now somewhat arbitrary.  Put two generations side-by-side, and their values won't overlap, which they (too often) take as a sign of moribund values on the part of the other.

                  Same here.  Kids are not only using technology in ways that are still foreign and detached from us, but they're negotiating that world in a far more savvy way, and one that doesn't always click with us, because we come to the conversation with a different set of expectations.  They're setting their own rules, and they're finding (and expressing) their own sense of meaningfulness in their own ways.

                  In twenty, thirty years we'll be in retirement homes and they'll be wondering why their own children can't communicate the same way they do.  And on, and on, and on.  

                  Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

                  by pico on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 12:04:29 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, what's wrong with them, anyway? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nickrud, pico, Nowhere Man, caul

          And why can they make these thingies work and I can't?


          My kid the gamer, who recently graduated to an iPad, ignoring her mom.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 09:17:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  How It limits Solutions (17+ / 0-)

      One of my concerns is how "tech solutions" to everything limits our ability to consider other types of solutions. And it really has everything to do with how our preferred solutions must be a marketable product, preferably one with economies of scale (i.e. what Wall Street is interested in). Look, the system does produce remedies, products, solutions...........but it also dissuades or discounts others.

      In healthcare, if the objective is better outcomes, longer life, higher quality of the country better served by the BILLIONS spent developing technology or would we have been better served by building cracker-jack health clinics in our communities, staffing them with general practitioners and making it very easy and cost effective for citizens to utilize those screening, basic care, prevention services over decades. A nuts and bolts, common sense solution, but not one you can IPO, so forget about it.

      •  Exactly. Science and technology in the service (5+ / 0-)

        of unfettered free-market capitalism.

        I think we've had about enough "creative destruction" for a generation.

      •  Exactly wrong (5+ / 0-)

        And those "cracker-jack" clinics will use what equipment and techniques? The best tech they can find, if they want to be effective.

        You're confusing high tech in abstract with the social applications of technology, a stale and tedious exercise that usually consists of damning everything that offends your individual taste as "useless." That's puerile. I haven't watched TV for over thirty years, for instance, but I don't consider that a qualification for a halo. I just don't care for it.

        "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

        by sagesource on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:11:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Probably not wrong, but the argument is (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, kurt, Egalitare, organicus

          incomplete. It is almost a truism that what can't be marketed won't be implemented. This can mean that it is the less efficient option that will be developed because it satisfies particular fads at particular times. Without someplace to develop the new stuff we would be at the mercy of marketeers and likely using IBM mainframes, DOS commands or whatever. It was only when folks were free enough from commercial constraints to develop things such as the internet, that they became marketable products. Similar to biotechnology.

          I won't pretend to know the precise answer but do know that it lies somewhere in between the marketeers and pure research.

          If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

          by shigeru on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 07:17:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Let me try to parse this. (0+ / 0-)

            I think you're saying that marketing limits the time and resources you have to find the least worst solution to a problem.  That's true at the cross-section, but over time the window for search can cover an increasing amount of landscape.

            Ultimately, you've only got so much time and treasure to throw at a problem; you just have to hope you can bank enough off the answer to look around another day.

        •  "cracker-jack" clinics (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Certainly community health clinics (for lack of better term?)would utilize technology.....but do you absorb the point?

          I'm assuming it's easier for Stanford to develop the Da Vinci robotic surgery system (they know the market, they can obtain funding, do a P&L, they know how insurance works, what it covers etc.) then it would be to introduce a piece of legislation designating funds for a much less tech-oriented health solution that would benefit millions in a very fuddy-duddy way.  

          Somebody mentioned voting machines - that's a classic example. Color coded paper with matching numbers, one kept by the voter, would reassure me so much more than that layer of expensive tech they attempt to lay on top of the voting process. But Goldman is not interested in a low-tech solution that doesn't involve an IPO. For sure there are fewer jobs in the low-tech we do all this to fabricate "make work" and pretend its meaningful and necessary?

      •  Look at voting machines (9+ / 0-)

        Florida went from confusing paper "butterfly" ballots in some counties to voting machines... the workings of which poll workers don't understandand and the software of which is being changed three weeks before the election.

        Per BradBlog, paper ballots, hand-counted, in public: democracy is worth the effort.

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:56:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Some people in poor countries think smaller, cheaper medical diagnostic equipment is a good thing because it means they can actually get medical tests.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:51:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Technology (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Doesn't matter until you need it or find it useful.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:48:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We're Not a Society, We're a Market. (19+ / 0-)

    And over the past half century we've been replacing leadership of all kinds that came out of their own spheres with market trained, market oriented leadership. I lived through this myself when an arts & sciences college office leadership was replaced with business school grads some years ago.

    Markets at times operate oppositely to the way individuals and cultures do, and so the more we replace functions of culture and society with markets, or cultural leadership with market-oriented leadership, the more we're going to see behavior opposite to what has passed the tests of centuries in developing our cultures.

    This is a strong factor in the problem you're discussing here.

    I can't help but notice that this trend really took off when we removed compressive individual taxation from the rich over 30 years ago. Since they could then keep most of whatever they could acquire, no matter how great, it began to make sense to pursue hyper profitability in all endeavors. And the hunger for hyper profitability is behind all these increasingly sociopathic trends.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 01:02:08 PM PDT

  •  When I did my engineering work on Apollo (17+ / 0-)

    it was mostly with a slide-rule & mechanical calculator. A computer run took 3 days.
    Our financial mess was created in large part by fancy algorithms & high speed computers used by arrogant smart guys who thought the numbers were all that mattered.
    Too many of the smart kids graduating now, want to go to Wall Street to shuffle numbers & get rich quick.
    Maybe I'm an out-of-touch old fart, but I sure wish we could get back making stuff instead of making money. We need less dependency on computers & more on wisdom & common sense.

    Warren is neither a Clintonesque triangulator nor an Obamaesque conciliator. She is a throwback to a more combative progressive tradition, and her candidacy is a test of whether that approach can still appeal to voters.

    by chuck utzman on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 01:46:05 PM PDT

    •  Algorithms For Dollars! (12+ / 0-)

      Here's an astonishing set of numbers: "Of Princeton seniors who had full-time jobs lined up after graduation, 35.9 percent went into finance in 2010 (the most recent year available). That’s a very large share, but still lower than the peak of 46 percent in 2006."

      America's best and brightest, educated like potted plants, cosseted, protected, isolated, moving from greenhouse to greenhouse until finally arriving at a pot of gold - have I just defined Mitt Romney?

      •  The Same for Harvard (8+ / 0-)

        an astonishing misallocation of social capital.

        The White Race can not survive without dairy products - Herbert Hoover (-8.75,-8.36)

        by alain2112 on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 05:24:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  misallocation of social capital (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          It's just disappointing that this emerging tech-generation so readily accepts and immerses themselves in tech w/o asking many questions.

          That Silicon Valley crowd, they  are terribly bright, but that's why the Iraq War situation burned me up, and the notion of the Thiel Fellowships. The fact of the war was a social, moral, philosophical blunder of great proportion - it indicated to me a dark national soul, or at least a teetering foundation. I'd like to see that SV genius applied to solving real, intractable problems of our society, our real world. But there's no money in it.

          Not SV related - but speed trading algorithms...that's productive use of our national genius and to be rewarded w/o limit? Now that's something for the Thiel Fellows to ponder.

        •  Yeah. (0+ / 0-)

          Particularly Harvard Medical School. Can you believe they waste so much money on computers to sequence genomes?

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:57:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  to sequence genomes? (0+ / 0-)

            Yeh, but my wife just had a root canal and crown that cost $800 WITH insurance and my friend who lost her job and was diagnosed with Lupus can't afford Cobra, and I've got this suspicious little pain in my back that I'm curious about, but I'm not sure I'm covered for a consultation...............but I sure am glad that Harvard  scientists obtained a huge federal grant to sequence genomes that might extend my life to 100 or create a customized cancer cure when I'm the meantime

            Can some of those braniac scientists return some of that computer money and hit the streets with their high IQs making inroads into any of the policies, programs that are effecting tens of millions of us today in small, practical ways?

            I know it's not as glamorous or well paid or cutting edge, but it just might have greater practical effect.

            •  Scientists well-paid? (0+ / 0-)

              On what planet?

              Here is the funny thing: it's not the inventors of things like dental drills that set the price of medical care, is it?

              Or are these "brainiacs" responsible for everything that is wrong?

              I tend to think whoever invented the torture named root canals was trying to solve the problem of rotten teeth.

              And you might consider that some people less than 80 might want their cancer cured for less than $500,000 and the miserable process of chemo presently used.

              But then, until you need any of these things, they are definitely impractical.

               I've got another idea: save money by cutting the pay of people who get paid not to change these policies. Or fire then if you like.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:49:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  You appear to have missed the point (0+ / 0-)

            We are talking about undergraduates and the career choices they make.  

            The kids going to Harvard and Princeton are among the brightest, most talented, and most driven that our nation has to offer.  Each has the potential to become a leader at the national level.  

            At present about half to go into finance and consulting, which means that they are not going into science or medicine or the arts or the law or any of the other professions that are essential to the functioning of a modern industrial society.

            As you observe, the researchers at Harvard Medical School are doing some good work.  Think of what they could accomplish if they had twice as many top scientists on the job.

            The White Race can not survive without dairy products - Herbert Hoover (-8.75,-8.36)

            by alain2112 on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 12:39:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, "We" are discussing technology (0+ / 0-)

              And the use of it, including my universities and students.

              "You" are trying to impose a limit on the discussion bandwidth to conform to the limited scope and content of your comment.

              Are you willfully missing my points, perhaps?

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:12:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Of different use of computers? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm having difficulty understanding what is bad about better tools that enable us to do more.

      But if all this tech stuff is so bad, why stop at computers?

      Why not take a sledge hammer to all those slide rules and printing presses?

      Oops. Did I say sledge hammer? Sorry, I meant rock.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:55:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A lot of that fancy math was just camouflage (0+ / 0-)

      BOTH bright, shiny & arcane, and fundamentally... bull-shit.

      The aim was always to confuse, not to elucidate.

      No matter how much math you cover it with, you cannot --through ANY system of cutting and splicing --take a bunch of bad-credit-worthy debt and magically make it AAA grade investment.

      If an insurance company is willing to cover that risk for a fee, but does not have the resources to cover more than the daily ups-and-downs during a good business climate, any significant downturn is obviously going to bring disaster.

      We were encouraging people to inflate their estimated income, to buy more of a house than they needed, so that their debt would serve as the raw material to be blended into investment bonds. Then an insurance company would mumble promises over this now artfully camouflaged garbage, the rating agencies would give it an absurdly optimistic rating, and suckers -often with retirement funds- would be tricked into buying this junk.

  •  I'm very much a techno-geek (19+ / 0-)

    And while I firmly believe virtual worlds have their place, I don't think education is it.  

    I'm a proud product of public schools from kindergarten on up, and I attended Big State U even though I probably could have gone to a more expensive school (or no school at all), because I knew I needed the social experience as much as I needed the learning.  The biggest lesson I took away from four years of undergraduate classes was how to make friends, something I failed to pick up on in middle school and high school.

    I work with technology.  I built the computer I am typing this on from a kit.  I'm getting my master's degree in IT.  My day job is as a proactive server manager and network technician.  

    But I also believe technology is just a tool.  A handy tool, but a tool nonetheless.  It should never be full-on substitute for reality.

    The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

    by catwho on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 01:55:47 PM PDT

    •  Dear Techno-Geek (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bmcphail, Garrett, G2geek, basquebob

      So, what would you say is your chief reason for working in IT or the tech field in general? Is it simply where the low hanging fruit of jobs is?

    •  I dunno ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arch, nickrud

      I've found 3D models of molecular structures to be pretty useful.

      But I agree; technology is a tool and a means. What you do with it, good or bad, is what matters.

      But I have to say, some of the neo-Luddite rants on this Blog are deliciously ironic.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 02:03:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  neo-Luddite rants (0+ / 0-)

        I think it's more a question of emphasis. People work at corporations that would blush red if employees lacked the most current version of every item of biz-tech - cause that means they are with it and cutting edge - but those same corporations blithely accept 19th century notions of the workplace and business practices - nothing "cutting edge" there.

        •  Well ... (0+ / 0-)

          If Blackberries, Thinkpads and (free to them) BYOP is the definition of "cutting edge" you might have a point, but most companies seem to put price and world domination by the IT Department ahead of cutting-edge devices.

          Most of Kool Kid stuff people I see using are personal decisions.

          If only I could lose my company issued crap.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:20:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Our 12 year old son was talking with us tonight (13+ / 0-)

    about just this.  He said "every phone ad claims that what they're selling is 'the best."  Well, they can't all be 'the best.'  It drives me crazy.  None of these ads talk about whether or not you need the phone, or whether the new gadget is useful."

    I asked him why he thinks the companies are making such claims.  What is it about the market that makes companies run ads like this?

    He didn't know.  I asked him, are there just a few new phones for sale, or lots of phones?

    I could see the light bulb go on over his head.  "Competition!  So they are trying to compete against all the other phones!"

    "Right", I said.  "And if you were selling a phone in such an environment, what would you do, even if your phone was exactly like all the other phones?"

    "I would probably say it was the best," he admitted.  "But it's still wrong to talk about that, and not about whether people even need the technology, or whether it is useful."

    And I agree with him.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 05:04:52 PM PDT

  •  I teach college biology to high school students (12+ / 0-)

    We are a state math and science school and have plenty of technology: centrifuges, autoclaves, thermal cyclers,  computers, GPS....

    But the backbone of my personal educational philosophy is the biology field trip.  

    No virtual environment devised by man rivals the immediacy and power of intimate close up personal experiences of complex, subtle nature.

    Actually being in nature and looking at it with an experienced guide to help them understand the significance of what they are seeing is what gets my kids excited.  Video games they've got.

    We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

    by bmcphail on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 05:24:00 PM PDT

    •  But you would not throw out the tools, I suppose (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bmcphail, organicus

      Which is all they are.

      How/what you use them for is certainly more important than their mere existence, something all good teachers seem to grasp.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 02:07:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nature inspired (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So many of our advances in science have come from observations in nature (think velcro, super-glue). I have a computer science background and switched to biology recently. One of my kids preschool teachers said it well when she explained that kids need to learn about the tangible world before reading fiction. Seems that many kids are lured into fiction (and the make-believe) and then have a difficult time living in the real world which involves social interactions.

      Certain technological advances are a great benefit but so many are just a waste of time. A perfect example is the increasing use of smartboards in schools (how the schools love to brag that they have them in every classroom), but teachers waste so much time waiting for sites to load or learning to use the technology and are becoming increasingly reliant on tools instead of TEACHING.

      My kids are not allowed to get on the computer until a written draft is finished. I find that when they write by hand, the process is slower and they spend more time thinking and write better. Speed is not always best, we need time to reflect and deliberate but most of us do not have that luxury, sadly even kids in schools are hardly given time to think!

      •  A field experience/laboratory (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        that works amazingly well for me:

        Take the students to the lawn and teach them how to use a sweep net, emptying the insects into ziplock bags.  Come back inside and immediately put the ziplocks into the deep freezer.

        Do a 20 minute board talk on identifying different arthropods.

        Get the ziplocks out and have the students empty them onto sheets of white paper.  They sort out the arthropods, view them using dissecting scopes and/or hand lenses, and attempt to ID them to major group using the info just covered on the board.  

        A digital scope and LCD projector is handy for putting cool finds up on the screen for everyone to share.

        Student can hardly believe how much diversity there is to be found in a lawn of boring grass.

        We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

        by bmcphail on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 07:35:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm. (6+ / 0-)

    The fact kids don't race pinewood cars down streets anymore kind of irks me, but I'd probably want to see the numbers before I buy into this notion of an epidemic of socially bereft children.

  •  It's just a subset of consumption. (10+ / 0-)

    The goal is to keep people in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction (and consumption) by creating desires for things they don't need.

    We can't survive as a species with this mindset.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by progressivist on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:08:07 PM PDT

    •  Lovely superior attitude.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So who decides what people "really need"?

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:20:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. (0+ / 0-)

        Human cultural evolution is and alsways has been driven by novelty.  I admit that I like novel things.  I despise this notion that life in a modern society should somehow be "about needs only."  Big deal.  That ideology is driven only by those who feel guilty for what they have.  

        No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

        by CrazyHorse on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 05:49:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I find your diary compelling & convincing. (6+ / 0-)

    I'd like to suggest another aspect to consider. One reason that this high-tech stuff is so appealing to some is because it's not messy. It doesn't involve bodily fluids, strange smells, the need to wash your hands to avoid getting yourself sick. (I'm obviously not talking about high-tech lab work, which still includes some of those risks.) At this juncture, messy jobs requiring hands-on engagement--such as teaching, nursing (CNA or LPN), child care, and most of the skilled trades--are steadily losing status, if they ever had any to begin with. Unfortunately, we are losing, or at least failing to attend to the cultivation of, essential skills and expertise by our devotion to the idea that machines can do it all.
    Let me offer one specific example. I have been very ill with cancer for the past couple of years. Most of the health care practitioners I see in the allopathic arena are hands-off except when absolutely necessary. I think for me, at least, that such disengagement is not conducive to healing. That's partly why I've sought out other healing modalities that DO entail hands-on treatment. It is so fundamental.
    I've not spent a lot of time developing this idea, clearly, but I think it's another good reason NOT to allow virtual learning to dominate school curricula, per bmcphail's comment above.
    Thanks for raising this issue; I hope we have more conversations about it.

  •  While I agree with much (7+ / 0-)

    of your critique. Im afraid I find your alternative more than a bit naive.  For example, as to the Iraq War and "Wisdom of the sort perhaps attained by attending college, immersing oneself in that social realm, and studying the “soft” qualitative disciplines of history, art, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology."  But wasn't one of the primary architects and sales personnel of the Iraq War  almost the paragon of this?  Condoleezza Rice, renowned academic and polymath, leading figure at one of the nation's most prestigious institutions of higher learning.  In this aspect education is more similar than different from technology, it does not on its own impart wisdom, integrity, valor or any other matter essentially of character.  If one is predisposed to be a liar, higher education will only provide more sophisticated means of lying.

    Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

    by ActivistGuy on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:27:44 PM PDT

    •  a bit naive (0+ / 0-)

      I get that. But is it more naive than suggesting that designers of tech solutions are better served by avoiding in depth exposure to the kinds of thoughts and ideas and philosophies, not to mention socialization, that lets say college offers?

      Narrowness of expertise combined with narrowness of perspective sounds like a dangerous combo to me.

  •  This is such a great conversation (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, slatsg, G2geek, basquebob, 1world, myboo

    I go back and forth on the issue of technology and education - on the one hand, it's fantastic that I can take free classes from Harvard and MIT now.

    On the other, my four years at college (a middle-class luxury, I know) where I had no computers, little television, and a phone at the end of the hallway, were fantastic.  I learned more about myself there, and about making friendships, than I ever had in high school.  

    In England, there's a Small School movement I've just started looking into.  I think they're very into three dimensional, real-life learning.  Face to face with other people and all the messiness and emotion and everything that that brings.

    Ultimately, though, I think of our planet, and how dissociated we are from it.  I'm as bad as anyone - I spend sunny days on the Internet instead of walking and noticing and experiencing something that hasn't been programmed.

    Anyway, thanks for this post - I think you've brought up an important topic.  We're all in this world, but we're not helpless, and we don't have to accept everything just because it's there.

    Sorry if this is a bit rambly!!!

    A comic yet realistic dignity is an extraordinary defense against life's cruel setbacks - David Rakoff

    by Knockbally on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:29:18 PM PDT

  •  Endless streams of MoreAndBetter going NOwhere. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, basquebob

    My disillusionment was post-Vietnam, coming home to "Popular Mechanics" and similar rags that all featured enclless monthly cover showcasing the latest fire-spitting War Machines, like the Bradley Fighting (sic) Vehicle and the Abrams tank and various missiles and "smart weapons" and a host of others. Sick shit all of it.

    Like the XM-25, the latest game-changer bullshit: -- now working its way into the "civilian" armory too===

    And beyond that, you can't fucking eat an iPad, though I'm sure that the iAppers have an app that will let them run a farm or something...

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 06:31:24 PM PDT

  •  I have worked in technology most of my (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, basquebob, Larsstephens

    lengthy adult life. There is a lot in it that is good. However, like most stuff it is how it is used. In police states such as China, Iran, parts of the west and many others it is used purely to extend social control.

    In other places it is not effective for what it was intended due to the mental limitations of those who are advocating it. Tech is also subject to the same fads as everything else in society. One could come up with hundreds of examples, but the iPad is one. PayPal is another. Both are transient and did make money for their creators, but will soon be replaced by something else.

    There are lots of reasons for going to college or not finishing it one of the best is that if one is interested solely in money one should not go.

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 07:11:56 PM PDT

    •  um ... no. (0+ / 0-)
      I have worked in technology most of my lengthy adult life. There is a lot in it that is good. However, like most stuff it is how it is used. In police states such as China, Iran, parts of the west and many others it is used purely to extend social control.
      Un-stressed sentences I agree with totally. Stressed is a fiction in your own mind, not my actual experience here in China.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 02:10:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  um, what about the digital (0+ / 0-)

        Great Wall of China?

        I've agreed with much of what you've said in this diary (and  rec'd accordingly) but, while 'purely' is an over statement the Chinese seem to be doing a superb job of using network technology to limit social discussion of things deemed inappropriate (tiananmen square search blacklisting, for example).

        •  Well ... greetings from China. (0+ / 0-)

          Pretty porous wall in my daily experience. It can't even stop shoes for Pete's sake.

          safety first



          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:29:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Hahaha (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Shades of Bush! Both targets deserved the insults :)

            But seriously, here's the latest I'd read about and stuffed away in devonthink:

            I'd be interested if your experience matches the censorship cited in

            •  It's like this (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Generally what is blocked:

              A. Chinese language dissident sites. If hosted in China (few) they can be effectively blocked even if accessed by VPN or from outside as they may be blocked at China ISP side.

              B. Chinese language or popular English dissident sites hosted outside China, easily accessed by VPN, no problem for someone who really wants to access.

              C. Black-listed search keywords after one or several links containing the keywords are accessed, i.e., you would connect the first couple of hits but then blocked from others. Again, a VPN solves this. For example, a wiki page, which naturally contains keywords. Of course, this is like a big foam finger saying "Don't Look Here!", so it's quite helpful to gage official opinion, LOL. Wait 15 minutes and click again!

              D. "Seasonal" blocks of hot topics when there would be spikes, e.g., around the anniversary of an event that could inflame. Search Tiananmen in early June and it would be blocked, search in December, maybe not. VPN solves this.

              E. Hot topic blogs hosted in China with trigger keywords, typically after they gain a few thousand hits in a short period. For that reason, such threads usually fill up quickly and then disappear. These are temporary blocks for a few days, after which the keyword would roll-off the auto-block list. For this reason, Chinese typically use homophones or obvious idioms as code that everyone understands, which is common in Chinese culture anyway. Cat and mouse. These are blocked on server side, VPN will not solve it.

              F. Certain foreign sites that may be blocked temporarily if there is a large cluster of hits on a hot keyword topic. VPN will solve it.

              G. Selected posts of very popular/influential public figure bloggers (some with millions of followers) who are often critical of the government on specific issues and tolerated with free-reign, when they cross a line, but these are always thread blocks and usually temporary.

              What is generally not blocked:

              H. Foreign language news sites, and if you go to some sites popular with Chinese such as The Guardian (I'm a subscriber and blog there), The Economist (ditto), NYT, etc., you will find a lot of Chinese bloggers.

              J. Foreign language political sites not focused on Chinese dissidents, e.g., Daily Kos, even when content does hit hot topics. Again, keywords in the links could trigger multiple hits (see C).

              K. Chinese opposition press sites in Chinese or English that know how to write criticism correctly, i.e., putting the criticism in constructive and ideologically acceptable terms. For example, one such site is Caixin (Chinese and English), which daily takes on the government on hot topics, often with quite clever "patriotic" flips that encapsulate the subject/point in terms that are logically correct and defensible leading to suggestions for reform or moral rectitude any reasonable person would agree with. For example, yesterday this hot topic (in English), which is actually quite sensitive, can pass with no problem; note the headline and summary, which itself signals the criticism contained, points a finger at Party corruption and public manipulation . This class of criticism is quite reveling about the mindset of Chinese leaders to tolerate substantial debate 98% on the mark with 2% wiggle-room. I would like to read more such articles in the American media taking on official corruption, wouldn't you?

              NB - One such clever Chinese writer, Mo Yan, just won the Nobel prize. Mo has the formula; he will pull in for awhile.

              L. General interest and topical sites of any type.

              The degree of censorship Westerners assume is simply not the case, but unless you are literate and current in Chinese you'll have to take my word on it. In fact, Chinese blogs are often quite a bit more open then Western ones since they function as a safety valve for our traditionally inhibited public selves, and also because many Chinese are actually quite out-spoken and plain-spoken.

              And so, unlike Western blogs that have a lot of site or self moderation (that is a form of community censorship, including on Daily Kos), Chinese site tend to be a two-position switch with "anything goes" in the on position, and "thread blocked" in the off position.

              What the government aims to do is regulate what is perceived as explicitly anti-government content and what it perceives as content that would ferment mass civic disobedience that would spin out of control at a specific point.

              What is wants to accomplish with the internet is to allow public discourse (which it actually closely monitors and responds to), to allow information exchange, and perhaps most importantly, to provide a public safety valve - which I believe they correctly understand to be the case, since a negative feature of the internet is for people to blow steam and then do nothing. Useful?

              What I think about the wall is it sufficiently porous that most of what people want is either available or can be had with the use of tricks, that it is sufficiently obvious and inconvenient to make users aware of and disdain it's existence (promoting social/political awareness that otherwise might not exist, rather a positive irritant, if you will), is occasionally actually useful when crappy nut case rumors/nonsense infects public discourse (a negative of the internet everywhere) and is gradually going to fade away as the political process opens-up and Chinese leaders become more accustomed to the fact public criticism is healthy and not the end of the world to their hyper-sesitive selves.

              I very seldom use a VPN because it's unnecessary and slows things down.

              I pretty much know what the government knows, what they don't want me to know, and where it is, because proactive usually trumps reactive.

              BTW, although I am a TU with lots of mojo here, I never HR anything because, um, it's a form of censorship and I think it's ridiculous, counter-productive, self-delusional and entirely unnecessary.

              Based on experience, I come to that conclusion.

              But I wonder, what is more dangerous, the obvious censor who's hand you can see, or the man that quietly sits at the back of the room taking notes? Your thoughts?


              (1) To decode the headline and leader for you:

              The Dark Heart of the Bo Xilai Case

              Scandal must serve as reminder that politicians will manipulate public discontent for their own gain, all the while impeding reform

              Black Heart of Bo/Black Heart of Officialdom

              "Dark Heart" being self-serving/duplicitous, the opposite of "Pure Heart" being altruistic/ honest. In Chinese "Pure Heart/Open Mouth" being the traditional idiom of honest & outspoken to the point of foolishness (no filter) and "Dark Heart" or "Old Ginger" being crafty and self-serving.

              The leader refers not just to Bo's manipulation of the public and Party with his "Red" campaign, but also to the manipulation of his case to sway public opinion and the recent exploitation of the Daiyu Islands case to divert public opinion (something the Party did not start this time, but used).

              A few well-chosen words sometimes say more. And Mr Bo's behavior was so obliging, why waste the opportunity? One may suppose there are reasons he has become a public enemy, shouldn't you, Dear Reader, wonder why?

              Maybe reading slowly gives time for reflection!

              Of course, Americans enjoy more freedom of speech than most people, so enjoy it and use it well, OK?

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 05:40:14 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for the extremely (0+ / 0-)

                informative reply.

                I was going to give you my first impression after reading it but deleted several paragraphs. What you've given me is going to take a lot more reflection. It deserves more than a rote 'but what about the dissidents' wall of text.

            •  By the way (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Your first link was not blocked, your second, obviously was.

              Object lesson.

              What about my Daughter's future?

              by koNko on Thu Oct 11, 2012 at 05:45:20 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  respectfully disagree as the others in this (0+ / 0-)

        thread have noted. China has selectively opened up, but pictures of anime princesses and prostitutes are not at all germane to the discussion of social control.

        You kind of tipped this off as you obviously do business in China and may well me one of those seduced by the apparent quick riches there. Which may be transitory too, at least for non-Chinese.

        Is China more open than during the Cultural Revolution? Sure, no argument.

        Is it anywhere near what I would call open? Absolutely not.

        If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

        by shigeru on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 05:20:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The problem isn't technology, it is that (5+ / 0-)

    we (the bigger 'WE') don't benefit from it.  Technology is just code for productivity.  Ideally, if you have a workforce working 40 hours per week, and someone stands up and says "Hey, I know how to get all this done in 1/2 the time", everyone only works 20 hours per week.

    The reality is: the "owner" fires 1/2 the workforce and makes the other 1/2 twice as productive, and he swaps the unemployed in-and-out with anyone who get uppity.  Technology is then used to create misery.

    There are no "jobs" right now because there isn't enough to do.  That the latest and greatest technologies are pure distraction is but a symptom.

    and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

    by ban48 on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 07:58:50 PM PDT

  •  "my country go dead makee money" (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, basquebob, Egalitare, xgy2, alain2112

    sang Nigerian great Fela.

    The greatest triumph of modern advertising/mass-manipulation is to get people to value the trivial while ignoring the consequential. The beauty, for them, is they get people to volunteer for it.

    There's only a slight miss in what Aldous Huxley wrote:

    “There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”
    – Aldous Huxley
    I doubt he could foresee electronic media, which itself seems to act like a drug. I don't know of any study, but it seems that such media engage our attention on a pre-critical thinking level, and that compulsively.

    The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

    by Jim P on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 08:25:06 PM PDT

    •  but he did get television in the 1930s.... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      side pocket, basquebob, xgy2, Jim P

      .... and the Feelies (movies with tactile sensations), this at a time when television in the real world was still basically a laboratory experiment.

      By the 1950s, TV was established, and pharmacology was the up-and-coming field, with a proliferation of new tranquilizers.

      Today since pharmaceuticals are regulated and electronics aren't, the latter are the dominant mode of social control.  This to the point where people eagerly and happily carry around tracking/surveillance devices everywhere they go.

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 09:29:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An Angry Bird in Every Pot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Two drones in every garage and "hey, don't Taz me bro.  Don't mess with my tech man.  Snark, Snark.....

    A bad idea isn't responsible for those who believe it. ---Stephen Cannell

    by YellerDog on Mon Oct 08, 2012 at 09:34:42 PM PDT

  •  Two articles worth reading... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    basquebob, FrankSpoke

    Here are two articles worth reading, and they both question the "perfect" technology that we're all in "love" with...

    Both eye openers....

  •  I suppose you wrote/posted this on a PC (0+ / 0-)

    So at least in this instance it seems to be a useful tool.

    While you might find technology and "gadgets" limiting, billions of people seem to feel otherwise, and the reason is that:

    - it broadens the scope of information and possibilities open to them that would otherwise be unavailable
    - it facilitates communication, not just for entertainment but useful, practical purposes (indeed, the lower down the technology chain, the more practical the use seems to be)

    Perhaps to an American surrounded by a glut of choices the effect is jading, but a couple of shared PCs or tablets in a small village elsewhere is a small miracle that gives people a window on the world and an opportunity to learn and communicate which can be life changing, and also a means to do practical things like run a farm or a business, publish a book, vote, whatever.

    Because of this, educators around the world have enthusiastically embraced technology (from the printing press to the internet), not as a crutch or replacement for teaching, but as a tool that provides more opportunities, not less. And then, there is this: given the fact our world runs on technology, shouldn't students learn how to use it?

    Tools. What you do with them depends on you.

    Now about Mr. Thiel: he's not totally mistaken that you don't need a college education to lead a useful life and I suspect he will not persuade very any of the best and brightest to forsake that by dangling $100,000 in front of a few.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:47:25 AM PDT

    •  What you do with them depends on you. (0+ / 0-)

      That is really one of my core points. That "you" can be a very narrow, sheltered, uninformed thing. That "you" voted for GWB twice and probably thought it great that F-16s ruled the skies in Iraq w/o comprehending the deeper meaning of Iraq at all. The tech disguises the ignorance.

      •  That's kind of a choice (0+ / 0-)

        But let's not blame the tools for how they are used; or "tools" in general.

        It's true that lots of people seem to invest superhuman powers in "technology"/inanimate objects, but that strikes me as ridiculous as the same powers applied to other things we make in our own image.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Wed Oct 10, 2012 at 10:34:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped and recced. (0+ / 0-)

    Looking beyond the gadgets, I see a society that is ready to accept technological advances as solutions to social or cultural problems. In this case, cultural means "the way we do things." Abdicating personal responsibility is much easier than changing ones own behavior.

    One of the most glaring examples of this modern industrial agriculture and forestry. To save the world, we are told, we must bioengineer something better than nature has already provided over millions of years of evolution. We must push the remaining traditional agriculturalists into the industrial paradigm or we will not feed the world. Never mind the fact that modern industrial agriculture devastates the ecology of a locality, region, and even on to larger scales. Never mind the fact that very few of these bioengineered solutions have lived up to the hype. Never mind the fact that engineering a plant to accommodate (or produce) poison only means that other plants and insects will, inevitably, become accustomed to the same requiring ever higher doses or a change in chemical formulation. A never ending battle, but a profitable one it is.

    No, the problem isn't how we do things, but that nature sucks and we are the epitome of wisdom. Therefore we must engineer solutions that can be conveniently sold, monopolized, and marketed to the tune of billions of dollars.

    We have solutions to the "food problem." But they aren't solutions that will make anyone rich quick, they aren't solutions that companies can patent and corner a market on. They are solutions that require physical labor- a thing many modern people believe to be beneath them (the gym is the only place to work out). They are solutions that take years to come to fruition. Worse yet, especially for those at the top of our social-economic pyramid: these solutions inevitably increase a society's self reliance, promote local solutions, eliminate the need for petrochemicals, eliminate the need for bioengineering, and in turn rejuvenate societies that have been told they are worthless.

    And yes, I do believe that our modern society tells people who wish to remain on the land, who wish to work with their hands, who wish to see the results of their work and live in balance with their local ecology that they are worthless and must move to a city and get a "real job." In other words, the majority must submit to wage slavery and perform work in an economy that is roaring headfirst over the cliff of ecological collapse.

    Leave the job of "producing food" (forget land stewardship) to the experts with their techno glitz. And when the first Silent Spring arrives, I'm sure they will have a solution for that too. Or, more probably, they will say biodiversity had to be eliminated in order to keep our food "safe" from nature. Divorcing ourselves from the natural world and real time solar energy isn't enough, we must make sure the b** who gave birth to us never forgets who is in charge.

    A Victory Garden documents my family's experience transitioning from suburban lawn to edible food forest based on permaculture principles. A new blog following my life as an immigrant in Finland will be up soon.

    by FinchJ on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 01:48:00 AM PDT

    •  Technology has always been (0+ / 0-)

      A way to harness knowledge to "do" things and a contributor to culture, starting with sticks and stones.

      Technology is a tool we can use or abuse, a means not an end.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 02:15:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, and? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I know what technology is. My comment has nothing to do with the definition of technology, but rather our abdication of responsibility for our actions.

        Take the practice of large scale monocultures (in both agricultural and lawn culture).

        A large scale monoculture creates the perfect environment for predators of whichever species is being grown. Instead of recognizing that we have created the habitat, laid out the dinner table, and invited disaster through our action, our culture, of planting large scale monocultures, modern industrial agriculture believes the solution is not to abandon the practice, but to continue developing ways to perpetuate the behavior. And the technology they develop poisons the soil, kills beneficial organisms, requires a huge investment of energy, causes health problems for humans and the environment, and is monetarily costly as well.

        A large scale monoculture also decreases soil organism diversity and puts an imbalanced nutrient demand upon the soil and the organisms that would live there. The answer? Synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers which poison the soil organisms (or often times disrupt the symbiotic relationship between plant and organism, addicting the plant to our synthetic inputs), destroy carbon in the soil, leak into ground water, poison rivers, lakes, and oceans (leading to dead zones), and of course- rely upon energy intensive inputs to be produced.

        If we would admit that our culture is what is at fault, we could invest the same time, energy, and money into solutions that are already on the ground making change. But instead, we decide to venture on our brave path- believing that the next tool to save us all is just around the corner.

        And all of this is just a start on industrial ag. Not even to mention the many other disciplines where we believe that we should engineer a solution rather than change our behavior. It is my opinion that technology is no longer just a tool, but rather a tool that we are addicted to. We have become so entranced by our ability to create, to invent, that we can no longer see that the paths we have invested so much in are the wrong ones. Oftentimes the solutions to our problems are changes in behavior, changing the way we see things, rather than engineering a solution. But our society has been built around the creation of new tools for so long now that we don't want to admit that we have gone astray.

        This doesn't mean that tools are inherently bad or that we should stop all research, take up loin clothes, and cavort around the planet like our distant ancestors. This is a recognition that our society has a problem. When we can no longer see the damage wrought by our behaviors, amplified by our application of certain technologies, we have a problem.

        A Victory Garden documents my family's experience transitioning from suburban lawn to edible food forest based on permaculture principles. A new blog following my life as an immigrant in Finland will be up soon.

        by FinchJ on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 02:52:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, because of our irresponsibility (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We now find ourselves in a situation where we are obliged to engineer solutions.

          For example, renewable energy, which is an imperative just to mitigate the effects of failing to invent better technology since the advent of the industrial revolution. Seems we can't stop the habit of burning stuff.

          But I'd point out that our understanding of the mess we have created is due, in part, to using tools like computers, so let's not suggest they are useless or the problem.

          But as you suggest, ultimately these are human problems needing human solutions (like using our frigging brains to think and hands to turn off the lights) including better use of technology.

          The choices are human, we should stop blaming things. I totally agree with that. Some people here seem to think the things are in control, and in some instances, perhaps that's the case, but holy crap, if your head is full of junk from playing video games, hit the power switch.

          What about my Daughter's future?

          by koNko on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 09:09:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm all for inventing things. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko, Oh Mary Oh

            Just wish we would stop for a minute before doing so.

            Daniel Nocera's research team from MIT's artificial leaf, for instance, is something I can get behind. The latest incarnation separates the bond between hydrogen and oxygen in water with only the input of sunlight- no electricity. The hydrogen should be able to be captured and stored. It is quite amazing and is just awesome.

            Here is a link to his latest talk- pretty much rehashing his older material, but showcasing the latest incarnation. Makes me wish I had money to invest in it.

            And my harping on ag has something to do with this: John Liu's Green Gold documentary, which puts together a few of the largest ecosystem regeneration projects in the world into one sitting. What can, and is, being accomplished without the use of synthetic inputs and genetic modification, is enough to make us wonder why we back millions in research for these things while holding back those same dollars from funding ecological design.

            Technologies that help to shift to a new paradigm of regeneration (beyond sustainability, we can do better than the status quo) I'm all for. Technologies that further entrench destructive behavior on the other hand... just pisses me off.

            A Victory Garden documents my family's experience transitioning from suburban lawn to edible food forest based on permaculture principles. A new blog following my life as an immigrant in Finland will be up soon.

            by FinchJ on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 10:15:33 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  aren't solutions that will make anyone rich quick (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Can we afford to do the "right thing" anymore? Can an American company treat workers right if they must compete with foreign corporations who establish a much lower "right" hurdle?

      Read about the lovely lives of shrimp farmers in Thailand whose lives were destroyed when corporate shrimp farming took over their business and land. One model was about quality of life, the other about global market fulfillment.

      •  Very disgusting indeed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        leaning left

        I have never been to Thailand, but grew up with the mangroves of southwest Florida. Spent many days kayaking and "fishing." We all know what happens when you remove the mangroves and yet across the world corporations are destroying these delicate ecosystems and exposing coastlines to the sea.

        Sadly, both parties are advocates of free trade agreements with nations that have no desire to institute parity of worker and environmental rights. And of course the corporations just move their operations to other nations once the workers and governments start demanding that they take responsibility for their actions.

        And yet we have a political system that is so intertwined with the globalized economic power brokers that we cannot have a serious discussion about these issues. Globalized free trade without agreements, serious agreements, on worker's rights, wages, and environmental protections is destroying the planet. The race to the bottom will continue unabated under either party's current trajectory.

        It is simply "too big to fail" at this point...

        A Victory Garden documents my family's experience transitioning from suburban lawn to edible food forest based on permaculture principles. A new blog following my life as an immigrant in Finland will be up soon.

        by FinchJ on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 11:33:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It is not a one size fits all subject. (0+ / 0-)

    There is a difference between introducing entirely new products, like the cell phone, or products which are incrementally "better", like the latest cell phone. There is a dynamic of creating new products of little additional value to existing ones for the purpose of making sales. Part of this is fueled by how effortlessly we create the things we need, like beds, lets say. Really what is needed is to roll back our productivity. While this may mean rolling back standards of living in traditional economics it doesn't have to be the case given that labor gets so little of the profit now. If more were directed to wages you could roll back productivity without hurting standards of living.

    For those who think this means going back to brutal means of production I would bring up what is a rather bizarre irony in the way we look at these things. While the idea of hand stitching a mattress may seem like demeaning labor in fact many what we call luxury goods are made is such ways, high labor, attention to detail production means producing a product of high value, not simply employing labor in brutish means.

    In this artisanal means of production could both require more labor per unit, so to speak, reducing our economies dependence of making things of little value, and create high paying job opportunities.

    I actually believe a lot of our consumer culture is driven by the lack of savings options. What is the point of saving when you can't get a rate of return amounting to anything through a bank and the investment community serves to simply enrich a few? If there is little point in saving money you might as well spend it.

  •  Right on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A few thoughts:

    As I sit here banging out this comment on my laptop, I have also wondered if the wired world is in fact leading us down a seductive, de-humanized, solipsistic path.

    I have an image of an age of enlightenment, 17th century, UNWIRED, coffee-house where people are talking to each other, and truly new things are being discussed.  I imagine it was a lot more interesting and fun than Starbucks.  I know it produced better ideas.

    The idea of replacing teachers with computers is the beginning of an Orwellian nightmare.

    The growth of technology is also leading us to a fatal disconnect with the natural environment and ever greater and unsustainable patterns of consumption and energy use.

    It's not all bad though -- consider what happens at KOS every day.

    Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. - Adam Smith

    by boatwright on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 04:49:44 AM PDT

    •  Active learning (0+ / 0-)

      There is a big push at the college level for active learning. Some profs think that is just code word to cut down on actual positions. Larger classrooms and less profs teaching, juts directing. The most expensive part of education are people and the business folks have not yet figured out how to increase the bottom-line, this may be one way to accomplish that.

      Technology can be used for good or bad. We just need to reflect on where it is taking us.

  •  We homeschooled our kids partly to evade (0+ / 0-)

    Technology in their younger, most formative years. We wanted them to understand what real life was like, not television life. Now, as two teens, they are trying to find their own balance.

    Unfortunately many American families are so tech connected they can't see past the gaming screen... And we see this with both homeschooled and public schooled and private schooled kids. I think you've thrown a red-herring into this argument by harping on it.

    Also, the guy offering all those scholarships may be looking for the next big money naker but he didn't seem to limit his finding to only high tech ideas. When I first read about his program, I was enamored with a young lady working on cheap, effective solar panels that rotated towards the sun. She took her scholarship money to Africa and is conducting experiments there.

    The conversation about tech is important and finding balance is more so but rather than get mad at the guys looking for the next big solution, I would prefer you question our broader societal need to buy and use each new gadget as it arrives to market (as I ironically type this on my husband's iPad while listening to music from the computer where my son is writing his bio lab report).

  •  I Think There's a Simpler Way to Look at This (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Tech is a tool.  It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.  I'm reminded of how a lot of America's "best and brightest" got themselves into a frenzy over the Segway.  I believe it was Bill Gates who said it would "change the world."  An $8,000 scooter that moves slightly faster than a person walking and that you can't park?  This is the classic example of where the technological innovation in the device was more clever than the device itself, in total.  The Segway doesn't fill a need most people have, no matter how brilliantly engineered the thing might be.  

    Contrast that with the machine Otto Rohwedder invented to slice bread.  Imagine making toast or a sandwich or pretty much anything you eat if you have to slice bread yourself.  It's kind of a pain in the ass.  It's something so sublime, perfect, and simple that we often fail to understand how simple it is.  

    Technology is just a thing - it's a means to an end.  It cannot, in itself, be any kind of "enemy."  But the way we use it, abuse it, and our expectations of it are the problem.  

    I spent four years in high school studying "higher math" than on about 1% of the population uses in their daily lives.  Yet I only had one half year government class.  I never had a writing class past junior high until college.  No our priorities are geared toward training people to "learn" things that are non-controversial, objective, and static.  Critical thinking skills make you a crappy American - less Christian, less commercialistic, less conservative, etc.  So we can cram a lot of useless math down kids throats until they choke on it as an argument for making them "competitive."  So long as we do that, we shouldn't expect anything less than a tame population easily impressed with shiny objects.  

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Tue Oct 09, 2012 at 05:42:05 AM PDT

  •  yesterday to my surprise (0+ / 0-)

    during my daily two-mile walk, I encountered a young woman pushing her baby in one of those high-tech three-wheeled contraptions with the detachable cradle that are a great improvement over what we used to call strollers, and she wasn't talking on her cell phone or texting, she was interacting with her son! I couldn't resist commending her, so rarely do I see this. Moms or dads in our neighborhood tend to be mesmerized by their smartphones, to the point of not even hearing their child's third, fourth, or fifth plea for attention. Technology can be wonderful, but I predict a surge of business for psychotherapists as these kids reach adulthood, thanks to the addictive aspect of virtual social networking for their parents and caretakers.

  •  I generally agree with you... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    ...but my brother in law just graduated a year ago. He's a computer guy, a good one. There's nothing he learned in college that he either didn't already know or couldn't have picked up self-taught. Now it's certainly possible that he got connections, that he has credentials as well as experience, that he wouldn't have known quiet WHAT to learn about without it (and he was able to pay for school with scholarship+computer work completely) but I do wonder about how useful it really was.

    •  nothing he learned in college (0+ / 0-)

      Depends on how you define learning. It struck me in college that every year you pay your money, get assigned your professors and then go out and buy a pile of books.

      Why couldn't I just buy my pile of books and learn on my own? After 4 years I realized the learning process wasn't about the pile of books or even the professors - it was about the daily interaction and debate and give and take with my peers - that's where I truly learned and grew.*

      Learning isn't acquiring facts, it's not things you self-teach. It's a complicated process requiring challenge, socialization and interaction.

      Arguably, that's what makes going to "elite" colleges worth it - the degree and extent and quality of your peer group.

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