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Wednesday, January 7

The neuropathology of smart phone use is damn scary

Slowly it's been emerging that the human brain and the most beloved possession of modern peoples don't mix and can't ever mix. It turns out that smart phone use is even worse an addiction than say, crack cocaine, because it's bound up with a critically important survival impulse. 

John Batchelor's January 5 interview with Pulitzer Prize journalist Matt Richtel eases into the bad news with Matt's highly dramatic summary of his latest book, A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention, but eventually gets down to the brass tacks of the neuropathology.

Here's the podcast of the interview.

As to what we're going to do about the problem, darned if I know.  But for starters the pathology needs to be better understood by the public before anything can be done. Many people don't believe the warnings because they don't know the science behind them. So unsurprisingly laws banning phone use while driving have made little to no difference in preventing people from using their communication devices on the road; you'll learn why in detail from Matt's discussion -- although distracted driving is only one aspect of the problem.   

By the time the interview ended I was questioning whether the problem should even be termed an addiciton.  It seems more a compulsion, which I don't think is quite the same as addiciton, and which isn't under conscious control.  The compulsion is grounded in a very necessary survival impulse that's hardwired into our brains.  Yet if we don't get control of a compulsion to use portable (and wearable!) digital communication devices, the entire human race will soon find itself in the deadly position of those ancient Greek mariners who were enthralled by the songs of Sirens.

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