Our Technology Addiction: Who, or What, Creates It?

Our Technology Addiction: Who, or What, Creates It?

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Our Technology Addiction: Who, or What, Creates It?

Just thinking about this one again today for some reason…

Oh yes, at one level, our compulsive attachment, our addiction, to our tools is very easy to understand. It’s simply an outgrowth of our competitive enterprise system – the marketplace, perfectly tuned to breed the most compelling user experience possible, a kind of extension of nature’s evolutionary forces.

But here is the interesting question for each of us to pause and reflect upon. One day, these systems will learn to design themselves. They will have the “business intelligence” to analyze our “big data” and configure themselves in ways that are so responsive, so compelling, so addictive, they’ll make what we have today seem as quaint as listening to The Lone Ranger on an old-fashioned 1930′s radio broadcast.

Full story:   ➼ http://www.the-vital-edge.com/technology-addiction/

#automation   #engagement  

46 comments

  1. Makes me think of a musing of a friend about who’s evolving who: he said tabaco was a highly successful organism. It evolved and trained people to cultivate it widely even though smoking it killed them.

  2. A little sensational Gideon Rosenblatt… while you’re not entirely wrong, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

    yes, choose what technologies you use and media you consume, and choose them carefully.  But once I’ve done so, I embrace it.

  3. Yes, Kevin Hagen, that’s a great example of the co-evolution. Someone was just talking here the other day about automobiles in this same light. Though, as you point out, that one’s not really symbiotic but more parasitic – if it’s killing the host. 

  4. I admit that it may sound a little dramatic, Matthew J Price, but sometimes it’s that poetic distance that helps us see things differently. And, to be clear, this is not an anti-technology stance. It’s just saying that the drive to increase engagement with products and services is making them increasingly “sticky” – to the point of addiction even. And, as design automates, there is a question about what that force actually is. 

  5. I have watched myself as I get rid of my smartphone 8 months ago…for many years I had been constantly connected starting with pagers and moving forward.

    What I find is that I am much more aware of people of other people’s addictions to their devices with the end result of being totally oblivious to their other environmental factors. Are humans going to become less adept at engaging with living beings? Do I feel lonelier?

    The addiction analogy is a good one reminding me of the other day while  waiting patiently for a person who was blocking my gym locker to move, they were totally engaged with their device, when I finally had to ask her to move, the tranced out look she had was almost scary…it looked like a heavy drug induction.

    +Kevin Hagen, the tobacco analogy is a good one.

  6. Anthropomorphism aside …this is worth thinking about .. Gideon Rosenblatt 

  7. That’s interesting, Deborah L Gabriel. It really is like we are entered another dimension while still standing in this one. 

  8. A Smartphone is an incredibly powerful tool. Consider the advantages:

    Access to the best literature, music and film ever created along with thousands of games designed specifically for the form factor

    Communication with every personal and professional contact in dozens of varieties and forms

    Access to the internet and everything on it from youtube to wikipedia, amazon or news

    GPS, cameras, motion sensors, and more; I can even use my phone to control most any television sold today with just a few button presses.

    Long story short, don’t feel too bad if someone thinks their phone is more interesting than you.  It probably is.

    I happen to agree that having my attention locked onto a screen is a debilitating weakness in the form factor.  When headsets and contact lenses come of age, a lot of the downsides will be alleviated, and eventually I hope to have my technology fully integrated into my audial and visual centers of my brain (to start)

    Am I reliant on my phone?  yes.  But also on a million other technologies no one seems to bother criticizing, like refrigeration.

    Where there is a cost or externality to a technology, I’m for fixing it.  Cars have caused a great deal of damages, but instead of riding bikes, we should buy electric cars powered by sunlight.

    Edit: I’m actually for riding bikes too ^^

    I believe we can do the same for every technology.  “Better tech, not less tech” is my motto.

  9. Putting my phone down does make me more aware of my surroundings, but less aware of countless other things happening in the world.  Including this conversation 🙂

    Everyone has to draw the line somewhere I suppose.

  10. Gideon Rosenblatt yes, it is

  11. Kevin Hagen I love that comment! 

  12. Two points to add to this conversation.

    Both from Gideon Rosenblatt comments:

    Yes I agree that being sucked into the web is an alternate reality. I find that I  like and need both realities. but I am still thinking about the machines’ ability to create us. I guess they already are or none of us would be here. As a person who likes her independence, I can wonder about control issues; though television is just another form of reality like the web and the “superheroes” of my childhood contributed significantly to my dreaming larger dreams in very positive ways. The YIN/YANG in everything.

    Still like Kevin Hagen ‘s tobacco analogy, though in the long run tobacco is a toxin. Natives Americans used it to poison arrows.

  13. that was me, talking about automobiles, and quoting Ivan Illich’s wonderful assessment that by the time we factored in all the hours we spend inside them and the time spent to buy them, and paying for their care and feeding,  and all the miles they carry us and calculated the resulting miles-per-hour, we’ve gotten just 3.7 MPH.

    And that did not even begin to consider the disaster that our embrace of (or is it enslavement to?) these machines – almost w/o anyone raising any of the serious questions – has forced onto  the evolution of the built environment, or the incredible carnage they have caused, across an enormous range of organisms.  It is clear from the statistics that it is not actually or at least not immediately killing its host, but unlike tobacco the automobile is not a lifeform, it is simply a gadget though it has been inextricably connected to some ludicrous and powerful memes by people who almost certainly do NOT have our best interests in their hearts..

    Re +Deborah L. Gabriel’s first observation, about the tranced out person in the gym – I have had a few similar encounters in the mountains. when I would climb to places that you could drive to in a car, and the difference in the “connectedness of the experience at top was palpable.  And I could swap places simply driving to the top instead of climbing. 

    And that said, I drove nearly 4 hours yesterday – from Port Townsend to the Port of Tacoma – to pick up a 300 ft roll of HDPE pipe so light that I can literally toss it onto the roof of my Subaru, because the roll is too big for UPS to carry and trucking it literally costs more than the plastic. 

    These statistics only consider fatalities. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadkill 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

    http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Trends/TrendsGeneral.aspx

    But I do not have a dry-bag for my phone cuz when I go out in my kayak I want to be completely engaged with the waves and the wind. And immersed in the illusion that there still is some untouched nature out there, just a feet feet away from the beach. 

    And now a WOW! Edited comment cuz I just discovered that the post on my wall immediately below this one in my stream  is totally on point, re embracing these gadgets that the bamboozers have foisted upon us: 

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/114822401067576646327/posts/3AJGAyWMTTK

  14. Ah, yes, sorry, joe breskin. Sometimes I just get all these threads mixed together. Thanks for clarifying and adding the references. 

  15. Not pompous at all, Mark Bruce. In fact, what it’s making me realize is that the title of this piece is what’s causing this response. By calling it addiction and framing it that way, it’s distracting from my real point which is that our engagement with technology is getting stickier and stickier, and as the design of that engagement becomes more and more automated, it makes all of this feel way more ecological and evolutionary and raises some really interesting questions about our relationship to it. 

  16. Maybe the one question we all need to ask ourselves at any given moment in any given day Gideon Rosenblatt: Am I doing what I’m doing because I want to…or because I’m addicted, or feel I have to, or need to be like everyone else, or because someone, something somewhere tells me I’m not hip if I don’t participate?

    Deborah L Gabriel I know that look in that woman’s eyes you describe. I have seen it so very often. James Barraford wrote a story called Your Distracted Driving Killed Me because he was almost done in recently by a woman texting while driving: (https://plus.google.com/+JamesBarraford/posts/HFg9qmtqRMf).

    At dinner on Friday night my 25 year-old stepson told me he thinks that people of his generation have been made stupid by texting.

    I guess it’s easy to forget that we can choose not to smoke those cigarettes Kevin Hagen, or to moderate the use of anything, whether it’s coffee (can’t say I’m particularly successful at this one), chocolate (or this one, either…) or technology.

    But what gets me Gideon Rosenblatt is that the Blue Zone studies are pretty definitive and compelling – the places identified in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest (over 100) are places that are not ruled by technology and where human interaction and contact are the main focus of each day.

    So…what does that say? We want to do ourselves in????

    😉

  17. Giselle Minoli In response to your stepson’s comment that he thinks his generation has been made  stupid by texting; my experience of walking into almost any retail establishment in the country is that the level of emotional intelligence and ability of most (younger) retail clerks to engage in any kind of flesh to flesh  interaction that makes me even want to be in that establishment, has greatly diminished.

    And thank you for sharing    James Barraford ‘ s post, it was an emotional read.

  18. Morning Deborah L Gabriel. You know what bothers me? That if someone (okay…me…) writes or notices what you just wrote it is all too often interpreted as a resistance to chance, a rejection of technology, a refusal to go with the flow. That is to me the worst part of technology. I love technology, but I don’t allow it to control my life. In not doing that I am often criticized. Why is it that we bash people for pointing out things to be aware of in modernity? Maybe this is particularly important to me because I’m a private pilot and in that community there is a lot of conversation about how nice technology is…but that it can kill you if you don’t know what you are doing, if you rely on it too much, and, most particularly, if you think it is going to take the place of your own brain and having to think for yourself.

    I don’t know…but maybe this youthful obsession with smart phones is an offshoot of being sat in front of the telly by their parents at a young age….or gaming…or something? I don’t know. But I personally like a balance.

  19. Giselle Minoli Thanks for the tag and mentioning my story. I’m still rereading the email that was sent to me which I included.

    I’m becoming convinced that technology, while bringing us a myriad of amazing advances, is also bringing a devastating addiction. It’s frightening how fast we as a global society have latched onto the internet, smartphones, tablets, homes that can be controlled remotely, smart tv’s, streaming devices, cars as second home… et cetera. 

    My wife and I have two smart tv’s, two smartphones, two smart tablets, an iTouch, two roku’s, two apple tv’s, two chromecasts, a blu ray player.  All of which can either bring the internet into our homes or can stream what the other devices have brought in.

    That’s a whole lot of IT coming at just the two of us.

    I used to be the only person in the house fixated on the devices, but I see my wife more and more with her nose buried in her texts and FB while staring at her phone. There is a sadness attached to that and part of it is that I didn’t notice my own behavior for years. I knew I loved the new technologies, but how much was beyond me.

    I see a lot of struggling down the road as this technology addiction grows. It almost seems quaint now that people were worried about the hubby/wife using chatrooms in the late 1990’s on AOL to splinter the family.

      Almost harmless behavior compared to the IT timesuck as a substitute for human touch we’re seeing now by whole families.

    We are fast approaching a crossroads. Do we surrender completely to technology, find a livable medium, or rebel against all that is offered us?

    I discard the latter as not happening.

    I fear the inevitable is choosing the self-fulfillment of technology over human interaction for one big reason…. we feel we can control the technology coming into our lives easier than we can another human being. 

  20. James Barraford Ah, the illusion of control of the technology. One of the salient points made earlier in this thread was the ability of the machines to self program not only themselves but their users.  I had a frustration the other day when I typed in the URL of a website I have let go to disuse and put on maintenance mode. My smart browsers’ (I tried 3 different ones) search engines, who think they know me better than I know me,  give   me everything but the proper URL. Luckily, I found it bookmarked somewhere and that brought it up.

    Control??????? Who has it???

    PS. After 10 plus on and off years, Netflix never learned my taste in films.

  21. Deborah L Gabriel The slave does not control the master.

  22. Deborah L Gabriel a couple of weeks ago a dialogue box comes up on my computer that says: Google would like to control your computer. Allow. Deny. I SCREAMED out NO…and hit DENY. Now it won’t download my gmail. I’m being punished for not behaving the way I’m supposed to behave! It’s okay. I like being civilly disobedient!

  23. Giselle Minoli Surrender to your overlords…. the water is warm, the air is fresh, and the food is superb.

  24. And which, dear, James Barraford  is which ( slave or master) or  are we both, I guess that is a form of balance.

  25. Deborah L Gabriel We want desperately to be the masters yet we build technology that enslaves us. A dispassionate view would reveal that we are (as always) our own worst enemies.

  26. Giselle Minoli, thanks for the pointer to the Blue Zone work. I’d not heard of that before. 

    http://www.bluezones.com/about/

    And I know what you mean about critiquing tech. It does create a huge backlash, especially here on G+, and it’s tough when you are someone who is very tech-oriented yourself.

    I think it comes down to the effect that a particular technology has and the intention behind it development and its application. 

    I have a number of software programs that really do make my life much richer. EverNote helps me keep track of insights that come to me in the middle of the night. Manga Studios is helping me tap my inner artist. And there are so many other examples. 

    Then there’s Facebook, which is more mixed. It helps me stay in touch with folks I would have long lost touch of, and I appreciate that. But it also clearly has some downsides, many of which are driving by the company’s very effective tapping of our collective desire for attention. Same with G+ and Twitter for that matter. 

    Thanks for the thoughts too  James Barraford. In the end, it’s this drawing us away from one another in real life that is probably the biggest issue that we need to solve. 

  27. James Barraford  that realization was the crux of my FB status update yesterday! BUt with a potentially actionable option attached … 

    “Thought for the day. Just came up in a conversation. I figure that I am by far my own worst enemy, so IF I should chose to compete with anyone, the first round of the competition should really be between him and me, and focused on letting the best me win.” 

  28. Giselle Minoli My illusion of how this works is that if we all spoke our true beliefs with the full knowledge that that belief was only valid at that particular point in time ( or longer), then the conversation in itself would create some form of balance.

    An observation about the telly or gaming creating the “locked in” syndrome; I remember a colleague in graduate school was doing research on the effects of different optical strobing to be used in conjunction with sirens in emergency vehicles. Done correctly, at just the right wavelengths, with just the right timing, the strobe effect actually locks into the neurostructure of the brain forcing the  owner of the brain to pay attention. That technology is now widely used and has proven very effective on emergency vehicles.

  29. Gideon Rosenblatt I don’t quite know how to raise the thoughts that are coming to mind as I read your words, but I think there are several “backlashes.” I agree with you that much in technology, if not necessarily making my life easier (it often is hugely time-consuming and that doesn’t make it easier) it gives me access to things I wouldn’t normally have access to (although at the moment I’m dogged by my inability to post something from Rolling Stone, which I pay for, here on G+ because I think it’s so worthwhile…but I digress…).

    …those thoughts have to do with what I can only describe as a lack of freedom, rather than having access to more. I recently lost the friendship of someone who only communicates by text. I do not like texting. So…friendship over (let’s not discuss the quality of that friendship…only the individual habits that allow/disallow it).

    Then there is the big person on social media who has said that no one uses email anymore. This is ludicrous. I’m a writer. Every writer I know uses email. So what’s that all about?

    Then…someone told me I’m missing the boat recently by rejecting +GoogleGlass when it was offered to me. But I have a complicated eyeglass prescription because I’m a pilot and it doesn’t work for me. So what’s that judgement all about? I could go on and on and on with this Gideon…there’s judgement galore everywhere.

    I agree with you Deborah L Gabriel that certain things are extremely useful. My comment was geared more to the hope? perhaps? that technology will replace our brains?

    Gideon Rosenblatt did you happen to read that article in the times about the older brain? Essentially it says that the decay of the older brain is not true…that what is true is that there is more information to filter through. In short, I think technology is making us more judgmental. And I don’t think that’s a very smart use of it.

  30. James Barraford Giselle Minoli Gideon Rosenblatt Deborah L Gabriel   I was thinking about all this a while back and wrote about it here, “Enchantment vs. Ecstasy.”

    http://www.synaptiqplus.com/journal/journal_-articles/issue-1/what-happens-when-we-don-t-know-what-is-is

  31. Meg Tufano read your article. Now I see why our mental energy waves keep crossing. Colleagues joke about me as being the “philosospher”

    Just to add another point to your interesting article; neuroscience is now supporting the importance of reflection (lower brain wave states) to  synthesize information and connect the dots forming new neural connections. Without that “downtime,” real learning and growth is not sustained. I.e, science is supporting what many of us already knew.:)

  32. Deborah L Gabriel Neuroscience is a good thing, but I was just in a conversation where the limits of neuroscience were discussed and there are plenty of them.  Equating our neurons with thoughts is a really big leap of faith, but one that many have made without much “reflection.”  ;’)  

    It’s too late in my part of the world (almost 2 a.m.) to give this my best, but I will come back to it.  

    BTW, MY family teasingly call me “the book lady.”  My colleagues call me “Grasshopper,” (as in “You live in a dream world.”)  My philosophy course is one of the most successful online courses in the world (and that’s saying something).  But what I really love to do is discuss ideas, something I cannot do quite honestly as a professor.  (Your job is to help OTHERS discuss ideas, and remember they’re starting out . . . )

    There is no job that really lets you do that.  Except G+!!!!!!  I have a lot of hope for G+.  I keep seeing it getting better.  

    (Discussing ideas with students is all about asking questions, not discussion.)

  33. Meg Tufano I agree with that, one cannot equate neurons with thoughts but then again one can…which thoughts are a different story. I can get into the underlying biology, but won’t.

    On one hand you have journalists using the term “neuroscience” to pander their articles claiming that something is the newest fact based on one study. That is not science.

    On the other hand, you have 30 years of research done at U of Wisconsin under Richard Davidson and Mathieu Ricard studying both the brain waves and MRI of experienced mediators as a baseline and comparing the changes in the brain with changes in thought processes. They have found significant evidence of such changes especially in the area of increased compassion and empathy.

    I wrote a long rant about the dilution of science with journalism a few months ago. I was trained as a research scientist and I know statistics can lie. I also spent hours studying MRI’s of the brain as a medical resident and I know that changes in the brain structure can have a definite effect on thought processes.

    Like everything in life, it comes down to what any of us choose to believe on any given day.:)))) 

  34. I think Deborah L Gabriel this warrants a new thread. I noted to ping you in. This is a topic well – considered around our house. My husband is an experimental psychologist. ;’)

  35. Meg Tufano Before i wrote this post, I went to pull some well researched articles off my blog and found 2 gone, one hacked. Bad/slack me for not backing up the WordPress website. 

    So I have turned to Blogger for now.

    But you are right, it is an interesting topic. They combined EEG’s with fMRI’s to associate wave states with areas of the brain. I’ll put starting that thread on my long “to-do” list:))

    Your husband’s thoughts?

  36. Giselle Minoli I went back and re-read this from your comment, “My comment was geared more to the hope? perhaps? that technology will replace our brains?” How do you feel about tech replacing our brains.

     I saw an interesting movie “Flight” where the experienced pilot  was able to use his experience of being a military pilot to land a plane when the autopilot mechanisms failed and were actually working against the pilot. He was considered a hero. But the movie was really about addiction, the original theme of this post and his alcohol addiction cost him his pilot’s license.

    I think technology if one wants to use it has largely replaced rote memory. Medical school is all about rote memory. I was disappointed when I got out and realized that everything I needed to know was on my “smarter than me” phone. I felt most of the education part was a waste.

  37. Deborah L Gabriel I saw Flight with particular interest because I’m a private pilot. The topic of reliance on technology vs. being able to fly using pilotage, dead reckoning, a sectional chart, a plotter and a stop watch comes up all the time. Pilots long ago were expert at flying without the technology because they didn’t have it. Human beings tend to think that when things “progress” that we should “throw away” or move on from old ways of doing things and fully embrace the replacement.

    So we have Cuisinarts instead of hand-chopping and slicing and we have Super Automatic Espresso machines instead of manual ones and more and more and more we have automatic transmissions instead of stick shifts. 

    But I can tell you in my own life that someone who knows how to drive a stick also is a better drive. And if you’ve ever watched a master sushi chef, you’ll know that the good old-fashioned way is an art form.

    I don’t think that tech will replace our brains, except in those people perhaps who don’t respect the natural power of their organic brains to begin with.

    Texting might make life easier, but it also creates terrible habits that create laziness. In the end, the world’s great paintings were not painted by robots. They were painted by human beings. The world’s great symphonies were not created by synthesizers, they were created by people who had extraordinary ears. So too, films, plays, choreography and, Yes, novels.

    Maybe the issue is one of laziness. Why anyone would aspire not to fully use themselves is something I don’t pretend to understand. It’s like looking at a rose, but not ever taking the time to smell it…

  38. joe breskin I loved living in The Netherlands for four years (some four years back) because I did not have to drive EVER.  Public transportation ROCKS there!  I hate to drive.  I take the Megabus while in the States as much as possible.  But, now, back down here down in the country in TN?  You gotta have a car.  No way out.  SO many, many people live in their cars.  (One must not discuss this.)  

  39. Yes, Meg Tufano it is one of the great un-discussed tragedies of the 20th century – the way the rural and urban environments of the US – and the lives of the people who live there – got so utterly trashed to make room for the automobile.  

    I, too, live in a rural area, a couple hours drive west of Seattle, and through a mix of public transit and a bicycle I managed to get a reprieve – quite a few car-free years – during the 2000-2010 decade. But the transit funding mechanism did not make it through the recession and several critical service area connector runs got cancelled. So I started driving again, and quickly discovered how anti-social it really is. I rationalize that I do not have time to get on my bicycle to make the short run to town for food or to the hardware store for parts … and so I drive, but when I get home I can see that riding would have added very little to the total time that I spent ,,,

    What I continue to find baffling is how much of our lives it really consumes. I have an UltraGauge plugged into the OBD-II port on my car and it reports Ave trip MPH as well as system functions, instantaneous MPG, etc and it is genuinely horrifying to realize how many hours of driving it actually takes to make a 153 mile trip, or cover 10,000-15,000 miles/year. I really do NOT believe I am using this technology, or at least not using it very effectively. Even when I’m spending more money on insurance than I do on fuel, it feels like mostly it is using me. 

  40. joe breskin I am thoroughly suicidal about the driving thing. Meg Tufano will explain…’cause it depresses me too much. I want to move to Parma, Italy, where bicycles abound…along with the most delicious pizza I have ever eaten, and Verdi…of course. Oh, and there’s the autostrata, on which you can speed speed speed. 😉

  41. Giselle Minoli I think it can be argued quite easily that the automobile addiction of the 20th century represents a kind of mass suicide. It seems to have largely gutted the western world’s resources and environment. Most people now live in food deserts, miles and miles from anyplace where food can even be purchased, let alone produced.  And miles and miles from any-place where work can be done in social settings.

    One of the wonders of public transportation was discovering anew the quality of discourse with total strangers that was available there. To say nothing of “the regulars” who I found myself looking forward to riding with, talking heady tech, on Monday mornings.

    Outside the private space of my hurtling tank I almost immediately rediscovered the possibility that other people have interesting lives and interesting thoughts. The arrogance that breeds so quickly in isolation was eroded by contact with the world around me.

    Conversations with strangers – or people I had lived around for a decade or more but never taken the time to get to know – on an hour long bus ride – were so much more interesting and far more connecting than the spewage from the calculated, compressed, equalized and disembodied voices of people we do not know on public radio.  

    Port Townsend is a place that pretends to be almost as cool as Parma … the highest solar roof (PV) penetration in the state, but its demographic is screwed up by retirees who have flocked here and as a result it is a largely car-based community  – with an utterly dysfunctional public transit system (big empty buses driving routes that do not really serve the needs of anyone) and of course one of the highest per-capita Prius populations on planet earth.

    A decade ago, I imagined I could fix that, by reforming the transit system, but when I started putting together  the team, I quickly discovered that I no longer have the power to change things. 

    Perhaps that is one of the realizations that leads people to become ex-pats … 

  42. Wonderful response joe breskin. But how depressing! Really, I am a weirdo. I live smack in the middle of New York City, a hodgepodge place (sort of like the inside of a packed commuter bus or subway car), everyone bumping up against one another, the energy of it to me as incredible as on the day I moved here in October ’78. I love it.

    The other me is the writer isolationist who dreams of spending her entire day in a vegetable garden and flower garden growing food for everyone and teaching everyone how to cook and showing them the magic that happens when you put delicious food in front of them at the end of the day – the conversation, the laughter, the ideas, the discovery of one another, the health of it.

    Frankly, I need both. I need culture city with gazillions of things to do. And I need to sit on the beach at Pt. Reyes Station by myself staring out into the sea, or the eyes of a beached elephant seal, for an entire day and so help me God Do. Not. Bother. Me.

    I think most people are complicated and have complex needs and we do not like, or allow, or respect, or plan for that. I have driven 59,000 miles in four years. My soul aches because of that reality. The only thing that makes it okay…is that I am often joined by hawks, which are beautiful creatures, flying alongside me as I go.

  43. joe breskin When I lived in The Netherlands, I only took public transportation, but I literally had a new car pick me up at the airport when we moved back to the States (I had given my old car to my son).  

    What I wanted to tell you was about the inbetween trip I took to the U.S., two years after living in Holland.  I was in DC (my hometown) and my husband was having an operation in Virginia (new knee (!)).  I went everywhere by public transportation and amazed my family (we’re talking some seriously long distances).  They didn’t realize you COULD get those distances by public transportation!  

    But what was so fun was that I could get in conversations with so many different kinds of people (sort of like G+ ;’)).  I couldn’t do that in The Hague because it is rare to hear English (although everyone can speak it).  I learned all about what childhood on a farm was like for a black woman who grew up in South Carolina.  I learned about what the childhood of an Ethiopian cab driver’s life was like and what he missed about his country (the food).  Seems as though everywhere I went, I met fascinating people.  But of course one must really love people to find people fascinating (I have learned).  Some people are not interested in other people.  I cannot understand it, but there it is! 

    The only downside to our technology/car addiction that I can see is when it keeps us from being with the people we love.  For the MOST part, it has helped me stay in touch with the people I love and even been the means for making many more friends.  (I do have to stay away from Scrabblicious (I think that’s the name) and from Pinterest.  Both were IMMEDIATELY addicting and when I looked up and an entire day had gone by without my moving?  I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid.)  

  44. Giselle Minoli  and  joe breskin      Meg Tufano      People are that complex, especially creatives. Thirty years ago, you get get the best of both living in west CT or at least myself and a bunch of other creatives did, the bliss of rural gardens and stimulation of NYC.

    That is gone. I presently live in suburbia which I find soul wrenching, one has not the bliss of nature nor the urban stimulation. One has traffic, impatient and isolated people whose souls are sucked up through life wasted sitting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. And the air quality is some of the worst in the nation, though that is probably an entire east coast phenomenon where the high humidity holds it in place.

    When I lived in Chicago, sometimes I would ride the train just to be able see from close quarters the diversity and beauty of the different culturally oriented neighborhoods, the people getting on and off, the trains that pass within a few feet of the old buildings giving you a magnificent view of the architectural detail.

    One of my favorite books of last year, Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff details very elegantly the history of socio-economics in the US that created the automobile addiction and suburbia and the industrial economic gain in this country built around the automobile enabling the creation of suburbia.

  45. Thanks for the pointer to Life, Inc. Deborah L Gabriel  I need to hear someone other than myself rail against the tragedy of it all.  And yes, I totally agree that trains still give us some of the most wonderful views of our worlds cuz they run right through the past. The Railroads got their land nearly a century before it really had any value and chose nearly ideal places for the tracks and for the next half century, we built the world around them. 

    In Seattle, if you have the time and the inclination, you can take a little boat up the Duwamish River through Southpark and Georgetown and along the river you can see how and where many of the now-hidden the layers of Seattle’s development actually overlap: pre-war, post war, 60’s, 80’s, etc. 

    This is not really about technology addiction anymore, but it is trying to speak to the very same stuff that the technology addiction threatens, or perhaps in the absence of which technology addiction grows.  

    What  Giselle Minoli asked for  – the promise that you really and literally can have both worlds at your doorstep – is what lures people to this place where I live. I got here shortly before Giselle got to NYC and I have watched it change in almost unbelievable ways. many of them quite tragic. It is astounding how something like a 50′ strip of trees can be the pin on which a whole cluster of critical illusions hinge. 

    The custodians at Disneyland understand this, but that does not mean the flakes in the planning department do. 

    It was a sleepy little seaport village with a failing paper mill, filled with gorgeous run-down Victorian houses and beautiful boarded up brick buildings when I got here to build custom sailboats in 1976. 

    And it rapidly filled with an astounding assortment of creatives, centered around poetry, visual arts, music, and serious crafts like traditional wooden boatbuilding, and I am pretty sure we actually have the highest per-capita concentration of world-class violin-bow-makers on planet earth.

    Almost overnight, the old military base on the point became a site for nearly year-round music and arts festivals. 

    But along with the interesting refugees and the interesting stuff to do, we got infested with Realtors. That started in the late 80’s and for a while we had over 120 agents practicing in a community of under 9,000 people.  You want a metric for unbridled unsustainability? That is a pretty good one. 

    Then we got infested with opportunistic government, involving some of the same people. Whose idea of a good business model involves running a bloated endless-meetings-based operation financed with money spun off from debt-financed capital projects. Which drove up taxes and utility rates. Which, along with the demand for pampered (pimped out) places for people to move to, led to the displacement of most of the affordable housing niches that made it possible to be an artist here, so that if you had not already “made it” and bought a house that had appreciated someplace else – in a market where your investment in housing was still worth something. – you could not really make it work here. 

    There was a meeting I will never forget about 8 years ago at which the definition of the target for “affordable housing” shifted. 

    it was concluded that we really needed more housing that was “affordable” to a City Senior Planner in a dual income household, or a new Radiologist at the hospital, high-income-potential people who did not already have a big paid-off house in a good neighborhood in Seattle.

    Think “affordable” for someone with well over $150K combined family income. 

    And yet, even in the face of all that, this place still “almost delivers” on a lot of the promises, or it can at least 6 or 7 months of the year, during festival season. 

    World-class musicians, writers, film-nuts flock here from all over the world. To mingle with and interesting troublemakers in federal witness relocation programs and the “locals” who drive around town in Lotuses and Wallace & Grommet Morris Minors. 

    It used to be a joke that you had to have been famous in a previous life to qualify for citizenship here. There is actually WAY too much to do to even really keep up with, if you don’t have some outside source of funds. 

    Last year we had a grinch-type person – a landlord – poison a few of our most important watering holes – and shut down 2 of the places that used to be hubs for a lot of cultures,., art, “music church”, tango – so at the moment we are missing some crucial centers. 

    But in spite of the best efforts of the Real Estate community, housing is still costing about 40% less than Seattle and I can live on 2 acres in the middle of town surrounded by vast green-space from which I can walk to the beach or walk to town in about the same amount of time.  You just have to bring your own job with you.

  46. joe breskin Fascinating you should say, ‘You have to bring your own job with you’ because that’s what happened when my husband was appointed to NATO.  I had been teaching online quite a while by then and–it’s online (!)–so I could bring it with me!  

    I have taught philosophy from hotel rooms all over the world.  ;’)  And I would keep teaching it now that I’m back in TN, but I have promises to keep (to my writing self and my husband (he needs a financial break, I want to try to support the family for a while so he can maybe get a little boat and find out what all this fishing business is about in Tennessee  ;’)  )).  

    I didn’t plan on the recession.  That’s for sure.  It’s interfering with my good intentions.

    But, as things go, I feel a great deal of appreciation for the opportunity to be on Google+, to get to ‘talk’ with such fascinating people.  I wonder sometimes what it might have been like in “the old days” when there was nothing but letters.  And the farm.  

    I’ve been married long enough to know that if you cannot be happy by yourself, you cannot be happy married.  And (although I apparently cannot remember the source Giselle Minoli ;’)), the wisdom in, “In the best marriages, each protects the solitude of the other,” that wisdom pervades my married life.  I give a whole lot of space.

    Not in a million years could ANY man discuss as many things as I want to talk about!!!! ;’)

    But I have a million people willing to discuss ideas at the drop of a digit right here on Google+.  We have to remember, Joe, to be grateful for that.  I suspect (can’t know) that what I observed as a child with both my grandmothers, was a severe isolation that maybe social media cannot exactly fix, but it’s better than being by yourself watching soap operas, for sure. 

    I’m going to go find that book, Deborah L Gabriel (“Life, Inc.”).  I am deep into two technical books on computer code.  Yuck.  ;’)  

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