Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Internet Addiction

I saw this story on Ace of Spades and I cannot help but comment on it.

"Internet Addiction" is simply the latest nonsense being peddled to the public to explain people whose whose real problems lie elsewhere.

If someone has trouble reading body language, starting conversations, and maintaining their personal hygiene, they most likely suffer from an autism spectrum disorder known as Asperger's Syndrome.


This is an issue I know something about because the world of people who are into computers is chock full of Asperger's types. In fact, the stereotypical behavior that most people associate with geekiness is really just a layperson's description of Asperger's syndrome.

These people are not "addicted" to the internet or to online gaming. They are simply using these technologies to address their basic need for human contact and companionship, which their condition normally acts as a barrier to. They have severe problems with non-verbal communication. So for them, an environment in which ALL communication is verbal quite literally levels the playing field.

Describing this as an addiction to the internet is like describing a cripple as having an addiction to wheelchairs.

Now that doesn't mean that they should not be helped with their non-verbal communication skills and related issues, but this assistance should not be couched in terms of "addiction."

In a way, this is kind of like drug addiction. A person cannot develop a problem with drugs unless they are taking drugs in the first place. So the question is, why are they taking drugs? Unless they take responsibility for dealing with that problem, they will either stay on drugs, or find some thing else to be "addicted" to.

The people behind this operation are charging $14,500 for a 45 day stay. I do believe I'm in the wrong line of work. I should go buy a house in the woods and start renting rooms to Asperger's cases at $320 a day and give them advice on how to dress and talk to girls. Not that I would know anything about that really, but in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

The Banality of Incompetence

I was watching Fox News yesterday morning when a story came on that gave me an uneasy feeling I couldn't quite pin down. This was a story about a new application created for cell phones that would prevent “texting” when the phone was moving at a speed greater than 10 miles per hour. This application was being promoted to parents of teenagers as a way to prevent their kids from “texting” while driving. The presenter went on to describe how the application uses teenage slang instead of standard English in its message telling the user that texting is disabled. This was touted as a “feature.” This I found ridiculous. When older people tell a teenager something that the kid doesn't want to hear in the first place, use of a slang dialect doesn't help. In fact, it is pathetic and insulting, especially when the kid in question does not speak in that way themselves. Kids grow up speaking standard English (or whatever passes for it where they are from.) If you want them to get a message instead of being distracted and insulted by the language used to communicate it, talk to them normally.

But as absurd as the use of slang was in this product, that wasn't what really bugged me. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that this product served no real purpose and was in fact a disservice to the parents and kids for whom it was created. The core issue here is that this product is being promoted for use on phones owned by licensed drivers.

Think about that for a moment.

People who have driver's licenses should not need to have their phones locked down to prevent them from doing something dangerous and stupid while driving. If someone lacks the competence and judgment required to drive safely, playing games with their phone isn't going to fix the problem. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. If someone cannot be trusted to drive a car safely and competently, then they have no business driving in the first place.

It says something very discouraging about our culture that incompetence bordering on criminal would be considered so ordinary, and even inevitable. Parents of teenagers who refuse to drive safely should take away their licenses and car keys instead of mucking with their phone. The phone is not the problem here, the kid is the problem. Deal with the problem.