Friday, May 13, 2005


Dr. C. sent us the link to the article in the New Yorker about the book "Everything Bad is Good for You" by Steven Johnson.

Please give it a read and weigh in.

Thanks Dr. C.!

4 Opinions:

Blogger Dr. C speaks!

OK, RJ, here goes. First, appreciate your comments so far on this. Remember, we are at opposite ends of the age spectrum, so your observations help me attain perspective.

I used to think that people didn’t change in their overall approach to living. Basically, we respond to what is in the environment. If cell phones and video games are in the environment, we probably adapt to them, unless you are a Ludite. (You are familiar with this, I am sure. The workers in England who destroyed the weaving machines because they put them out of a job.) But in reality, the advances are so rapid that they leave some of the citizenry dazed.

Actually, the Ludites have always been with us. My father was born in 1901 and he was interested in the science of those days. He obtained some radio equipment as a teenager and apparently the word was out in Waterbury, Connecticut, that you didn’t associate with him because he was into some dark and devious things, almost like witchcraft. I used to listen on his crystal radio when I was kid. It had a big hunk of crystal with a cat’s feeler to find the best spot, a big coil, and that’s all. No batteries, no power supply, worked on the energy from the broadcast itself. He transcribed the first sports broadcast, a prize fight in New Jersey in the 20’s. I still have the transcription. He was first in Waterbury to know the outcome.

Many people had a hard time adapting to radio, electricity and cars. We forget that the railroads were looked on as an invasion of the Plains by Native Americans (formerly known as Indians; and that is another subject). Rapid technologic advance is difficult. Of course the most awesome advances were made in the killing of people. We also forget that while wars were very bloody, they were mostly fought by soldiers. The battle of Solferino in 1859 was so bloody that it occasioned the formation of what came to be known as the International Red Cross. But it was mainly soldiers who were slaughtered. With the advent of strategic bombing, and particularly the atomic weapons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the destruction of large numbers of civilians became commonplace. So commonplace that we do not seem to flinch when these things happen (unless it is our ox, i.e. the World Trade Center, that is being gored). But I digress.

All this is to say that people mostly adapt to technology but it is the children who are on the crest of the wave. So, when children that are attached to their gameboys and cell phones grow up, this will be as normal to them as transistor radios were to my youth and the crystal radios to my father. There are always some who are left out. Look at the number of adults who struggle with computers now.

Has the educational system kept up? I don’t think so. I have increasing numbers of children who come into my office who are not surviving in school and the teacher tells the parents: “They need medication.” The way subjects are taught in K-12 is linear, I think. But you would know more than I about this. I do know that these children can’t stay focused and frequently do wind up on medication. Many are starting to continue this as adults. Is this good?

As a whole, then, children adapt to the new technology pretty fast. (It is amazing to see a two year old come over and punch the keys on my computer.) And this induces a gradient in the population based on age. It used not to be very large, but it is so now because technological advance is so rapid. I could go on for a long time about the effect the information explosion has had on medicine. (People still want the same, 19th century service from a doc, though.)

And, I think technology definitely changes the way we think. As an example, I find it hard to watch TV or current movies. There is no stability in scenes. If the camera does not change every three seconds, people think that the “action” is dragging. Most films are incredibly violent but this, I think, is because of the necessity for action. I have also wondered whether this rapid changing of scene has exacerbated the problem of attention deficit in children who, say, get hooked on MTV.

But to cut to the chase (notice that my scenes don’t change very often). What effect has this had on children and the way they use books and video games? I have to admit, I am a book addict. If I don’t read for several hours a night, I experience withdrawal. Please note that you are reading right now! While video blogs are in the future, I will never be comfortable with them. It is not the way my mind works because it has been trained from day one as a linear instrument. Writing is linear. I do not doubt that many children now have a multitasking brain. Are they more successful? I don’t think so. But how do we measure success? Well, we measure it by how well a child interacts with his (or her; another subject) environment and then we come back full circle because the environment has created the child. I guess there is the old nature and nurture question here, but I think that the child’s mind is almost infinitely malleable.

Have you read this far? Good. Now, here is the $64 question (ah, a meme from the past). Was it not excruciating to read this long post? Wouldn’t a one paragraph comment have been better? I frequently don’t read long comments over at Liberal Avenger, one of my visited blogs, just because they are long. Maybe I am being converted to the ADHD world!

Next: What Sigmund would have said about this.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Redjalapeno speaks!

Hey Doc,

Not only did I read the whole thing, I've read it 3 times now.

I have to read and digest and read and digest and think and think etc.

I will post my thoughts at some point either today or tomorrow. Be warned: I can be very long-winded.

In the meantime, I saw this and thought you being a doctor would be interested.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Dr. C speaks!

Yeah, pretty cool. I used to be a hematologist/oncologist and treated a lot of kids with myelodysplastic disorders. I wish they knew how it worked. One small step forward but a good one.

1:18 PM  
Anonymous kid with adhd speaks!

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1:55 AM  

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