Technology vs. Humanity

MAY 8, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Distracted from distraction by distraction” – T.S. Eliot

“It amazes me that we are all on Twitter and Facebook. By “we” I mean adults. We’re adults, right? But emotionally we’re a culture of seven-year-olds. Have you ever had that moment when are you updating your status and you realize that every status update is just a variation on a single request: “Would someone please acknowledge me?” – Marc Maron

“There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant” – Ralph Waldo Emerson




Technology vs. Humanity: One of the world’s leading authorities on child mental health is warning that the digital world is threatening crucial childhood development by reducing contact time between generations. Peter Fonagy, a professor at the prestigious University College London, says that the advent of smartphones and social media has meant that today’s environment is now far more complex for young people to negotiate. “My impression is that young people have less face-to-face contact with older people than they once used to. The socializing agent for a young person is another young person, and that’s not what the brain is designed for. It is designed for a young person to be socialized and supported in their development by an older person.”

Fonagy points out: “Families have fewer meals together as people spend more time with friends on the internet.” This disruption of family life is risking youngsters’ mental health. Fonagy has spent more than half a century studying child development, and he is seeing that emotional disorders among young women aged 14 to 19 have become “very much more common.” Recently he’s also become concerned about a spike in violence among boys.

“The digital is not so much the problem – it’s what the digital pushes out,” Fonagy warns. Today’s society puts more responsibility on children to determine their future on their own without giving them the necessary support to make crucial decisions about their lives. “It’s a difficult time for kids. We don’t appreciate it as much as we should. We should equip them better to be more resilient to the environment that they are under.” Additional read:  Madonna says giving her children mobile phones ‘ended their relationship’ The singer says her children’s lives became dominated by the technology (Guardian) And “Mental health: the students who helped themselves when help was too slow coming.” (Guardian)




South Africa’s Elections: The African National Party, once led by Nelson Mandela and instrumental in helping to free black South Africans, has governed for a long time and will probably be victorious again in Wednesday’s general elections. The incumbent president is Cyril Ramaphosa, a former business tycoon who was elected in 2018. He is popular, and almost certain to be elected to a five year term. But the ANC has been racked with charges of corruption and maladministration, and has been losing control of wealthier provinces with high numbers of middle-class black voters. The question is whether enough middle-class voters return to the party to ensure Ramaphosa has a solid mandate to carry out his push against corruption and efforts to clean up his own party. (NYT)

Democracy vs. Autocracy in Turkey: Turkey’s president Recep Tayip Erdogan didn’t like it when opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the election for Istanbul’s mayor last March. So Erdogan surreptitiously engineered a do-over despite election officials certifying Imamoglu as the winner. In a stunning reversal Monday the High Electoral Council ruled in favor of Erdogan’s governing party and called for a new election on June 23. The move was criticized in Turkey and abroad as the latest example of Erdogan’s authoritarian overreach, and a blow to Turkey’s democratic foundation. Imamoglu and the opposition eschewed boycotting the election, and vowed to win a second time. On Tuesday several minor candidates withdrew from the race and threw their support behind Imamoglu. (NYT)

Australia’s Global Warming Election: Australia’s national elections are May 18 and voters are realizing they have a binary choice: either continue being the world’s biggest exporter of coal and let lawmakers govern with a ‘business as usual’ attitude, or continue experiencing the ravages of climate change. In the past year Australia has had its hottest summer on record, crippling drought in its southeastern farm belt, and torrential rains and flooding in the north. The continent has warmed faster than the global average, noticeably hurting the economy. Add to that the devastation of its cherished Great Barrier Reef, caused by marine heat waves. The governing conservative coalition is under pressure in key districts as independents assail longstanding members of Parliament over their positions on climate change. Rural voters who traditionally send conservative lawmakers to Parliament are talking openly about the effects of climate change. In a recent poll more than 60 percent of voters listed climate change as the most critical threat facing Australia over the next ten years. Nearly the same share said the government should take steps to address global warming even if that involves “significant costs.” Another poll found that half of all Australians give the government “poor” marks on managing climate change. (NYT)

Uber Profits for the Already Uber Rich: In one of 2019’s most anticipated initial public offerings (IPO), Uber, the ride-sharing company founded by Travis Kalanick, headquartered in San Francisco, is set to go public on May 9. When it does, a lot of rich people like Kalanick, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will be even richer. Millions and billions richer. But for the backbone of the company, long-term Uber drivers, all they’ve seen is wage cuts and inadequate bonuses. According to one full time driver in Los Angeles, who’s been with the company five years, Uber treats drivers like something they just have to deal with until technology for autonomous cars gets to the point where they can eliminate drivers all together. To quote this individual: “They treat us like crap.” (Guardian)




Taxation and Representation: On Monday Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin blatantly broke federal law when he refused to turn over six years of President Trump’s tax returns after having received a written request for them from the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon to conceal his tax returns, which Congress has the explicit power to obtain under the law passed in 1924 in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal. A former FBI special agent on the Yale faculty tweeted: “The entire purpose of the law is to have oversight over potential financial conflicts of public officials.” House Democrats must now either subpoena the returns from federal tax authorities, or file a lawsuit. (Guardian)




Bad News For Unhappy People: A new study from Sweden provides evidence that people who experience chronic stress are at the highest risk of health problems. “Over the long term, repeated, persistent [stress] responses will activate the immune system and contribute to inflammation,” says Dr. Ernesto Schiffrin, a physician and professor of medicine at McGill University. Inflammation can set the stage for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart and throughout the body. When the arteries narrow, this limits blood flow, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event. Schiffrin says he gives his patients this advice: Eat in a healthy way, attempt to have good relationships, have a good attitude, spend time in nature, and exercise. “I think exercise is critical,” Schiffrin emphasizes. (NPR)

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