How do you know you’re reading a report from a bug-eyed, sensationalist quack? When they take the newest and hottest trend and then say, “It’s almost as bad as this other popular trend amongst godless teenagers today!”
Here’s a good case study. Over at Fox News, a psychiatrist is claiming that Siri is just as damaging psychologically to kids as “violent video games!” WHAT?!?! Heaven forfend!
The claims are being made over at Fox News’ website by Dr. Keith Ablow, an accredited graduate of the Krazy Klown School For Advanced Pseudopsychiatry. His bio describes Dr. Ablow as a “member of the Fox News Medical A-Team”; given the analogy, I can only assume this means that he is one of five sketchy doctors in an old van on the run from the authorities.
Anyway, according to Dr. Ablow, Siri is as damaging psychologically as violent video games and “some street drugs.” That last claim is just preposterous, but even the first comparison is ridiculous, because there are simply no credible studies (let alone consensus) that prove that there is a causal link between violent video games and mental illness or disorders. None. That makes Ablow’s claim that Siri is “toxic psychologically” as patently absurd as, say, Dr. Wertham’s crusade against comic books in the early 1950s. It’s the equivalent of a shrink from the 1920s telling you that this new-fangled invention “telephone” is as poisonous psychologically as that flapper jazz devil music all these kids are listening to. Totally clueless, and without any scientific basis whatsoever.
But why does Ablow think that Siri is corrupting our nation’s youth? He explains:
But I believe that personifying machines and interacting with them as quasi-beings actually dumbs down our interpersonal skills and encourages us to treat other people like machines. Ultimately, it diminishes our ability to empathize with one another, because we’ve been chatting up a non-existent person and can get used to considering real people as essentially non-existent, too.
To the extent that people become “attached” to Siri and “rely” on Siri and think Siri is “funny,” they are just a tiny, tiny bit less likely to value a friend’s responsiveness, or a colleague’s help or even to appreciate the nuances in tone of voice that real humans use to convey emotion and communicate with one another.
No. You’re a moron. Prove it.
This is just the same old technophobic crap with a new slathering of paranoia. All Ablow is saying is what numerous doddering old fuddies with and without medical degrees have been saying for a century: technology somehow makes us less capable of communicating with each other, not more. They said it about telephones, they said it about radio, they said it about television, they said it about computers, and now they are saying it about smartphones. But guess what? Thanks to the amazing advances in technology over the last century, the average person on this planet is more in touch with his fellow man than at any point in history.
You say that every time we interact with a machine, we empathize with our fellow humans less? How do you explain millions of people taking to Twitter to support Egyptian protesters, or the Syrian revolution, or the Occupy Movement? I have friends I deeply care about, who have changed the way I look at the world, whom I’ve never met. How does being in touch with thousands of people on a daily basis from a practically infinite array of belief systems and cultural backgrounds narrow my understanding of the human condition? How does being an email, text message, or phone call away from 1/3rds of the world’s population at any given moment make me less of a humanist than some Nebraskan pig mucker from the 1860s who lives alone with his wife fifty miles from the nearest town?
Sorry, Doc. Here’s the truth: because you’re afraid of technology, it’s you who is less capable of understanding and empathizing with other human beings, not me. Which, come to think of it, might be why you’re writing for Fox News in the first place.