5 Ways Techno-Gadgetry Is Bringing Out the Worst in Humanity
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But at what expense? Digital distribution has unmasked how easy it really is to share art and commerce, but it has also made it easier to avoid paying those who create both with increasing impunity. And while the world is full of well-meaning consumers who want to fully support the creators they admire, digital distribution innovations, from iTunes to the BitTorrent protocol, nevertheless excel at preying upon market weaknesses for that art and commerce. It's a price we have to pay for a leveled playing field.
"ITunes pushed the industry forward, big-time," Van Buskirk said. "Before that, there was no way for indie bands to sell their songs to a worldwide audience of music fans alongside the majors' stuff -- never mind one that let them keep about 70 percent of their sales revenue without going through a label, the way iTunes does. iTunes also led to less material waste, because music files don't need packaging. But if iTunes has failed in any regard, it has failed to provide a real discovery engine for fans. Luckily, the entire Internet handles that pretty well."
Mobile Phones: Speaking of Apple, the iPhone is a recent, brilliant iteration of the mobile phone, one that has mashed communication, networking, gaming and commercial functions as seamlessly as the iPod and iTunes merged digital musical consumption and production. Unfortunately, it has also caused more than its share of car crashes, pedestrian accidents, "sexting" scandals and maybe even cancer. Wonderful.
“This meeting is probably the most important meeting in the history of the Department of Transportation,” secretary Ray LaHood explained late last year, after President Obama banned federal employees from texting while driving. "Distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable."
That move was summarily followed up in recent events, where states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and many more banned texting and talking while driving, by not just citizens but also interstate truckers. These laws have escalated atop mounting evidence from the American Automotive Association and others that drivers who text are 20 times more likely to crash than those who don't. Add to that statistics indicating that drivers look at their phones instead of the road for more than four of every six seconds they're texting, and that around 80 percent of crashes are caused by distracted drivers, and you have a recipe for disaster.
To make matters worse, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded its investigation into a deadly California train crash that left 25 dead and 135 injured with a damning finding: Metrolink engineer Robert Sanchez's "egregious" texting was to blame. Taken together with the failure of an already existing Metrolink policy forbidding cell phones in control cabins, the NTSB summarily called for installment of surveillance cameras in all of its trains. Which, in turn, angered the Engineers and Trainmen union, which claimed the cameras wouldn't help and were an invasion of privacy. (More on this techno-blowback below.)
But that's just drivers. Pedestrians are increasingly becoming crash fodder too. In 2008, more than 1,000 distracted walkers massaging their phones entered America's emergency rooms, after variously tripping, falling or walking into everything from poles to cars. That doubled the tally from 2007, which itself doubled the tally from 2006, and so on. And the numbers should be higher.
“It’s the tip of the iceberg,’’ Ohio State professor Jack L. Nasar said in a study, co-authored by graduate student Derek Troyer, on the tragicomic trend. Why? The majority of those afflicted are younger, and most of their mishaps don't end in a hospital visit. Given the trend's performance in the last few years, it's reasonable to expect a runaway rate for future accidents, by foot, car, train or, God help us all, plane. But that's just the benevolent kind of disaster that could happen.