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5 Ways Techno-Gadgetry Is Bringing Out the Worst in Humanity

Everything from handy gadgets like cell phones and iPods to user-friendly weaponry like Tasers have changed the way we work, play and police.

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According to the National Cancer Institute, "Numerous studies have investigated the relationship between cellular telephone use and the risk of developing malignant and benign brain tumors, but results from long-term studies are still limited....However, some, but not all, long-term studies have suggested slightly increased risks for certain types of brain tumors."

Its cautious language is warranted, given that there have been no direct links established between mobile phone usage and cancer. But that didn't stop the World Health Organization from promising to end its decade-long, much-anticipated Interphone investigation with a warning that there is a "significantly increased risk” of some brain tumors for mobile phones users who have held gadgets sending out heavy doses of radiofrequency waves directly into their heads for 10 years or more. It's far from a sure thing, but it's closer to scary than it is to conspiracy, especially since mobile phones have been in heavy commercial use since the '80s. Let's hope that early adopters of this technology still have time to save their possibly irradiated brains.

CT Scans: While we're on radiation, here's another ironic revelation perfectly built for techno-blowback: Computer tomography (CT) scans could possibly give you cancer while looking for it.

According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine by University of California-San Francisco professor and radiologist Rebecca-Smith Bindman, patients undergoing a single CT scan might be absorbing the equivalent of 74 mammograms or 442 chest X-rays. They also may be contributing to nearly 30,000 new cancers and over 10,000 casualties per year. The scary part is that the numbers could rise as CT scans are increasingly, and perhaps unnecessarily, prescribed. Over 72 million were performed in 2007.

"Our prior research has demonstrated the dramatic increased in CT utilization, which has gone up around 10 percent per year," Smith-Bindman told "AlterNet. "There is little data available about how many are necessary and how many may be unnecessary, although there is widespread belief that at least 20 percent of CTs may be unnecessary. But it's an area that clearly needs more research."

A continuing issue, Smith-Bindman said, is that CT scans are often repeated at short interval. Or performed when it's unlikely to lead to a change in behavior or practice. And sure, her study hasn't uncovered totally unknown territory: CT scans emit radiation, just like phones, laptops and other helpful gadgets. But as science continues to quantify its helpful gadgetry, especially its life-saving machines, it is often finding that it had been previously hypnotized by miraculous possibility while underplaying obvious dangers. And the user-friendliness of such devices certainly hasn't helped. Sometimes, it has done the opposite: Technology likes CT scans could be overused precisely because they are so easy to use.

"In part, this is this case," Smith-Bindman agreed. "The speed, simplicity and economic profitability have also almost certainly driven its increased utilization. But the images are also exquisitely detailed. and lead to better and faster diagnoses, so it's not so simple."

Of course it isn't. But just because it's complicated, doesn't mean it's safe. As further studies are undertaken, who knows? If it's statistically possible that we may find enough data to show that we are creating as much cancer as we are preventing, well...that's the kind of tightrope you can hang yourself with.

Traffic Surveillance Technology: From the office to the freeways to the streetlights and beyond, surveillance of most any kind has led to less freedom, not more. And it hasn't really seemed to significantly reduce crime or prevent accidents. According to studies conducted in Oregon and Virginia, red-light cameras increased collisions rather than decreasing them, in some cases by 100 percent. Sure, fewer motorists ran red lights, but more of them crashed right into each other. Worse, whatever additional revenue the trend generated was sliced up by refunds to deeply offended parties entrapped by lame schemes like sped-up yellow lights, which encourage motorists to step on it or slam on the brakes. Instant accidents.

 
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