SpaceShipOne Now 2 for 2
SpaceShipOne made its first landmark flight back in July. The next flight is scheduled for next Monday, Oct. 4.
In other words, Paris Hilton is a meme, a concept. She's never done anything of note, never contributed to society in any real way. Yet the idea of her -- being young, sexy and unaccountable -- is very powerful. In fact, her unwitting appearance in a sex video -- something that would be personally devastating to most people -- only enhanced her celebrity.
"People eat this up. Watching rich people [on TV]...[people] think that this is something that they can aspire to. But the people they aspire to be have never done a day's work in their lives. Americans are working more hours with fewer vacation days. And here's Paris, whose life is about preparing to go to that night's party. That's her job.
"It's an escape from people's normal, humdrum living-from-hand-to-mouth existence... It's a form of escapism to see people with no financial worries." (Quote from the Philadelphia Daily News)
"Many young people addicted to cell-phone communications buy few books or even comics. They waste hours each day in text-message communications and Internet games with little time left over for other forms of enjoyment. The cell phone is the cause of the business slowdown as well as the erosion in young people's intelligence and scholastic abilities."
Nearly half a world away, the British have their own technology critics. The Techdirt blog cites studies from a children's charity called NCH alleging that the Internet is to blame for child pornography and a rise in underage gambling. Although there is, sadly, truth in this, saying the Internet or other technology is the sole cause is overly simplistic. The role of the Net in child pornography is well understood... especially by law enforcement, which has made great strides recently in busting online pedophile rings.
As we've discussed, people blame technology for complex problems because it's easy to do. The Romans had a phrase for it 2,000 years ago: Damnant quod non intellegunt (They condemn what they do not understand). When people feel they do not understand how something works, they're automatically suspicious of it, maybe even afraid of it, and they are easily swayed by arguments against it. Plus, technology in Western culture enjoys a high profile: lots of people know about high tech, even if they remain ignorant about it. The truth is that, unless we all decide to become Amish, technology is inevitable. Like the weather, technological changes comeon their own schedule, so we need to prepare for them, learn about them in a rational way, and make the most of them.
I am sure that the issues in Japan's youth culture run much deeper than mobile phone usage. And as for child porn and underage gambling, these were around long before cyberspace. One of the most important roles a futurist can fill is to understand problems and unintended consequences of technological and social change. The issues these writers cite are indeed real. But these writers also illustrate the fine line between responsible caution and hysteria. Simply blaming the Net and mobile phones is not the solution, and does us all a disservice.