Projection bias. Or: Them newfangled devices are ruinin’ our children!
Feb 23rd, 2013 by scaredpoet



So, over the past couple of years, I’ve frequently run across people who insist that those newfangled iPhones and Android phones are just ruining newer generations of people… mainly iPhones, for some reason. There’s plenty of articles out there talking about “iPhone addiction” and even a pseudoscientific study from Stanford where subjects are pretty much encouraged to self-identify as addicts, reporting that they feel the devices are “like extensions of their brain or body.”

The most interesting trend was how quickly the iPhone became an indispensable part of the students’ lifestyles, and how many of them openly acknowledged they would be lost without it.

Nearly 85 percent of the iPhone owners used the phone as their watch, and 89 percent used it as their alarm clock. In fact, 75 percent admitted to falling asleep with the iPhone in bed with them, and 69 percent said they were more likely to forget their wallet than their iPhone when leaving in the morning.

Many students readily acknowledge how much they rely on their iPhones. When asked to rank their dependence on the iPhone on a scale of one to five — five being addicted and one being not at all addicted – 10 percent of the students acknowledged full addiction to the device, 34 percent ranked themselves as a four on the scale, and only 6 percent said they weren’t addicted at all.

There’s just one problem with all of this: The behaviors described aren’t defining characteristics of addiction.

Let’s consider for a moment what addiction really is. The iPhone isn’t a substance, like heroin or alcohol, so comparing to substance addition isn’t quite appropriate. But addiction in general is the “continued use of a substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences.” And if we consider behavioral addiction – since using a smartphone is a behavior – we find that one must “repeatedly engage in an action until said action causes serious negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social, and/or financial well-being.”

Taking this into account, let’s rationally ask ourselves the question: what exactly is detrimental, negative, or harmful about:

  1. Using a smartphone as an alarm clock or watch?

  2. Accidentally falling asleep with a smartphone in your bed?

  3. Using a smartphone to tweet, or surf the web, or go on Facebook?

Granted, there can be too much of the above activities: plugging in your headphones all the time and ignoring a significant other, or refusing to interact with real people around you because you’re constantly playing Fruit Ninja. But the mere use of these devices, or using them to replace other, older generation devices (like standalone alarm clocks or old fashioned daytimers) does not qualify as smartphone addiction. Arguably, our society has an even greater dependence on things like electricity, or the internal combustion engine, or internet access, or refrigerators. Yet, while these were once new things in the lives of ordinary people that fundamentally changed how they behaved, few people seem so willing to wean society of its “addiction” to this things.

The problem is, people have been saying this about every new technology that’s come out there. The telephone prevents personal interactions because you don’t have to visit people to talk to them anymore, or take the time to write them letters if they’re far away. TV prevents personal interactions because of the possibility that someone can stare at a screen all day. E-mail prevents personal interactions because nobody uses the phone anymore. Text messaging prevents personal interaction because no one writes long e-mails anymore.The problem is, none of it is true. The technology doesn’t prevent personal interaction… it’s that some people use the technology to avoid personal interactions and socializing. Take away facebook, the iPhone and their computer, and these people would be watching TV all day. Take that away and they’d read a book or something.

The Hipster PDA. Because tech is SO mainstream.

All of the previous technologies made things happen in ways that they “never used to.” Every technological change permits people to do something they never used to do before, and then there would be people preaching woe about how that change is bad because you people no longer do things in more traditional ways. Ultimately, that tends up being their only argument… that they want things done “the way it used to be.”

Then there seems to be this fetishism about Apple, specifically. iPhones are addicting. You shouldn’t use your iDevices so much. When as any Android user will gleefully gloat, Apple allegedly is NOT what most kids these days are using.

So why aren’t people railing against Android? And remember when Crackberry was a thing?

Don’t get me wrong: I agree there’s a problem. I just happen to think the problem is actually twofold:

1. People who don’t truly understand the applications of new technology, and rather than trying to understand how to use or apply it, they instead prefer to complain about how it’s “destroying” society, and

2. People who have addictive personalities, get addicted to certain things like their gadgets, and then prefer to blame the gadget rather than make the effort to improve themselves… completely ignoring the fact that there are plenty of other individuals who can still use their gadgets in moderation and still function quite well in society.

Both are part of a well known phenomenon in psychology known as projection bias, and it is something that has been observed well before facebook or iPhones existed.

Call me unpatriotic. I dare you.
Sep 11th, 2011 by scaredpoet


Yesterday morning, I saw something I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years.  It was a military convoy; a column of drab olive green army vehicles , the type you’d think are commonplace in areas like Iraq, or Afghanistan.  Only it wasn’t.  This convoy was on the New Jersey Turnpike, which granted has a few military installations off a couple of the exits, but the timing and size of the particular movement was interesting to say the least.

That isn’t the only thing going on though.  With the 10 anniversary of the September 11 attacks upon us, and while people are going all out to “remember and reflect,” the public and the government are busy working themselves up into a tizzy, with news outlets chattering away about a “credible but unconfirmed” threat of a new attack occurring today.

Nevermind that “credible” and “unconfirmed” seem to be completely contradictory.  For the past 10 years, we’ve been living in contradictory times.

For the past 10 years, we’ve accepted a paradox in which we find it acceptable to “protect” our way of life by blindly sacrificing the constitutional rights that are central to that way of life.  Somewhere along the line, the attacks were used as an excuse to make safety and privacy mutually exclusive constructs.

We perpetuate a farce in which some of us harrumph around that religion is being marginalized.  But in saying “religion,” what’s really meant is “White conservative protestants.”  When certain other religions are mentioned, well, it’s okay to marginalize those savages. And don’t dare try to justify the positions of atheists, secularists and agnostics.  ”Religious freedom” for the last 10 years has been predicated on having very little freedom of religion, at all.

And most of all, patriotism has been distorted.  It’s no longer having pride in our country, but in harboring anger and a desire for revenge, and encapsulating it in hyper-populist propaganda and images.  You’re not a patriot unless you lace your speech with hate for “the terrorists.”

Most importantly, there’s something even more insidious.  It’s not that terror threat levels, being groped in airports by government employees, and a sharper, harsher ultra-demagoguous political rhetoric has permeated our discourse.  What irks me the most is that people are no longer viewed as patriotic if they choose not to “remember” 9-11 in an “acceptable” way.  And by “acceptable” I mean: staring at replayed images and videos, reliving the moments over and over.  Continuing to be victims.  Choosing to remain stuck in the past.  Refusing to heal. And punctuating the decor of websites, blog posts and even storefronts and walls with meaningless tug-at-your-heartstrings artwork like this little gem…

I can respect the pain of families of victims of the 9-11 attacks.  But I must also point out a view that, while unpopular and possibly even deemed “unpatriotic,” is very simply a basic tenet of psychological therapy: dwelling in the past is unhealthy.  Remembering isn’t a good thing, if you refuse to move on.  I honestly think that all the discourse, all the malaise, all the economic problems and the political strife in our country today is based on a refusal to move past this… to continue to wave 9-11 in everyone’s faces, over and over.

We must move on.  We must stop being afraid.  We must decide, collectively, to resume living our life instead of endlessly grieving.  We must reclaim our rights again, and re-learn to accept a basic tenet that we used to live by, but have chosen since late 2001 to ignore: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

As long as we continue to have memorial services to mourn the dead and reflect on what the terrorists did to “us,” we should also hold equally solemn memorial services for the additional, even more serious injuries we’ve inflicted upon ourselves.

Until that happens, we simply will not heal.  The way to beat terrorism isn’t by living in fear, and by systematically dismantling our freedoms and converting our way of life into a police state.  The way to beat terrorism is by refusing to be terrorized.

What saddens me is there appear to be those who don’t want to heal.  And to me, that is the most unpatriotic thing to do of all.

Sunday Morning Quarterbacking on the “Rapture”
May 22nd, 2011 by scaredpoet

Update: Harold Camping says he will appear tonight on Family Radio’s “Open Forum” to explain himself, typically scheduled weeknights at 8:30 PM eastern time.  This will prove interesting… perhaps he’ll set a new date?  Perhaps he’ll actually admit he was wrong?  We’ll see.

Update 2: Camping has spoken!  Now he says he was actually right all along about the date, but the rapture was “spiritual” in nature, not a literal one.  Also: October 21 is still the actual end of the world, and the earthquakes and destruction WILL happen then!  Whoops, silly mistake right?

Full coverage on Huffington Posts’ Live Blog of the event.

What’s that pertinent bible quote for this type of thing?  Oh yes…

Proverbs 26:11 – As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.


“Predicting the end of the world is a bit like alcoholism.Once you get started, it’s hard to stop.”
- David Richardson, Average Dude who works in a lab


If you happened to believe Family Radio founder Harold Camping, yesterday was supposed to be the Beginning of the End.  However, it would appear, at least to most mortals anyway, that nothing of note actually happened.

Near as we can tell, the Righteous among us haven’t suddenly disappeared. There were no outsize rolling earthquakes, at least not beyond the standard number of seismic events that the USGS tracks every single day.  In fact, it seems like just another day.  Even Family Radio’s radio and TV stations continued broadcasting, though conspicuously, all mention of the Rapture had been removed by about midday Saturday.  Their website alternated between showing a “Doomsday Countdown” at 0 days remaining, and not being accessible at all, likely due to heavy traffic. (Update: As of Monday, May 23, the website has reverted to what appears to be a really old pre-rapture-announcing layout. I’m using screenshots and avoiding links to the website because frankly, I don’t think they deserve the traffic.)

According to Camping relatives, who spoke to him late on May 21, he was “a little bewildered,” but still holding on to the prediction as the day hadn’t flipped to May 22 yet around the world.

And so, it looks like the stage has been set up for anther Great Disappointment. Some of his believers, having seen nothing happen, have returned from their campaigns to get the message out, already disappointed and crestfallen, to find the Family Radio headquarters locked up tight and with no one home. It’s hard to estimate how many people followed Camping’s predictions, but they are likely coming to the realization that their false prophet was wrong. Again.  Some of them have believed in it so much that their post-”apocalypse” lives are going to be very difficult. Life savings have been spent. (Update: the guy who spent his life savings responds to the non-event here.)  Credit cards maxed out. Believing parents have squandered the college funds of their more level-headed children.  No doubt, lives have been drastically altered, possibly even ruined because so many people chose to beleive the teachings of a single man who claimed to know it all.

Harold Camping, apparent false prophet

There are varying opinions and observations on Harold Camping. Some report on the kindly old man with no pretense and a deep conviction.  Others who “grew up” with him report on his self-teaching and constant misinterpretations of religious text, his megalomania, his ego, his indignation from being kicked out of the church and the possible goal of trying to destroy churches all over with his teachings in an attempt at vengeance.

There’s also the monetary aspect.  Despite the conviction that the end of the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that none of our lives, property or money will matter, Family Radio is still raking in the cash and making tax and finance-related moves as if the world is going to continue right on past the End Times.

And then, there is Camping’s staff.

Here’s the question that really bugs me: how can you work for a doomsday soothsayer you don’t believe?  Apparently, quite a few members of Family Radio’s staff don’t believe in the May 21 prediction.  Yet, as mentioned in this and many other articles, these people, despite openly non-beleiving, still showed up to work… still manned the cameras and microphones, still collected a paycheck, and still enabled Camping to spread his doomsday prophecy to the very end.

“I don’t believe in any of this stuff that’s going on, and I plan on being here next week,” a receptionist at their Oakland headquarters told CNNMoney.

A program producer in Illinois told us, “We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing.”

How do people like this sleep at night?  This prediction of Camping’s has been shrugged at, dismissed and scoffed by many, but still others are waking up to a rude realization today: they “ended” their lives on Friday, quit their jobs, ruined their finances and burned bridges with “nonbeliever” friends and relatives.  And here are these skeptical employees and “followers” who did more than just stand by and watch… they actively enabled it to happen!

It is these people who relate another point of view: Harold Camping’s apparently miserable existence…

Of his six living children, only one believes his message. “The grandkids aren’t around that much,” [Family Radio Producer Matt] Tuter said. “I think Harold has a very sad life. I’ve been around him every day for 23 years. I do not envy his life.”

Tuter is bracing himself for the reaction among Family Radio listeners when next week materializes. “I think it’s going to absolutely devastate a lot of these people,” Tuter said. “You have people who have given up their jobs, sold their homes, maxed out their credit cards.”

Quite frankly, I don’t envy Matt Tuter’s life, now that he likely has to answer for contributing to this massive lie.

But what will become of the Big Liar himself?  What will Camping say after having proclaimed over and over, with no apologies, that “this IS going to happen,” and “The Bible guarantees it?”  He could come back on the air Monday, and come up with some excuse… a miscalculation in his math and a new date, perhaps, or maybe he’ll say God showed his mercy upon all of us at the last minute.  He could do the honorable thing and admit he was wrong and apologize.  Or, he could slink away and disappear forever.  A few days ago, he did send out a farewell letter to his staff advising them to carry on their good work as he departed.  And immediately, bloggers and news sources all over began to dissect it for hidden meaning.  Could it mean that he won’t come back even if the Rapture didn’t come?  Could it be a suicide note? Only Camping himself knows for sure.

In fact, only Camping knows a lot of things.  Like, did he truly believe his own prediction?  Did he mean well, or was there a motive behind what he did?  And simplest of all… why?

These are questions that we may get answered in time.  Or, we may never know them at all.  Harold Camping is getting close to 90 years old.  Not quite as limber as when he predicted the end in 1994... and all those other times that he doesn’t talk about.  He might not have the strength or the will to get back on his feet and carry on.

Perhaps he hoped the end would really come… if not by Rapture, then by his own days on earth coming to an end before the Big Day.  At least in such a case, he wouldn’t been around to have to face his followers.

It’s true that some people just can’t take their eyes off a good trainwreck.  And so, I would speculate that this has probably been the most well-covered, well-publicized and well-known doomsday prediction ever made.  The internet, social networking, and even Campings own efforts through his billboards, radio stations, television stations, and by his sending out caravans of believers to get people all riled up, have made certain of this.  And so, the effects will likely be more profound than any other failed doomsday prediction… both for his followers, and possibly for Camping and his modest media empire.

No doubt, in the Post Rapture parties and other gatherings of atheists and skeptics circles, this non-event will be another feather in their caps… another reason to point to in arguments for why religion is just a big myth.  The religious camps will likely posture, point to Family Radio as being controlled by a cult leader, and that this is the time to come back to the church and engage in real worship, where “no man knows the day nor the hour” of Christ’s return.

The disillusioned among Camping’s camp (pun intended) will have to figure out what to do next with their lives.  Some may go to the churches Camping railed against… or they may turn away from faith altogether and become skeptics, atheists and agnostics… some, I fear, may be faced with such grief that they may bring about an end to their lives all by themselves.  Again, only time will tell.

Truly, the Lord – or whatever you believe in –  works in mysterious ways.


“I want to sneak out,” Camping said. “They’ll say, ‘Where is he? He disappeared in thin air.’”
- Harold Camping as quoted by the LA Times, after his last “Open Forum” broadcast

How to fight a revolution badly (and lose nearly all control of your regime)
Feb 23rd, 2011 by scaredpoet

Hey, when did Bob Dylan take over Libya?!

Dear Despots, Dictators, Autocrats, and other overlord-style rulers of the world,

It appears that we live in interesting times.  In case you’ve been living under a rock (or an underground bunker or heavily-armored government compound) and haven’t heard the news recently, there’s a lot of social unrest going on in certain parts of the world.  Some of your friends have even been toppled from power, or are very close to being so.  Although you may think it impossible, you could be next!

Interestingly, all of your brethren so far, having had to face a comeuppance from the citizens that they formerly regarded as trash and cannon fodder, all seemed to follow a very specific and identical game plan for clinging desperately to power.

So far this action plan has failed miserably in pretty much all cases, but that’s beside the point! Clearly, you despots have some sort of Dictator’s Bible or something that you follow religiously.

What’s that, you say?  In your desperation to batten down the hatches and prepare for the revolution, you left your copy in your other safe house?  Well fear not!  For your pals at are going to document the steps to (un-)successful counterinsurgency, so that you too can doggedly follow a uniform procedure that will hasten your hopefully-swift demise!

Step 1: Pull the plug on communications networks


Let’s face it.  Your enemies looooove to express their thoughts.  Whenever they find some dirt to dish, they’ll be sure to blog, or tweet, or facebook their anger, clearly thumbing their nose at your byzantine speech-stifling policies.  Who knew that a silly website created by a smarmy American with Asperger’s syndrome would be the catalyst to foment your political downfall by your own subjects?

While it was clearly a mistake to dismiss social media as a passing fad instead of squelching it from the start, you can still do something about it.  Being the awesome autocrat you are, it should be fairly easy for you to just pull the plug on your backward country’s already-slow internet connection.  While you’re at it, take an axe to the telephone networks too, especially cell phones.

Nothing pisses off an angry mob more than taking away their favorite chit-chat sites.  You know the ones that, although used to organize your overthrow now, probably also served to keep the revolution in check for a while by giving the public an outlet to vent their frustrations.  Now, without quick access to their prized twitter hashtags, you’ll quickly turn a relatively organized group of peaceful activists with formal demands into an angry, rebellious mob of malcontents who won’t stop until you’re dead or gone.


Step 2: Blame it on the Foreigners

So, after removing your peoples’ connection to the rest of the world, you find that they still manage to muster up the initiative to hold pesky rallies, and protests, and just plain being nasty ne’er-do-wells in the middle of your monumental squares and such.  Damn!

Not to worry.  Your next step is to begin using traditional media – which you obviously control –  to rouse up your supporters.  Yeah, all five of them.  The message that’s currently in vogue is that this whole revolution business is the crazy idea of a bunch of foreigners influencing the young and naive.  Surely, after you’ve cut off their access, those foreign people have a found a way to instill hateful, murderous thoughts of silly, lofty things like, you know, freedom and democracy and peace, and all that fluffy stuff.  Disgusting, right?!

I mean, you can even say the protestors out there don’t even look like they’re from your country, at all…

Such childish whimsy must be stopped, and the fictitious foreign agents who are feeding your people this trash eliminated.  Making rambling speeches about this is the way to go!   This will also make sure that any actual foreigners who were dumb enough to be on your police-state country do end up fleeing, taking with them any economic investment possibilities.

If the foreigner angle doesn’t quite work out, you can also mix in allegations that the rabble-rousers are just a bunch of youths.  You can even accuse them of being on hallucinogenic drugs.

The whole foreign angle is particularly important, to defray any attention that people might bring to your next step…

Step 3: Hire a bunch of foreign mercenaries.

So, everyone in your cabinet has decided you’re crazy.  You can’t trust your military to back you up because they’ve been drummed with that hogwash about “protecting the citizens,” and the special police forces and battalions that you thought were loyal to you balk when you order them to shoot at and bomb unarmed civilians. Cowards!

What’s worse, even your ambassdors in other countries won’t represent you.  So, now what do you do?  Simple!  Do what American business have been doing for almost two decades now: outsource!  Just farm out the nasty deeds to cheap, desperate, ruthless foreign mercenaries.  Problem solved!

Think about it: there’s plenty of washed-up soldiers from lawless African countries who have seen enough death and destruction in their lifetimes that mowing down a few hundred more innocent civilians isn’t going to be any sweat off their back.  All they’ll care about is getting their paycheck and a steady supply of weapons and ammo.  It’s a win-win!


Step 4: Deny, Deny, Deny!

“There is no revolution here!  None!”

So, after blindly following the above steps, it’s come down to this.  Your hold on power is tenuous at best.  The international community has seen what you’ve done to your people and have condemned you.  It’s only a matter of time before the end of your regime will come… or has it already?

When all else fails, you can keep everyone confused and guessing by merely denying reality.  Make up your own rendition of the facts.  Deny that anything is wrong. Insist that your grip on power is solid.  And keep telling yourself these things, even if you must repeat them over and over… you need to convince yourself that it’s true, at least as much as you need to try and convince everyone else.

It might also help if you have a pattern of eccentricity established beforehand… like insisting your autocratic regime is a perfect democracy already.

And there you have it.  By stiffly following a few simple steps, you too can see your power base crumble before your eyes at the speed of a tweet.  Remember: giving in to your citizens demands is for weaklings!  Only the truly stupid and heartless have the most spectular, cable-news-ratings-garnering falls from power.  Make it a good show!


...and, to all of those people out there who are fighting for freedom, democracy, and quality of life: seriously, keep doing what you’re doing!  Your life is what you make of it, and true democracies are never handed to the people… they fight for it. I applaud all activists of freedom, because we need to continue to fight for it, both abroad and closer to home.

The NAB: Old technology, lousy content, national security?
Aug 29th, 2010 by scaredpoet

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is a lobbying group that caters to something that hasn’t been relevant in many people’s lives for years: terrestrial, FM radio. And there’s a really good reason why FM radio hasn’t been relevant to lots of people for a good long time: FM radio sucks.

The NAB is of course aware that people aren’t listening much to FM radio these days, and they want to do something about it.  Of course, a common sense thing would be to improve the content that FM radio stations provide: like, say, good music from artists people actually want to listen to.  But common sense doesn’t seem to be something that the NAB has a lot of.  So instead, they’d rather do something else: force phone manufacturers to embed FM receivers in all cell phones and mobile devices, in the hopes that people will be compelled to listen to their crappy content. To do this, they’ve gone to Congress:

...mid-way in the article was something which really caught my attention. Part of the “deal”—and like all things political, it is a deal—would require that all cell phone handsets must have an FM-radio function built in. Wait a second, I thought . . . whether implemented as a separate IC, or added to an existing RF/mixed-signal chipset, it will add cost, power consumption, antenna-design issues, and more to the handset design. And all for what purpose, exactly? To force people to listen the FM band? Yeah, right, that will do it, absolutely.

One of the arguments behind this mandate is the tried-and-true, instill-fear argument that every desperate party turns to: national security and public safety.  The argument goes that people will need to turn to FM radios in the event of a serious crisis or national emergency.  Makes sense, right?

But the public safety argument is merely a red herring.  This isn’t about public safety in the least. The NAB is trying to legislate the foisting of old technology on electronics vendors in the vain hope that it will compel people to listen to FM stations, without their constituency having to make any effort to draw listeners back to them.

But even if those folks at the NAB really were compassionate, well-meaning souls who just want to make sure everyone stays safe and informed, where should this type of nanny-state legislation stop? How about we pass laws that require every US resident to subscribe to a minimum level of cable TV service, since over-the-air or satellite TV might be subject to weather conditions or transmitter failures due to terrorists attacks, and new video technologies like FiOS and UVerse are simply too new? How about we also mandate that every household subscribe to copper POTS wireline phone service (again, Fiber is “too new” and untested) and connect rotary corded phones to that service?

What those fine, well-meaning (I’m sure) folks at the NAB don’t understand is, people like me aren’t listening to FM not because we don’t have FM radios, but because the stations we can receive on those radios provide us with no reason to listen. Perhaps if they innovated, and provided compelling programming, and didn’t play the same 6 songs over and over between 20+ minutes of a commercials per hour, their audience numbers would grow.

What’s worse, most of these FM radio stations no longer have news departments of their own, having sacrificed them as cost-saving measures, in the (quite ironic) belief that people won’t want to listen to the news all the time. As such, most FM stations are not equipped to provide news and information on their own in a serious crisis or emergency. In fact, during past crises, since September 11 on, many have tended to cut over to the audio of CNN or similar news feeds. So… what’s the point? A potential listener like me could just go to CNN to get the video that goes with the audio.

There are of course, pure news stations on terrestrial radio, but the majority of them are on the AM band, and so, such stations would still not be accessible to mobile phone users with their required-by-law FM receivers.  So much for that.

There are entities like satellite radio, online broadcasting stations and online music stores that don’t mandate by law that everyone be forced to own equipment capable of receiving their content, and yet they do just fine. The NAB could learn from their example.

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