New Research on web addiction

Portion of Article By Tony Dokoupil

Before he launched the most viral video in Internet history, Jason Russell was a half-hearted Web presence. His YouTube account was dead, and his Facebook and Twitter pages were a trickle of kid pictures and home-garden updates. The Web wasn’t made “to keep track of how much people like us,” he thought, and when his own tech habits made him feel like “a genius, an addict, or a megalomaniac,” he unplugged for days, believing, as the humorist Andy Borowitz put it in a tweet that Russell tagged as a favorite, “it’s important to turn off our computers and do things in the real world.”

But this past March Russell struggled to turn off anything. He forwarded a link to “Kony 2012,” his deeply personal Web documentary about the African warlord Joseph Kony. The idea was to use social media to make Kony famous as the first step to stopping his crimes. And it seemed to work: the film hurtled through cyberspace, clocking more than 70 million views in less than a week. But something happened to Russell in the process. The same digital tools that supported his mission seemed to tear at his psyche, exposing him to nonstop kudos and criticisms, and ending his arm’s-length relationship with new media. He slept two hours in the first four days, producing a swirl of bizarre Twitter updates. He sent a link to “I Met the Walrus,” a short animated interview with John Lennon, urging followers to “start training your mind.” He sent a picture of his tattoo, TIMSHEL, a biblical word about man’s choice between good and evil. At one point he uploaded and commented on a digital photo of a text message from his mother. At another he compared his life to the mind-bending movie Inception, “a dream inside a dream.”

On the eighth day of his strange, 21st-century vortex, he sent a final tweet—a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”—and walked back into the real world. He took off his clothes and went to the corner of a busy intersection near his home in San Diego, where he repeatedly slapped the concrete with both palms and ranted about the devil. This too became a viral video. Afterward Russell was diagnosed with “reactive psychosis,” a form of temporary insanity. It had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, his wife, Danica, stressed in a blog post, and everything to do with the machine that kept Russell connected even as he was breaking apart. “Though new to us,” Danica continued, “doctors say this is a common experience,” given Russell’s “sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention—both raves and ridicules.” More than four months later, Jason is out of the hospital, his company says, but he is still in recovery. His wife took a “month of silence” on Twitter. Jason’s social-media accounts remain dark.

Sick from the Internet

Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise? Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.

In the summer of 1996, seven young researchers at MIT blurred the lines between man and computer, living simultaneously in the physical and virtual worlds. They carried keyboards in their pockets, radio-transmitters in their backpacks, and a clip-on screen in front of their eyes. They called themselves “cyborgs”—and they were freaks. But as Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at MIT, points out, “we are all cyborgs now.” This life of continuous connection has come to seem normal, but that’s not the same as saying that it’s healthy or sustainable, as technology—to paraphrase the old line about alcohol—becomes the cause of and solution to of all life’s problems.

In less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices. When President Obama last ran for office, the iPhone had yet to be launched. Now smartphones outnumber the old models in America, and more than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.

Meanwhile, texting has become like blinking: the average person, regardless of age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, four times the 2007 number. The average teen processes an astounding 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 figure. And more than two thirds of these normal, everyday cyborgs, myself included, report feeling their phone vibrate when in fact nothing is happening. Researchers call it “phantom-vibration syndrome.”

Altogether the digital shifts of the last five years call to mind a horse that has sprinted out from underneath its rider, dragging the person who once held the reins. No one is arguing for some kind of Amish future. But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not “just” another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.

“This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change,” says Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford University who is working on a book about how digital culture is rewiring us—and not for the better. “We could create the most wonderful world for our kids but that’s not going to happen if we’re in denial and people sleepwalk into these technologies and end up glassy-eyed zombies.”

Does the Internet make us crazy? Not the technology itself or the content, no. But a Newsweek review of findings from more than a dozen countries finds the answers pointing in a similar direction. Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, argues that “the computer is like electronic cocaine,” fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches. The Internet “leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,” says Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows, about the Web’s effect on cognition, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It “fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,” adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It “encourages—and even promotes—insanity.” Fear that the Internet and mobile technology contributes to addiction—not to mention the often related ADHD and OCD disorders—has persisted for decades, but for most of that time the naysayers prevailed, often puckishly. “What’s next? Microwave abuse and Chapstick addiction?” wrote a peer reviewer for one of the leading psychiatric journals, rejecting a national study of problematic Internet use in 2006. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has never included a category of machine-human interactions. THINK people, how long did they poo poo cigarettes before everyone finally woke up?

Depression from over-connectedness

But that view is suddenly on the outs. When the new DSM is released next year, Internet Addiction Disorder will be included for the first time, albeit in an appendix tagged for “further study.” China, Taiwan, and Korea recently accepted the diagnosis, and began treating problematic Web use as a grave national health crisis. In those countries, where tens of millions of people (and as much as 30 percent of teens) are considered Internet-addicted, mostly to gaming, virtual reality, and social media, the story is sensational front-page news. One young couple neglected its infant to death while nourishing a virtual baby online. A young man fatally bludgeoned his mother for suggesting he log off (and then used her credit card to rack up more hours). At least 10 ultra-Web users, serviced by one-click noodle delivery, have died of blood clots from sitting too long.

Now the Korean government is funding treatment centers, and coordinating a late-night Web shutdown for young people. China, meanwhile, has launched a mothers’ crusade for safe Web habits, turning to that approach after it emerged that some doctors were using electro-shock and severe beatings to treat Internet-addicted teens.

“There’s just something about the medium that’s addictive,” says Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine, where he directs the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic and Impulse Control Disorders Clinic. “I’ve seen plenty of patients who have no history of addictive behavior—or substance abuse of any kind—become addicted via the Internet and these other technologies.”

His 2006 study of problematic Web habits (the one that was puckishly rejected) was later published, forming the basis for his recent book Virtually You, about the fallout expected from the Web’s irresistible allure. Even among a demographic of middle-aged landline users—the average respondent was in his 40s, white, and making more than $50,000 a year—Aboujaoude found that more than one in eight showed at least one sign of an unhealthy attachment to the Net. More recent surveys that recruit people already online have found American numbers on a par with those in Asia.

Then there was the University of Maryland’s 2010 “Unplugged” experiment that asked 200 undergrads to forgo all Web and mobile technologies for a day and to keep a diary of their feelings. “I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,” reported one student in the study. “Media is my drug,” wrote another. At least two other schools haven’t even been able to get such an experiment off the ground for lack of participants. “Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable, to be without their media links to the world,” the University of Maryland concluded.

That same year two psychiatrists in Taiwan made headlines with the idea of iPhone addiction disorder. They documented two cases from their own practices: one involved a high-school boy who ended up in an asylum after his iPhone usage reached 24 hours a day. The other featured a 31-year-old saleswoman who used her phone while driving. Both cases might have been laughed off if not for a 200-person Stanford study of iPhone habits released at the same time. It found that one in 10 users feels “fully addicted” to his or her phone. All but 6 percent of the sample admitted some level of compulsion, while 3 percent won’t let anyone else touch their phones.

In the two years since, concern over the Web’s pathological stickiness has only intensified. In April, doctors told The Times of India about an anecdotal uptick in “Facebook addiction.”  The latest details of America’s Web obsession are found in Larry Rosen’s new book, iDisorder, which, despite the title, comes with the imprimatur of the world’s largest academic publisher. His team surveyed 750 people, a spread of teens and adults who represented the Southern California census, detailing their tech habits, their feelings about those habits, and their scores on a series of standard tests of psychiatric disorders. He found that most respondents, with the exception of those over the age of 50, check text messages, email or their social network “all the time” or “every 15 minutes.” More worryingly, he also found that those who spent more time online had more “compulsive personality traits.” Perhaps not that surprising: those who want the most time online feel compelled to get it. But in fact these users don’t exactly want to be so connected. It’s not quite free choice that drives most young corporate employees (45 and under) to keep their BlackBerrys in the bedroom within arms’ reach, per a 2011 study; or free choice, per another 2011 study, that makes 80 percent of vacationers bring along laptops or smartphones so they can check in with work while away; or free choice that leads smartphone users to check their phones before bed, in the middle of the night, if they stir, and within minutes of waking up.

We may appear to be choosing to use this technology, but in fact we are being dragged to it by the potential of short-term rewards. Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of Dopamine, for answering the bell. “These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table,” MIT media scholar Judith Donath recently told Scientific American. “Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.” Recently it became possible to watch this kind of Web use rewire the brain. In 2008 Gary Small, the head of UCLA’s Memory and Aging Research Center, was the first to document changes in the brain as a result of even moderate Internet use. He rounded up 24 people, half of them experienced Web users, half of them newbies, and he passed them each through a brain scanner. The difference was striking, with the Web users displaying fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes. But the real surprise was what happened next. The novices went away for a week, and were asked to spend a total of five hours online and then return for another scan. “The naive subjects had already rewired their brains,” he later wrote, musing darkly about what might happen when we spend more time online.

The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found “abnormal white matter”—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to “structural abnormalities in gray matter,” namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time online, the more the brain showed signs of “atrophy.”

While brain scans don’t reveal which came first, the abuse or the brain changes, many clinicians feel their own observations confirmed. “There’s little doubt we’re becoming more impulsive,” says Stanford’s Aboujaoude, and one reason for this is technology use. He points to the rise in OCD and ADHD diagnosis, the latter of which has risen 66 percent in the last decade. “There is a cause and effect.”

And don’t kid yourself: the gap between an “Internet addict” and John Q. Public is thin to nonexistent. One of the early flags for addiction was spending more than 38 hours a week online. By that definition, we are all addicts now, many of us by Wednesday afternoon, Tuesday if it’s a busy week. Current tests for Internet addiction are qualitative, casting an uncomfortably wide net, including people who admit that yes, they are restless, secretive, or preoccupied with the Web and that they have repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to cut back. But if this is unhealthy, it’s clear many Americans don’t want to be well.

The Arizona based treatment center “reCALIBRATE”  believes in a Non Duality approach: This is described as “the doing of undoing” which they call reCALIBRATEing. There is non-reliance on any specific external authority. Truth stands revealed on its own without proclamation or need of aggrandizement. Their  method is highly successful because they realize and admit that “the need for any critical major decision in any person, does not arise until sufficient strength and intention is present to handle it. “It is unwise to force change by artificial means” says JC of the Arizona center. “We help facilitate change by providing the wisdom of effective thought inherent in each person by the means of truth and their own divinity, not by force or medication”. 

Like addiction, the digital connection to depression and anxiety was also once a near laughable assertion. A 1998 Carnegie Mellon study found that Web use over a two-year period was linked to blue moods, loneliness, and the loss of real-world friends. But the subjects all lived in Pittsburgh, critics sneered. Besides, the Net might not bring you chicken soup, but it means the end of solitude, a global village of friends, and friends you haven’t met yet. Sure enough, when Carnegie Mellon checked back in with the denizens of Steel City a few years later, they were happier than ever.

But the black crow is back on the wire. In the past five years, numerous studies have duplicated the original Carnegie Mellon findings and extended them, showing that the more a person hangs out in the global village, the worse they are likely to feel. Web use often displaces sleep, exercise, and face-to-face exchanges, all of which can upset even the chirpiest soul. But the digital impact may last not only for a day or a week, but for years down the line. A recent American study based on data from adolescent Web use in the 1990s found a connection between time online and mood disorders in young adulthood. Chinese researchers have similarly found “a direct effect” between heavy Net use and the development of full-blown depression, while scholars at Case Western Reserve University correlated heavy texting and social-media use with stress, depression, and suicidal thinking. In response to this work, an article in the journal Pediatrics noted the rise of “a new phenomenon called ‘Facebook depression,’?” and explained that “the intensity of the online world may trigger depression.” Doctors, according to the report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, should work digital usage questions into every annual checkup.

Unplug or die

Rosen, the author of iDisorder, points to a preponderance of research showing “a link between Internet use, instant messaging, emailing, chatting, and depression among adolescents,” as well as to the “strong relationships between video gaming and depression.” But the problem seems to be quality as well as quantity: bad interpersonal experiences—so common online—can lead to these potential spirals of despair. For her book Alone Together, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle interviewed more than 450 people, most of them in their teens and 20s, about their lives online. And while she’s the author of two prior tech-positive books, and once graced the cover of Wired magazine, she now reveals a sad, stressed-out world of people coated in Dorito dust and locked in a dystopian relationship with their machines.

People tell her that their phones and laptops are the “place for hope” in their lives, the “place where sweetness comes from.” Children describe mothers and fathers unavailable in profound ways, present and yet not there at all. “Mothers are now breastfeeding and bottle-feeding their babies as they text,” she told the American Psychological Association last summer. “A mother made tense by text messages is going to be experienced as tense by the child. And that child is vulnerable to interpreting that tension as coming from within the relationship with the mother. This is something that needs to be watched very closely.” She added, “Technology can make us forget important things we know about life.”

This evaporation of the genuine self also occurred among the high-school- and college-age kids she interviewed. They were struggling with digital identities at an age when actual identity is in flux. “What I learned in high school,” a kid named Stan told Turkle, “was profiles, profiles, profiles; how to make a me.” It’s a nerve-racking learning curve, a life lived entirely in public with the webcam on, every mistake recorded and shared, mocked until something more mockable comes along. “How long do I have to do this?” another teen sighed, as he prepared to reply to 100 new messages on his phone.

Last year, when MTV polled its 13- to 30-year-old viewers on their Web habits, most felt “defined” by what they put online, “exhausted” by always having to be putting it out there, and utterly unable to look away for fear of missing out. “FOMO,” the network called it. “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,” begins Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, a beatnik rant that opens with people “dragging themselves” at dawn, searching for an “angry fix” of heroin. It’s not hard to imagine the alternative imagery today.

The latest Net-and-depression study may be the saddest one of all. With consent of the subjects, Missouri State University tracked the real-time Web habits of 216 kids, 30 percent of whom showed signs of depression. The results, published last month, found that the depressed kids were the most intense Web users, chewing up more hours of email, chat, videogames, and file sharing. They also opened, closed, and switched browser windows more frequently, searching, one imagines, and not finding what they hoped to find.

They each sound like Doug, a Midwestern college student who maintained four avatars, keeping each virtual world open on his computer, along with his school work, email, and favorite videogames. He told Turkle that his real life is “just another window”—and “usually not my best one.” Where is this headed? she wonders. That’s the scariest line of inquiry of all.

Recently, scholars have begun to suggest that our digitized world may support even more extreme forms of mental illness. At Stanford, Dr. Aboujaoude is studying whether some digital selves should be counted as a legitimate, pathological “alter of sorts,” like the alter egos documented in cases of multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder in the DSM). To test his idea, he gave one of his patients, Richard, a mild-mannered human-resources executive with a ruthless Web poker habit, the official test for multiple personality disorder. The result was startling. He scored as high as patient zero. “I might as well have been … administering the questionnaire to Sybil Dorsett!” Aboujaoude writes.

The Gold brothers—Joel, a psychiatrist at New York University, and Ian, a philosopher and psychiatrist at McGill University—are investigating technology’s potential to sever people’s ties with reality, fueling hallucinations, delusions, and genuine psychosis, much as it seemed to do in the case of Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind “Kony 2012.” The idea is that online life is akin to life in the biggest city, stitched and sutured together by cables and modems, but no less mentally real—and taxing—than New York or Hong Kong. “The data clearly support the view that someone who lives in a big city is at higher risk of psychosis than someone in a small town,” Ian Gold writes via email. “If the Internet is a kind of imaginary city,” he continues. “It might have some of the same psychological impact.”

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University is following a similar path. Late last year, they published what they believe are the first documented cases of “Internet-related psychosis.” The qualities of online communication are capable of generating “true psychotic phenomena,” the authors conclude, before putting the medical community on warning. “The spiraling use of the Internet and its potential involvement in psychopathology are new consequences of our times.”

So what do we do about it? Some would say nothing, since even the best research is tangled in the timeless conundrum of what comes first. Does the medium break normal people with its unrelenting presence, endless distractions, and threat of public ridicule for missteps? Or does it attract broken souls?

But in a way, it doesn’t matter whether our digital intensity is causing mental illness, or simply encouraging it along, as long as people are suffering. Overwhelmed by the velocity of their lives, we turn to prescription drugs, which helps explain why America runs on Xanax (and why rehab admissions for benzodiazepines, the ingredient in Xanax and other anti-anxiety drugs, have tripled since the late 1990s). We also spring for the false rescue of multitasking, which saps attention even when the computer is off. And all of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with Internet Obsession, stress from over-connectedness or social media, share the reCALIBRATE link with them so they can get more information about treatment.

Ocean Phytoplankton Drops 40 Percent Since 1950

The microscopic plants that form the foundation of the ocean’s food are declining. The tiny organisms, known asphytoplankton, work hard to gobble up carbon dioxide to produce half the world’s oxygen output—equaling that of trees and plants on land. But their numbers have dwindled since the dawn of the 20th century, with severe consequences for ocean ecosystems and the planet’s carbon cycle. Researchers at Canada’s Dalhousie University say the global population of phytoplankton has fallen about 40 percent since 1950. That translates to an annual drop of about 1 percent of the average plankton population between 1899 and 2008 and the greatest loss in in the last 5 years. Just as the heating of the poles is accelerating, so will the loss of some microbes. Warmer temps may mean more of other kinds of microbes, but the key concern is how that relates to C02 and Methane. C02 and Methane are the greatest concerns to planet Earth. The scientists believe that rising sea surface temperatures are to blame. “It’s very disturbing to think about the potential implications of a century-long decline of the base of the food chain,” said lead author Daniel Boyce, a marine ecologist. They include disruption to the marine food web and effects on the world’s carbon cycle. In addition to consuming CO2, phytoplankton can influence how much heat is absorbed by the world’s oceans, and some species emit sulfate molecules that promote cloud formation.

C02, methane and sea bugs

C02, methane and sea bugs

“In some respect, these findings are the beginning of the story, not the end,” Boyce said. “The first question is what will happen in the future. We looked at these trends over the past century but don’t know what will happen 10 years down the road.” The study “makes a sorely needed contribution to our knowledge of historical changes in the ocean biosphere,” said David Siegel of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Bryan Franz of NASA in an essay, also published in Nature. “Their identification of a connection between long-term global declines in phytoplankton biomass and increasing ocean temperatures does not portend well for [ocean] ecosystems in a world that is likely to be warmer,” they wrote. “Phytoplankton productivity is the base of the food web, and all life in the sea depends on it.” Boyce said he and his co-authors began their study in an attempt to get a clearer picture of how phytoplankton were faring, given that earlier studies that relied on satellite measurements produced conflicting results.

The scientists dug back into the historical record, well past 1997, the year continuous satellite measurements began. They examined a half-million data points collected using a tool called a Secchi disk, as well as measurements of chlorophyll—a pigment produced by the plankton. The Secchi disk was developed in the 19th century by a Jesuit astronomer, Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, when the Papal navy asked him to map the transparency of the Mediterranean Sea. What Secchi produced was a dinner plate-sized white disk that is lowered into ocean water until it cannot be seen anymore. The depth it reaches before disappearing gives a measure of water clarity. That can be used as a proxy for phytoplankton population in a given area, since the tiny organisms live close to the ocean’s surface, where they are exposed to sunlight they use to produce energy. Data gathered with a Secchi disk are roughly as accurate as observations collected by satellites, Boyce said, although satellites have greater global reach. The researchers found the most notable phytoplankton declines in waters near the poles and in the tropics, as well as the open ocean. They believe that rising sea temperatures are driving the decline. As surface water warms, it tends to form a distinct layer that does not mix well with cooler, nutrient-rich water below, depriving phytoplankton of some of the materials they need to turn CO2 and sunlight into energy.

Death of the Ocean

Death of the Ocean

This may also have a lot to do with the China Algea Sea. The largest algal bloom ever recorded in China has turned the Yellow Sea green and may be related to pollution from agriculture and industry. Officials in the city of Qingdao had used bulldozers to remove 7,335 tonnes of the growth from beaches according to the Xinhua news agency. The phenomenon has become an annual occurrence in the region over the past six summers. This year’s incident has swathed 28,900 sq km (11,158 sq miles), twice as much as the previous biggest bloom in 2008. The algae, called Enteromorpha prolifera, is not toxic to humans or animals. However the carpet on the surface can dramatically change the ecology of the environment beneath it. It blocks sunlight from entering the ocean and sucks oxygen from the water suffocating marine life. The algae thrives on an abundance of nutrients in the sea. University of Cambridge and EnAlgae Project researcher Dr Brenda Parker said that the Chinese bloom may well be linked to industrial pollution. “Algal blooms often follow a massive discharge of phosphates or nitrates into the water. Whether it’s farming, untreated sewage or some kind of industrial plant that is discharging waste into the water,” she said. The recent explosion of the algae pointed to a dramatic change in the ecosystem which was probably not natural. “That would probably be an indicator that something is a little bit unbalanced,” said Parker. She said that the 2009 example algal bloom on the Brittany coast was a similar example of a human-induced algal bloom.

It is vital that we all shift our perspective towards a balanced approach to living in accord with nature as apposed to polluting our natural resources that are clearly warning us of significant changes ahead.

Mobile Alerts that “Cry Wolf”

Last week while enjoying some good food, alarms began to sound and could be heard from all over the restaurant. One by one people began to look at their phones. Most would just swipe the alert away while others glanced at the message, while still others ( mostly older ) could not figure out to make the alarm stop. That was funny to watch.

Within minutes the alarms stopped while literally everyone immediately went back to talking, eating or staring down at their device again. This got me to thinking, how did my phone become a beckon for the authorities to be able to alert me? “Updates”, that’s how. I hate updates. I wish someone would do a study and find out how many operating system updates really do fix bugs and valid security fixes versus just embed themselves into our tech and the fabric of our everyday lives. I’m not a conspiracy freak, but do realize that our liberties are consistently being diminished and no one seems to notice. It seems everyone wants more tech and more tools never to stop and ask, “is this even beneficial to our lives” and the pursuit of happiness?

Alert, Alert

Alert, Alert

I get a little bummed when technology forces things on me that I may not want. Today, we have no choice but to “ACCEPT” the terms & conditions that so frequently beg for our approval from our mobile devices. Say no ( which I do a lot ) and eventually, your device doesn’t function optimally. Say yes, and you end up with all sorts of stuff that can easily strip away another small percentage of your privacy. No options.

Since when did the weather service (or those constituents who govern it) decide that they have to worn us of thunder storms and dust storms when we can see them coming with our own eyes? Here in Phoenix, if you just look outside and scan the horizon and you can see what weather is coming. Now my point. What good does it really do when 95% of the people getting the alerts just ignore them? They are coming so frequently that no one will know when the real emergency hits.

Someday when there is a legitimate emergency, the majority will not be aware because they have become so immune to the alert and just discard the message. Someday, that message could be important, and maybe even their very own child as the topic of an Amber Alert.

I’m all for using technology to increase communication, but what “is” being alerted to us and for what purpose is getting a little out of hand.

Can we be “over-connected”?

The connected world

The connected world

The arrival of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) marks a major watershed in the global consumer economy. Internet connections will be built into a massive quantity of new products, from air conditioners to light bulbs and security alarms. These will all be controlled through apps and websites, and feed data into the cloud. Start ups specialized in home automation, established consumer electronics giants, and large Silicon Valley-based tech companies are all poised for a huge battle over this new consumer space, sometimes also referred to as the “Connected Life” market.

A report from BI Intelligence, recently examined the forces and numbers driving growth in the consumer Internet of Things or IoT, including the mind-boggling numbers for total market size. It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of the Internet of Things because it will come to encompass all manner of products we don’t normally think of as high-tech, such as UV-filtering window shades and door locks.

Here are some of the top findings:

  • Defining the Internet of Things: It’s helpful to think about IoT devices as a new device category or layer that exists as the connective tissue between the formerly static non-connected world, and the world of PCs, tablets, and smart phones. For example, a connected washer and dryer unit can report energy usage and cycle settings to a smart phone app.


  • The size of the opportunity: Machina defines “Connected Life Market Revenue” as the sum of all of the revenue accruing from the sale of connected devices and all related services. They see revenue ballooning to $2.5 trillion by 2020.

  • How can it be so large? Many consumer categories are crossing into the IoT: These include kitchen and home appliances, lighting and heating products, and insurance company-issued car monitoring devices that allow motorists to pay insurance only for the amount of driving they do.

  • Large manufacturers are already making big plays: These include LG, the Korean manufacturer of home entertainment systems and appliances and Friedrich, maker of AC units.

  • Start ups are making a grab for this market too: SmartThings has built its entire business model around easily deployable sensors, monitors, and apps that allow consumers to run everything in their home through their smartphone. It raised a $3 million seed round late last year. We also expect companies such as Apple, Google, and others to get more involved.


If you’re like me, you’ll ask the question “how does all this inter-connectivity benefit our lives? The simple answer is that for most of us, it doesn’t. But for the companies who continually vie for more data and more details on where we live and how, they stand to reap the rewards by learning details about our usage patterns that they previously had no access to. At a time when most rational people are trying to find ways to unplug and free themselves from our already insanely connected life, I personally fail to find any benefit with my refrigerator sending details about the frequency of the door opening or it’s contents to the mother ship. Sorry that’s just me. In fact, I question all the seemingly useless connections and apps that are marketed to all of us in the attempt to make us believe we cant live without it. Life was simpler 20 years ago. You could leave work and spend time with your family and build a family unit. Instead, today we are available, working and being summoned by a wide range of people and systems 24/7, which only serves to remove time from our family life.

I do use and enjoy technology. I just try to determine the features and benefits prior to using or downloading it. In fact, about once a month I will comment on some new technology that actually benefits my life, but always seem to find myself saying, I could still live without it.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic, I would enjoy hearing from you about your personal position on being connected.

Technology is great, but…

Ever wonder where the information you are reading comes from? Has it ever occurred to you that you really do not know? I spend a lot of time doing research and I try to cover a wide range of sources to gather facts. It is not easy since much of the data comes from the web and there is virtually no hard and fast way to confirm that the data you read on the web is 100% factual. This raises all sorts of questions. People are attached to their mobile device 24/7 and are sharing enormous amounts of information each second of each day without confirming authority. I’m not talking about kitten videos or talking oranges!

Is it possible that much of what we read on the web is false? If this is true, then what does it say for our future? Where does it lead the millions of people who are learning things that are false? Years ago, to be published, you had to have verifiable data to back up your claims. It was typically vetted by numerous people. Even the press had certain standards before they published news stories. Now we see fabrications being published on Fox, CNN and CNBC every day.

FACT: First developed by researchers at MIT, who wrote a script that would go out onto the Internet and grab data on a specific subject and then re assemble the data into official looking science papers complete with peer reviewed acknowledgements and a high ranking scientist authors. The script would then automatically re-write and re-publish these fake papers and post them all over the web.

If this was done back in 2005, what on earth is possible today? The embarrassing lapse was exposed by French computer scientist Cyril Labbe of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble. He also spotted more than 100 other “nonsense” papers unwittingly published by the New York-based Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the journal Nature reported.

Read more at:

It’s no secret that scientists have ego’s and they all want to share what they have learned and be acknowledged for their work. Still, there are thousands of examples of fraudulent information being released for two things. Notoriety and money. Since Global warming began it has fueled a heated debate. First that it was a lie and within just 10 years became the subject of billions in study grants. Follow the money, it always leads to the human condition. Fast forward from 2005 to 2013 and we are now in the troughs of the topic of Global Climate Change and the many recent news reports from the IPCC and others of glacial loss, sea level rise, increase storm activity and agricultural catastrophe. Arguments still abound on the cause, but it is happening and will affect us all. We are going to see a lot more changes in the way the Earth treats us, but for many of us who have been paying attention, this is not new. There are many things we can do to mitigate our own personal risk.  I suggest starting with a few informative documentaries.

Ethos, and I Am are both very well done and each tells a different story of what we all face and what we should be prepared for without over reacting to doomsday.

ETHOS tells of the fragile foundation the worlds financial system is built on and the dangers of over consumption and debt. Two topics I have been speaking about for seven years. Far too many people are being influenced by mass media trickery and can’t seem to pull away from the negative energy that will certainly be their demise. I sold 90% of my possession in 2009 and have been light ever since. There is much freedom in that. Learning about Aquaponics, clean water and various energy sources will serve me and enable me to care for my children in the future.

I Am, explains how each living thing on Earth (as well as in the universe) is connected through a powerful hidden field of energy. How the disruption of community came to be and the toxic nature of competition and how it is unraveling socio-economic balance. Both of these films can be found on Netflix and You Tube. Tom Shadyac a producer of many leading box office comedies found himself faced with a debilitating condition that lead him to ask a few philosophical questions which changed his life.  Tom takes us on a journey that teaches and inspires us to what really matters in the world and how everything we do as individuals does “affect” the entire world. Again, something near to my heart.

So although science is awesome and progress is good, we all need to embrace more of the  Ethnosphere and how we are all connected to it. Just like the sun is the key to our planets heartbeat, (and may be connected of all our weather and earthquakes) so to is the human heartbeat the connection to the Earth and everything on it.

Milky Way’s Magnetic Field Mapped

If the Milky Way were one giant magnet, sprinkling iron filings around it would trace the galaxy’s magnetic field. Scientists have found a more practical way to map the field using the Planck telescope. Planck measured the polarization of microwave light that permeates space. When light is polarized, its electric fields all point in the same direction. Light reflecting off interstellar dust grains becomes polarized in the direction the grains are aligned; that direction, in turn, is steered by the galaxy’s magnetic field. Planck’s map, reported in four papers posted May 5 at, shows the entire sky with a dark band through the center representing the plane of the galaxy. Darker shading reflects more-polarized light. The lines mark the direction of the magnetic field. The galactic magnetic field is about 100 million times as weak as a refrigerator magnet, and yet it may be crucial to the formation of stars. The field map is also important for understanding the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the flash of light emitted 380,000 years after the Big Bang, which the BICEP2 team recently used to see gravitational waves from the primordial universe (SN: 4/5/14, p. 6).

Now a little more about science and what people know and do not know about it.

Take the origin of the universe question. Asked if the universe began with a big explosion, 39 percent of Americans polled (in 2012) said yes. But if you said “according to astronomers, the universe began with a big explosion,” the correct response rate jumped to 60 percent.

It’s well-known, of course, that the phrasing of a question can greatly influence polling results, which is one of the reasons why all such surveys should be evaluated skeptically. So it might be a good idea to rethink the relationship between polling questions and the scientific knowledge that members of the public really ought to have. Is it really necessary for the ordinary citizen to understand cosmologists’ consensus on the universe’s origins, or how lasers work? Well, maybe not. But pollsters point out that such questions are merely meant to be indicators of broader comprehension of science and its principles. Trumpeting concerns about ignorance on any specific question misses the point. It’s the more general understanding and appreciation of science and its methods that’s really important — and that really should be the emphasis of general science education.

In fact, I’d contend that the problem with science education is not that it fails to inculcate enough facts, but that it tries to inculcate too many. Science classes in high school and intro classes in college seem to be taught as though everyone needed preparation to pursue a Ph.D. Seriously, calculating solubility constants in high school chemistry classes is about as useful as teaching drivers’ ed students how to maneuver an F-16 fighter jet. Important general principles that could (and should) be retained for a lifetime are diluted to the point of homeopathic impotence by a flood of excessive technical detail. Same hold true for  a basic understanding of fiscal knowledge. Our current youth have no idea how destructive debt and consumption will be in their life.

This science topic was inspired by the physicist Richard Feynman’s famous remarks on the one sentence about science that would be most important to pass down to future generations.

He said “All things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.” Everybody should know that much about science.

And here are a few more basics that are useful to know.

  1. Science successfully explains natural phenomena through rational investigation and logical reasoning rather than by recourse to superstition and mysticism.
  2. When scientific disputes arise, the ultimate arbiter is not expert authority or common sense but experimental evidence, guided by theory.
  3. Scientific theories are not “guesses” but are logi­cally rigorous attempts to explain the observed facts of nature and to predict the results of new observations.
  4. When a theory’s predictions are confirmed, it becomes an essential tool in the further practice of science, but even good theories may someday be superseded by theories more comprehensive or more accurate. In other words, we never know as much as we think!
  5. The universe is vast and old, with our sun only one of bil­lions of stars in a local galaxy, joined by billions of similar galaxies occupying the depths of space beyond.
  6. Life has changed over the eons, with complex creatures evolving from simpler precursors, and human beings therefore occupy one branch of an immense fam­ily tree of living organisms — all sharing attractor fields, and a common molecular machinery driving basic life processes.
  7. As Einstein demonstrated, conceptions of time and space based on everyday life don’t apply accurately to all speeds and all realms of space.
  8. The microworld of the atom, and realms even smaller, obey “quantum” laws completely at odds with common sense, and notions of cause and effect and the very nature of reality are inherently blurred on that scale. ( I like to call these “God’s Laws” that we still know very little about )
  9. The way a thing works is often influenced by its connections to other things and the ways that they work, a principle that applies to everything from the networks of cells in the brain and the body’s other organs, to ecological and economic systems, to human interactions and social institutions. ( Yes it’s all very complex and there is beauty in that )
  10. Little is certain in science but much is highly probable, and the proper quantification of probabilities is essential for inferring facts, drawing conclusions and formulating sound judgments.

Finally for me, I think we all need to stop arguing about things we don’t yet understand, and instead focus our attention on how we can work together to solve the glaring problems of our world like war, famine and greed.

Be well everyone.

Could Global Warming trend be over?

The sun is a major factor in our solar system and literally affects everything here on Earth. I’ve been watching a growing number of bright minds talk about  the sun and how it affects how we live, but they don’t get much airtime due to the vast number of stories about C02, Global Warming and ice melt. The video below is a guy who has been watching the sun for a long time and I think worth sharing for those of us who enjoy research.

Warming or cooling, our food supply is no less in jeopardy. A full thirty % of land in the U.S. is used to grow corn. The reason? Well, multinational corporations are finding new ways to use corn that never used to exist before. For one example: The majority of cows raised for the beef industry are now raised on corn. Unfortunately, before they raced ahead in an attempt to grow them bigger and faster, no one stopped to find out if it made sense. Truth is, it doesn’t make sense because the cows digestive system is not designed to digest corn. Increase in eColi anyone?

More corn, more sugar shit for the masses. Few realize that high fructose corn syrup is in 90% of all food on store shelves and is made from chemicals and corn.

TRUE: The FDA conducted over 50,000 food inspections annually in 1970. In 2007 they did less than 9,000.

TRUE: There used to be over one thousand slaughterhouses in the U.S. and now there are only 13

Faster, Fatter, Bigger Cheaper – that is the corporate moto for growing food to feed a growing population. This equates to no accountability and no integrity of our food supply. Bad food means more sickness. More illness means more need for healthcare. More healthcare means politics takes over. Sound familiar?

TRUE: In 1996, Two % of all soybeans had the genetically modified patented gene inside

TRUE: In 2008, Eighty % of all soybeans have it

Monsanto has 75 full time attorneys protecting their seed patents and countless teams of investigators harassing farmers who choose not to use their GMO seeds.

The US Government has passed bills to prevent anyone from posting a disparaging picture or text comment about the food production, cattle ranchers or slaughterhouses controlling our food supply.

If you havnt rented Food Inc. you should. Some things we all should be aware of.

Now for the “sun part” Some scientists agree the climate change patterns may be shifting due to the significant changes in the sun’s solar activity. We may be starting to cool off and Global Warming may be near its cyclic end. That’s said, Climate extremes may be here to stay and may actually get worse. More reason to learn how to grow healthy organic food Aquaponically.