Today’s Apps Are Turning Us Into Sociopaths

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Illustration: McMillan Digital Art/Getty

For Evan Selinger writes:  While I am far from a Luddite who fetishizes a life without tech, we need to consider the consequences of this latest batch of apps and tools that remind us to contact significant others, boost our willpower, provide us with moral guidance, and encourage us to be civil. Taken together, we’re observing the emergence of tech that doesn’t just augment our intellect and lives — but is now beginning to automate and outsource our humanity.

But let’s take a concrete example. Instead of doing the professorial pontification thing we tech philosophers are sometimes wont to do, I talked to the makers of BroApp, a “clever relationship wingman” (their words) that sends “automated daily text messages” to your significant other. It offers the promise of “maximizing” romantic connection through “seamless relationship outsourcing.”

Now, it’s perfectly possible that this app is a parody (the promo video includes bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto and feminist voice Germaine Greer among the demo contacts), and its creators “James” and “Tom” didn’t share their last names with me. But my 29-year-old interlocutors — one who apparently has a degree in Engineering and Mathematics, the other in Design and Applied Finance — had clearly thought deeply about why relationship management tools are socially desirable and will be increasingly integrated into our everyday lives. Read the rest of this entry »


Robert Spencer: 5 Things Media & Government Won’t Tell You About Boko Haram

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Why was Hillary Clinton’s State Department so notoriously slow to recognize a terrorist group?

5. The abduction of the schoolgirls is only the latest in a huge string of atrocities.

The world has only begun to notice them because of the abduction of the schoolgirls, but the Nigerian jihad terror group Boko Haram has been around for years. Without attracting the international outrage they have drawn upon themselves now, they have committed innumerable acts of unimaginable savagery,murdering over 2,500 people in the first three months of 2014 alone andtorching numerous churches and Christian homes.

At my website Jihad Watch a Google search turns up about 115,000 results for “Boko Haram,” indicating that anyone who has been tracking jihad activity over the last few years has had plenty to track in Boko Haram, and that the outrage over the abducted schoolgirls, as welcome as it is if it results in genuine action to stop this brutal and bloody group, is quite late and arbitrary.

Of course, in the Obama administration it hasn’t been fashionable to talk about jihad activity other than within the context of al Qaeda, and Boko Haram is not al Qaeda. Therefore it essentially did not exist (either for the administration or for the mainstream media that it carries around in its pocket like so many nickels), or if it did, it wasn’t a terrorist group: Hillary Clinton’s State Department wasnotoriously slow to designate it as such, even as the dead bodies piled up.

4. Their real name is Party of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sin,” or more literally, “Books bad.” The mainstream media has reported this as if the group were a bunch of Luddites with AK-47s – people who for some unexplained reason object to modern technology except for the weaponry. But actually the moniker “Boko Haram” is a specifically Islamic name, referring to the sinfulness of any system of education that is not based and centered upon the Qur’an and Islam.

And the actual name of the group is not Boko Haram at all; it is the Party of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad. Sunnah is accepted Islamic practice as derived from the Qur’an and Hadith; dawah is Islamic proselytizing; and jihad, of course, is (according to mainstream Islamic tradition) primarily warfare against unbelievers in order to establish the hegemony of Islamic law. Clearly, then, the group’s focus and motivation is entirely Islamic – which is probably why the media never calls the group by its actual name: too much focus on Islam in connection with terrorism is, for the media, as verboten for today’s media as it would have been for Der Stürmer to run a piece favorable to Jews. Read the rest of this entry »


The Smell of a Book

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I know e-readers are all the rage, but I’ll never get one. Call me a Luddite, but there’s something irreplaceable about a printed book: the heft of it in your hands, the striking cover, and, most important to me, its smell.

I fondly recall hiding under the covers after lights-out as a kid, Hardy Boys mystery in one hand and flashlight in the other, escaping into the adventures of Frank and Joe through the portal of the pages’ woodsy scent as I deeply inhaled the trapped, bookish air inside my blanket. In high school and college, I went on to discover many of my longstanding favorites: spare, economical bouquets from Hemingway, elegant perfumes of Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age, the smoke swirling around a Chandler potboiler (my guilty pleasure!).

And now, as an adult, I love nothing more than curling up with a good book, closing my eyes, breathing in through my nostrils, keeping my eyes closed and not reading yet continuing to draw in oxygen for hours, and, thanks to my fetishized olfactory associations for printed and bound matter, becoming sexually aroused.

Indeed, nothing is more of a turn-on than receiving a thoughtful book as a gift. On a related note, I have found that only through the pervading odor of a postmodern tome can I achieve orgasm. I don’t even particularly like the postmodernists’ work—too cerebrally opaque for my taste—but the smell of their writing, it just…

More — via McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: The Smell of a Book..