Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The pursuit of #cheppiness

Yet another potentially depressing article on the opioid epidemic in the U.S. – this time in Time Magazine.  It says on average 46 people are dying every day from an overdose, with over 2 million addicted to the deadly painkillers and hundreds of thousands hospitalized for drug abuse every year. Many addicts have taken to shooting as a more efficient drug delivery method, and there have been outbreaks of AIDS and other needle-sharing diseases. So how did it get to this? The article says “it took a tragic combination of good intentions, criminal deception and feckless oversight to turn America’s desire to relieve its pain into such widespread suffering.” The FDA and medical associations trumpeted the benefits of opioid painkillers, and over 20 states passed legislation intended to boost prescriptions. So I was going to say “positivity bias” (a.k.a. "optimism") played a role, too – but perhaps it should not be overestimated. Even after the deadly potential of the drugs had become apparent, the FDA continued to approve ever more potent formulas. And the pharmaceutical companies producing them continued to engage in aggressive marketing practices, occasionally crossing into illegal deception. Their business plans, of course, depended on getting as many customers to use as much of their products as humanly possible. Back in 2012, the libertarian fundamentalists at Reason Online fretted that “the government’s medical meddling hurts pain patients.” Their more recent solution to the “problem”? Let marijuana free!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

#Automation is us

Nicholas Carr has another potentially disturbing amendment to “The Glass Cage” on his blog: “Media Takes Command.” Where automation is taking us, indeed! Just two minor qualms: 1) There has never been real “panic about automation” in the US, despite the dire warnings of a few smart “Luddites” – there is too much “positivity bias” around for that. 2) Automation will not just displace some and change the nature of work and the skill sets of others – it is already changing us, and particularly our kids, at the most basic neurosomatic level (this, I thought, was the central idea of the “Google making us stupid” piece – and it must make it easier for humans to be replaced by bots). And it can’t all be for the better – unless my Bulgarian “negativity bias” is way too strong…

Thursday, June 18, 2015

#TheEndofSatire, among other things…

“The Rise of Meritocracy” was the title of a British satirical novel that came out in 1958. And you have to pinch yourself occasionally to recall that “The Best and the Brightest” wasn’t coined as a compliment back in 1972. Now it turns out Carry Bradshaw’s exploits started out as satire, too. It’s news to me at least – but it’s hardly a surprise:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015