Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: Human Augmentation

Your Smart Device is Making You Weird – A series where ScienceBlog.com blogger joebowman takes a look at new technologies and the ways they affect people and society.

In a world where continually evolving technology is changing the way people interact with the digital and physical worlds, the first genuine hands-free technology may be just around the corner. Rest assured that new advancements in smart device manipulation will do much to make people seem even weirder than today.

The hand is quicker than the eye, but the eye is way cooler

If you follow the geeks of Silicon Valley then you may have noticed Google co-founder, Sergi Brin sporting a stylish and decidedly futuristic looking eye piece at recent events.

Google_Glass

A sly introduction for one of Google’s most anticipated technologies, Project Glass promises to liberate Humans from the tyranny of using one’s own hands. Calling it, ‘Augmented Reality’, this latest effort by Google hints at a future where buttons and switches become hilarious vestiges of more primitive eras in Human history.

While Google is primarily known for its search engine dominance it is actually advertising that drives corporate profits. In fact, only about 1,100 employees in the AdWords division of Google generates revenue for the worldwide operation of 20k employees. So, at the end of the day, and no matter how hard they try it is the advertising business that Google’s namesake symbolizes. Industry insiders quickly point to a dystopian future where ads and offers are stuck in the eye, literally.

Google was quick to point out that there will be no advertisements on the new devices. Yet, for a company with the motto, ‘don’t be evil’ and a technology that hasn’t doesn’t hit developers’ hot little hands until 2013, much will certainly change between now and when these smart devices are available for consumers.

No glove, no love

Not to be outdone by its own self, Google has recently patented a glove-like device that integrates sensors and control points that may open up even more possibilities for changing the way people interact with technology. With the potential to put cameras at your fingertips, again literally, Google Glove may make the average user an explorer of all types of crevasses. Imagine a world where people can peer into any orifice accessible to a finger or a world where American Sign Language becomes a common way to physically dictate text. Perhaps this is where transdermal drugs and smart device technology finally grants the Pharmaceutical industry unfettered access to your bloodstream over the Internet.

Predicting the ill effects of technologies still unrealized is easy, finding real world applications that will enhance productivity is another story.

These technologies may be years away in terms of augmenting our lives in a meaningful way but they speak volumes about where smart device technology is headed. As new advances change the way people perceive and interact with the world the more old customs and courtesies fall away.

In previous editions of Your Smart Device is Making You Weird, I talked about a family out at dinner, happily sitting in silence as each was engrossed by their smart devices, now mix in some Augmented Reality eyepieces and glove control gear and you have a scene that can only be described as ‘weird’.

If you are like many people, you are already thinking how ridiculous these upcoming advances in technology seem. You may be right, but remember that you said the same thing about that smart phone charging on your desk and the Bluetooth headset in your ear.

Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: Voice Text Replaces Voice Talking

Your Smart Device is Making You Weird – A series where ScienceBlog.com blogger joebowman takes a look at new technologies and the ways they affect individuals and society.

I was with a group of friends the other day and someone in the group was the proud bearer of a new mobile phone, an Android-powered device by HTC.  One of the more interesting features about the Google-built mobile OS is the voice recognition engine.  Available on your desktop as well as your mobile device Voice Search as it’s branded provides a way to speak text instead of typing.

Immediately the new owner of the phone remarked that voice input for text messaging was just like have a conversation with someone without talking to them.  Bemused with the irony that a device dedicated primarily to communication once again has served to digitally distance people from one another.  In this case people can have the convenience of speaking their thoughts but without the hassle of real-time Human interaction.

Those of us in the group who hadn’t discovered this feature on their own phones quickly joined in the excitement as the voice input accurately transcribed each word.  While I rarely use the voice input feature feeling decidedly cheeky uttering emotionally charged phrases into my phone with the consistent monotone precision that ensured accurate translation, but others didn’t seem to have the same issue.

As the Art of Conversation in the Digital Age evolves and changes, what do we gain but a little time saved?

Perhaps this is technology catching up with the way people communicate best in today’s world.  Maybe this is just the dawn of the voice powered world ahead of us where merely speaking a command or phrase elicits all manner of actions from devices eager to do our bidding.

Whatever it is don’t be alarmed with you see people mindlessly droning into their devices uttering fragments of conversations far removed from the real world we actually live in.

Is Phobos-Grunt just the latest victim of the ‘Mars Curse’?

Contact was briefly established last week with the wayward Phobos-Grunt probe, still hobbling through low Earth-orbit since failing to fire its thrusters to escape orbit and send it on its way to Mars on November 9th.

Unfortunately, this setback is just the latest in a string of disasters in Earth’s decades old struggle for the Red Planet.  With partial failures and losses of entire missions through the years, we have learned that the conquest of the Martian system is one fraught with danger and peril.

Despite the well-known challenges of interplanetary travel, rumors of a supposed Mars Curse remain persistent.  Wading through the conspiracy theories and outlandish claims of faked missions and mind-control experiments, I wanted to know if there really was a correlation between disaster and attempts for Mars.

In order to see if people’s perceptions and mission outcomes really were in conjunction, I tapped the resources of RussianSpaceWeb.com to see just how many missions met with disaster on the way to or just after arriving at the Martian system.

Out of a total of 35 missions to Mars, 14 missions or 40% of all attempts to reach Mars have succeeded.  We also see that 21 missions or 60% of all attempts to reach Mars met with some type of mission failure along the way.

While journeying to Mars is an obviously perilous journey, the success rates of missions and the beyond life-expectancy performance of the different rovers (Opportunity, Spirit) throughout the last decade fail to show any proof of a mysterious force preventing Humans from reaching our once Earth-like neighbor.

And so, the quest for Mars will continue to drive us past our fears and skepticism and few conceivable setbacks will change people’s hearts and minds.  For it is in favor of the chance that we might yet be able to make a crucial home away from home that truly beckons to Humanity.

If we as a species are to survive even the most catastrophic of events (think Earth-seeking asteroids), then colonizing Mars and other places in the solar system becomes more than just the next logical step for space exploration but indeed one that ensures our very existence as a species.

Doctor/Patient Communication Key in Fight Against Unnecessary Antibiotic Prescription

Patient satisfaction is essential to doctors in all settings and nowhere is this more important than in the general practitioner’s office.  Satisfied patients typically have more trust for their doctors, follow medical instructions more readily, and return consistently for followups and other types of appointments.  Dissatisfied patients can be difficult to manage at best and in many cases simply switch providers or delay seeking care.

One area that challenges medical professionals today is the expectation from the patient that Antibiotics can and will help most any illness.  Always under pressure to keep appointment durations tightly controlled leads some doctors to choose between taking the time to explain why antibiotics won’t help with certain illnesses and simply prescribing an antibiotic for the patient’s comfort.

Recommendations for Doctor/Patient communication include telling parents of young children that unnecessary antibiotics can be harmful by creating conditions where resistance is more likely to develop.  Also, by speaking with patients in a consultative manner as opposed to a mere dispensation of information will encourage patients to think more critically about their condition and any potential unintended effects.  There should be no underestimation of the power of taking one’s patient seriously.

For adults cases of pharyngitis, most instances are self-limiting and are best helped by traditional care methodologies.  Ensuring that the patient is aware of the power of supportive care during illnesses is imperative in defeating the obligatory expectation of antibiotic treatment.  In the case of rhinosinusitis many cases are viral, upper respiratory tract infections although differentiation between viral and bacterial is challenging.  Symptoms lasting for less than 7 days are less likely to have a bacterial infection.  Guidelines for practitioners for adults and children are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Patients themselves are also a necessary part of the equation in preventing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Knowing that there is a difference between a viral and bacterial infection can only help today’s doctors communicate more effectively with patients.  Truly, the Doctor/Patient nexus is the one of the most effective and accessible methods for turning the tide against the potential for antibiotic resistance in ourselves and our communities.

Your Smart Device is Making You Weird: GPS Induced Stupidity

isliderWhen a technology becomes reliable to a certain level people tend to free themselves from thought and responsibility to varying degrees.  Take for example the Global Position System (GPS), once an important tool limited to military applications, GPS is now standard and rightfully expected by consumers purchasing mobile devices, vehicles and more.

Whether you are in your car, on foot, or just planning an outing you are in need of direction and location information.  And, few technologies give quite as much assurance as GPS-aided navigation.

Our main thinking point for today’s article is this:

What happens when people over-rely on a convenience technology that is not necessarily always accurate?  If people stop thinking for themselves then what happens to the rest of us?

You be the judge, here are a few snippets from news stories around the web highlighting some of the not-so-great moments of GPS Induced Stupidity in another installment of a segment I like to call, Your Smart Device is Making You Weird.

The 32-year-old man, a computer maven, was on temporary assignment for an I.B.M. contractor in New York and wandered through the rolling hills here one evening, trusting in the cyber-driven intelligence of his car’s G.P.S. device rather than his own. As a result, according to Metro-North, he ended up making a right turn onto the railroad tracks and getting the undercarriage of his rented Ford Focus wedged between the rails. The man calmly hauled out his suitcase, called 911 and waited to wave the train to a stop. But the train couldn’t brake in time and ended up dragging the car for 100 feet until it burst into a fireball.

Read it Here

Most tales of GPS-Induced Stupidity do not end in fiery carnage (yet), but we see from this snippet that not even tech savvy people are safe from technology related ignorance.

A Bavarian man was given a persuasive lesson in the fallibility of technology Thursday night when he crashed into another car and injured an 11-year-old boy after obeying his car navigation device’s command to turn around on a divided autobahn.

Amazingly, the man, 45, took a U-turn on the divided motorway and began driving down the wrong side because the satellite navigation computer told him to turn around, police said in a statement.

Read it Here

Strange as it may sound, there is no replacement for using one’s eyes to aid in the operation of motor vehicles or heavy machinery.

The teen, who had two juveniles in the car with him in violation of the state’s graduated license rules, was headed westbound on Route 33 in his Ford Mustang when, he told police, his GPS told him to make a left turn onto Sweetmans Lane, police said.

The 17-year-old cut across the eastbound lanes of Route 33 and struck a vehicle on the left side at about 7:50 p.m. Saturday, according to police. The impact turned that car around 180 degrees before it came to rest facing oncoming traffic. The driver of that vehicle was taken to an area hospital after complaining of neck pain.

A third car struck the rear bumper of the Mustang, pushing that car into a spin before it too came to rest facing the eastbound oncoming traffic. A fourth vehicle traveling in the eastbound lanes swerved left to avoid the multiple car accident scene, when that car struck the curbed median, damaging both right-side tires, and rolling into the westbound lanes before coming to a stop.

The 17-year-old driver, from the Morganville section of Marlboro, was issued motor vehicle summonses for careless driving, making an improper turn and violating the terms of his provisional driver’s license.

 Read it Here

Of course, we expect poor judgment from young drivers so this is perhaps not the best example of GPS Induced Stupidity. You can view disturbing statistics related to young drivers here.

Three young women escaped the sinking Mercedes-Benz SUV after the vehicle’s GPS directed them down a boat launch and into the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, Washington.

The driver thought she was on a road while following her GPS unit just after midnight, but she was actually heading down the boat launch. All three women made out safely, but the SUV was completely under water. Officials said the three were in town for a conference and were trying to get to a hotel in Bellevue.

“They were trying to re-route their path and found this boat launch near the entrance to I-90 in South Bellevue and just kept driving into the water,” Mr Keenan said.

Read it Here

760px-Conformity_Hazard

As amusing as these stories are they may speak to something larger about Human nature in terms of technology. Perhaps there is a natural expectation that technology will someday alleviate most of the ‘burdens’ people experience in their daily lives.  Even if this were the case such a thing is surely far into the future.

Only you as an individual can truly be responsible for your own safety, but when others fall prey to over reliance on technology or mere stupidity you may find that there is only so much you can do to prevent the consequences of GPS Induced Stupidity.