You say entertainment, I say information

I’m not sure where I’m going with that title, but whatever. I don’t think JSC5 and I disagree much in our two posts on the topic (here and here), at least not in terms of the definition of internet content. I agree that what I’m referring to as information is actually just entertainment in (an entirely see-through) disguise, though denial of that fact certainly contributes to the problem.

I guess where JSC5 and I disagree is how to deal with the problem that we both acknowledge exists. He, like a good American, is all for the pull yourself up by the bootstraps approach, and I think that’s fine, as long as it works. He uses the analogy of a bar, that a bar is entertaining, but none of us would focus all our social life at bars because we know that that wouldn’t be a good idea. I think the analogy works really well, but on a different level. The reason alcohol doesn’t monopolize our lives, as fun as it is, is because we have a strong social infrastructure that discourages it from doing so. Compare, JSC5, drinking culture in the U.S. to drinking culture in the Vietnamese business world, where those structures are weaker. Also, there’s the added fixed cost of having to go to a bar or otherwise procure alcohol, which at the very least means you need to be wearing a shirt, which already makes it different from most of time spent on the internet.

Right now, there’s very little cost to going online. Time and money costs are minimal, as most of us are never too far from an internet connection. And social costs, for now, are also minimal. We make fun of people who are glued to their Blackberries, but it’s worlds apart from how we view alcoholics. And so death by infotainment is very easy to reach, whereas death by cirrhosis is probably pretty rare. I still think that JSC5’s recommendation for diversifying entertainment stands, but I think that might take some willpower to implement. I know for me at least, software that let me forward commit to limitations would be a big help in implementing that diversification. Think about it like a forward commitment that didn’t allow you to drink during Vietnamese business lunches – tell me that wouldn’t have been nice?

And as for your recent guzzling of smart phone Kool-Aid, I say LEAVE! LEAVE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! BURN THE PHONE! No, but seriously, I have nothing against smart phones per se, other than that I think the social obsession with them is representative more of how much we are entertained by useless crap than by any value added. Obviously, this is not the fault of the machine itself, but how we use it. The alcohol analogy applies again; there’s nothing inherently wrong with the substance, just certain uses of it. Think of a smart phone as a the infotainment equivalent of a flask. A flask isn’t inherently bad – I’m sure there are plenty of occasions when I’ve thought, man, a spot of whiskey would really do the trick right now (as in, you know, every time I had to discuss something with el Doctor; apologies for the inside references, loyal readers). But generally, if someone has a flask, it’s not because they’ve adequately assessed their potential needs for portable alcohol, it’s usually because they’re the sketchy older guy taking his high school girl friend to a Dave Matthews concert and brooding in the background waiting for one of her hotter friends to ask if anyone brought liquor. Obviously, smart phones are handier than flasks, and, unlike flasks, will figure in prominent and useful ways in the development of human civilization. It’s just that those ways represent just a fraction of current smart phone use.

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This is a group blog. JSC5 currently writes from the US. JSC7 writes from behind the Great Firewall of China.

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