Internet addiction: Curfew on gamers

In international tech news, South Korea has imposed a gaming curfew to try to crack down on what authorities call an epidemic of Internet addiction among the young. The Culture Ministry announced this week that anyone under 18 would be blocked from accessing three popular online computer games after midnight. Many other games must add features that will drastically slow the speed of Internet access once a gamer has been logged on for a certain number of hours. The measures come in response to a rash of incidents that shocked the nation in recent months. In one case, a couple was charged with letting their infant starve to death while they raised a "virtual child" on the Internet. Whoa, as seen in The Week.

Okay, so why do we care about this? Internet experts look for trends coming out of South Korea because they embraced mobile technology and gaming much earlier than the U.S. did. Read my previous post about Internet addiction and take the test! Do you know someone who is borderline addicted to the Internet?
Post your comment here...

Apple's new iAd challenges Google in mobile ads

Advertising is everywhere, and now it's going to be on your iPhone apps. Apple has thrown down a direct challenge to Google's mainstay business of online advertising, announcing plans to introduce a mobile advertising platform called iAd, said Tom Krazit in The iAd platform will allow marketers to create advertisements that appear within apps for the Apple iPhone. The ads can be programmed to appear on the iPhone before the app begins playing. Apple hopes iAd will pry advertisers away from Google by offering them a chance to reach a captive audience using one of the premier mobile devices on the planet. As seen in The Week, what do you think about online advertising infiltrating your cell phone someday? Post your comment here!

Supertaskers: The rare few who can multitask

Several studies have shown that it's impossible for most people to concentrate on two or more things at once --homework and Facebook updates, for example, or driving and talking on the phone. But new research has found that about 2.5 percent of the population are supertaskers, capable of multitasking without suffering a decline in performance. University of Utah researchers set up 200 volunteers in a driving simulator and gave them each a cell phone. As they drove, they had to hit the brakes occasionally to avoid hitting a virtual car in front of them; meanwhile, they had to respond to a series of word and math tests through their phones.

The vast majority of subjects were terrible at multitasking: They were 20 percent slower to hit the brakes and performed worse on the phone-mediated word and math tests. But to the surprise of the researchers, one in 40 people excelled at performing two tasks at once, indicating that they could simultaneously concentrate on driving and a challenging phone conversation. There is clearly something special about the supertaskers, study author tells It may be that human beings have only recently developed the skill, he says, or it may be that some people's brains naturally have the ability to handle several tasks at once. Researchers now plan to study fighter pilots, chefs, orchestra conductors, and TV producers to see if there is a high percentage of supertaskers in some professions. Meanwhile, they warn against assuming you're one of the exceptions, since the odds are so heavily against it ;-)

Only one out of 40 people can pull it off... do you know a supertasker? I do. Post your comment here!

Do iPods cheapen music?

Like millions of music lovers, Steve Almond of the Los Angeles Times was thrilled with the advent of iTunes and iPods. "Suddenly, not only could I download virtually any song I wanted, I could easily organize my music and have it with me at all times.

But I'm starting to wonder whether supreme convenience has impoverished the actual experience of listening to music. When I was a kid in the prehistoric '70s, listening to music took time and commitment. After rifling through my collection, I'd put an album on the turntable, drop the needle, and sit around and melt into the music, often reading the lyrics from the album cover. It was not something I did while working on homework, let alone while checking email or thumbing out text messages. It was a transcendent event, with real emotional impact. These days, the ease with which we can hear any song at any moment we want, no matter where we are, has diluted the very act of listening, rendering it just another channel on our ever-expanding dial of distractions. Music is more accessible than ever, but it's also less sacred." -As seen in The Week

What do you think, do iPods cheapen music?

The PC: Miraculous but boring

Where's the sense of wonder? asked David Fearon in PCPro. The story of personal computers is one of "amazing semiconductor and materials science," astonishing leaps in processing power, and cleaver engineering that makes e-mailing and Web surfing quick and easy. But if you try to engage someone in a conversation about computing power, you'll soon notice they're wearing a glazed expression. You won't hear any admiration for "all this massive investment, all this science involving some of the world's finest minds." That's because "computing technology is assimilated into everyday life with such speed and regularity, we don't even notice that we should be amazed." We think nothing of firing up a browser, searching the Web for "fun games," and moments later playing "a game running in a Flash plug-in, running in a tab, running in a browser, running in a window, running on a multi-windowed operating system." Yet just a few years ago, that now routine scenario was inconceivable. That's computing for you. "It's a humdrum, everyday sort of miracle, but a miracle nonetheless." -As seen in The Week

Generation me, myself, and I

It's a frequent complaint among parents: Young people today are spoiled, self-centered, and have a huge sense of entitlement.

A new study has found evidence that it may be true. Researchers examined the results of a standardized personality test given to college students nationwide between 1994 and 2009. Called the narcissistic personality inventory, the test measures the respondents' degree of self-regard through a questionnaire that asks them to choose among such statements as, "I insist upon getting the respect that is due me," or, "I usually get the respect I deserve." (Narcissists favor the former.) The portion of students who registered as having high narcissism surged from 18 percent in 1994 to 34 percent in 2009. Psychologists have been debating the mixed results of various studies on whether self-centeredness is rising, but San Diego State university psychologist Jean Twenge tells Discovery News that she is "extremely confident" about her findings. It is clear narcissism is rising," she says. - As seen in The Week. Read a related blog post here.

So what do you think... are young people are becoming more narcissist and do you think social networking sites are a contributing factor?

Lessons from the European Dating Front

Russian brides are passe, says Petra Prochazkova in the Czech Republic's Lidove noviny. Now it's Russian men who are wooing women's hearts all over Europe's online dating websites.

"It may seem unlikely --after all, Russian women tend to see their men as drunken layabouts and filthy primates. But in the eyes of foreign women, Russians are "real men, at once romantic, kind hearted, and mouthwateringly manly." Czech and other European women are tired of the West European males on offer, "these bespectacled intellectuals or bland, boring bankers. We have our own intellect and education --we don't need a partner who reads nonfiction in bed. What we need "is a he-man, one of those real guys with a rugged complexion, weather-beaten by the Siberian winds." In surveys that measure this sort of thing, Russians currently come in third among the most attractive men in the world, "right after Italians and Americans." So even though many of them "dress like mobsters" and have absolutely no taste, they can afford to be selective in choosing their ladies. European men take note. "Women find a buttoned-up, humorless miser to be a far worse mate than your garden-variety Russian drunk." - As seen in "The Rise of the Mail-Order Russian Groom" in The Week.

Real-time bidding: An invasion of privacy?

I love this editorial, it's by my favorite editor at The Week, Eric Effron. "If you are creeped out by those online ads that seem to know far too much about us --"Looking for a divorce lawyer?" "Need to lose weight?"-- then brace yourself.

Marketers are starting to employ a new technology, dubbed real-time bidding, that enables them to target messages based on what we're doing online at that very moment. Apparently, it's not enough that ads for everything from CDs to cosmetic surgery are now generated according to our recent Internet searches, Facebook postings, and even the content of our email. Now, if you make an online purchase of, say, a golf club, within milliseconds companies can buy online ad space from Google and other search engines to pitch you golf balls or golf vacations. The technology, Google's Neal Mohan tells The New York Times, "delivers on the promise of precise optimization."

Personally, I'm not sure I want to be precisely optimized. Then again, maybe it's better than all the imprecise optimization that goes on in the nonvirtual world. According to a recent study, every day, the average American is exposed to some 3,000 commercial messages, subtle and otherwise. That may seem hard to believe, until you remember that ads zoom past us on busses; greet us at the gas pump, in elevators, and at urinals; are stamped on eggs and other products we take home; have infiltrated movies and TV shows in the form of product placements; and, thanks to naming rights, have co-opted the identities of major sports stadiums and even school gymnasiums. If this all leaves you feeling a bit queasy, consider this: "Airlines have even sold ads on motion-sickness bags." - Eric Effron, The Week

Okay, so what did we learn here? Mainly that cloud computing programs, such as Google's Gmail program, can scan your email messages to deliver relevant online ads to you (doesn't sound like a good thing). We also learned more about contextual-based advertising (could possibly be a good thing if it ever gets here). The thing to keep in mind is protecting your privacy and limiting your use of too many online services. Read up about your digital footprint and see my shocking previous post on Google and privacy issues here.