Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The War against Reality Continues

This is not unfamiliar ground.  We have now accumulated several years of data to support the hypothesis the many of our most popular technologies, particularly the personal mobile ones, seem to have achieved popularity through their capacity to detach us from reality.  This then raises the question of whether or not it is the responsibility of government to take action against “the detached” when they pose a hazard to others, if not themselves.  In 2009 the question was whether Driving While Texting (DWT) should be declared a moving-violation traffic offense;  but since then the playing field has expanded to all sorts of new opportunities to “tune out” the “annoyances” of reality.

Here are some data points from the current state of play, as reported by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore on her latest post to the Health Tech blog on the CNET Blog Network:

In California, State Sen. Joe Simitian has reintroduced a bill that would fine cyclists $20 for texting. In Oregon, State Rep. Michael Schaufler wants to fine cyclists $90 for wearing headphones or earbuds. In Virginia, lawmakers are considering whether to broaden such a ban to include any handheld communication device.

And in New York, a bill before the legislature's transportation committee would ban the use of electronic devices while crossing streets.

This is the second time State Sen. Carl Kruger has introduced this legislation to stem what he calls "tuning in and tuning out." As if to prove his point, a 21-year-old man listening to an iPod Nano in a crosswalk on Madison Avenue in New York last December was killed when a Mack truck backed into him and dragged him 30 feet. Presumably, the man did not hear the beeping of the truck in reverse.

As one might guess, post inspired a flurry of comments, many of which believe that it is not the job of government to prevent people from doing stupid things.  However, CNET decided to take this question to the “higher authority” of a reader poll.  The following image reproduces the question, the answers as they were worded in the poll, and the percentage of responses in each category after 98 votes had been tallied:
Apparently the opposition to dealing with this problem through legislation is not just strong but downright extreme.  The world the Internet has made looks a little bit more like Deadwood every day (at least before Deadwood responded to external incentives to start taking governance seriously)!

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