Posted by: Tony Carson | 4 September, 2007

Technology and our health

Technology inspires its own culture and its own problems.

We learn today that children who watch more than two hours of TV each day face attention problems in later life: Study links attention problems to early TV viewing.

And we learn that Chinese children have forsaken the great outdoors for cyberspace as they sit in front of their computers and surf. Indeed, 13% of China’s 20 million Internet users under 18 are classed as addicts. The story is here: Most Chinese children spent vacation online

Clearly, technology with all its allure is as adept at creating problems as it is inspiring pleasure. Yes, we can benefit from TV and the Internet but we can also grow fat, sedentary and develop behavioural problems, too.

Shouldn’t we know the risk inherent in new technology as soon as possible after the new technology is introduced? Why are we finding out now — more than 50 years after the first kid sat in front of the box — that his natural lust to be entertained may bring with it serious side-effects.

And what other stories are we going to read in the coming years: sitting in front of a computer monitor really does cause bi-polar disorder? iPod listeners are first to dementia? Video gamers are at an increased risk of schizophrenia?

And whose job is it to determine the health risks of new technology, the developers’ or the governments’?

Look at the case of gambling. Statistics say that something like 7% of people who regularly gamble become addicted and these people, as a result, become a serious cost to society. As a result, many jurisdictions require casinos to contribute a percentage of their profits to deal with social costs. Makes sense.

Ditto, in some jurisdiction, smoking.

Shouldn’t the makers of technology be required to participate in a formalized way to determine the health and social impact from their products? What’s wrong with requiring manufacturers to pay something like .1% of their profits into a fund that will go specifically towards studying the impacts of the technology. Everyone would gain by that investment.

Should we be waiting 50 years to determine what could be evident in 5?

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