Tag Archives: technology

On the Perils of Texting

I’ve been overwhelmed with all the sources of gratitude since moving home: thoughtful cousins, fresh air, helpful coworkers, exciting classroom moments, new books on Zen, an apartment two blocks from the library, quality Grandma time, dips in the ocean, lush green mountain backdrops, hilarity from my nieces and nephews, and so much more … apologies for the late blog!

Still, I’m no stranger to the stressors and challenges of daily life, especially while in transition.  There has been one in particular that got to me for prolonged period of time: a gaping hole where I felt communication should have been plentiful.  I was hoping for more texting, more emails, more Skyping – and yes, it was from a particular person.  So much suffering can stem from expectations!  Especially when they’re rooted in the actions of other people, and most especially when these actions are performed via modern mediums of communication.

And then I happened across an article and a video on this very topic … they certainly helped to put things into perspective for me.  I hope they’re of interest/entertainment value to you.  It’s hard to go wrong with Louis CK …



From Ira Israel on Elephant Journal:

I apologize in advance.

I could be wrong. I could be making a mistake. I’ve made mistakes before.

Maybe it’s my fault.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe I am misguided. Maybe I don’t understand. Maybe I just don’t get it.

In the 1970s, if you told people that someday magnetized analog audio 8-track and cassette tapes would be replaced by digital ones and zeros pinging around inside a silicon microchip…

In the 1980s if you told the workers at Kodak that celluloid film would die a painful death at the hands of digital photo and video…

Or that facsimile machines would be replaced by PDF files cruising through high speed cable lines…

They would not have believed you.

All this to say that I believe that by the year 2040 people will look back on text messaging in the same manner that you and I look back on Morse Code.

Texting may seem wonderful for the occasional brief note to instantly reschedule a meeting in your crazy-busy life, but it actually often engenders ambiguity and confusion by failing to convey essential nuances such as disappointment, hope, irony, sadness, elation.

Text messaging is an absolutely terrible means of communicating emotions, WITH THE POSSIBLE EXCEPTION OF TEXTING ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS (a.k.a. “shouting”)—LOL!— DUH!—sideways smiley faces and multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have witnessed the destruction of countless patients’ important relationships by miscommunications caused by texting and what I refer to as “subtexting.”

Subtexting is the tacit information given and the rampant misinterpretations of that information—namely the response time between text messages.

When you stand in front of a fellow human being and look into his or her eyes, you get a tremendous amount of information and you receive that information in real time; when you speak with someone on the telephone you can hear his or her breathing, you can feel the rhythm and tone of his or her voice, and get a general feeling of what that person’s current disposition or emotional state is.

Are they frantic, discombobulated, out-of-sorts, out-of-their-heads? Or are they serene, calm, composed, lucid, empathetic and thinking clearly?

All of this is completely lost while texting.

You have no idea if the other person is sitting on the toilet, driving furiously, smoking crack, gently massaging their wrists with a razor, having sex (yes, 25 percent of teenagers recently reported texting while having sex), throwing a tantrum, in a very important meeting, throwing a tantrum in a very important meeting or in a yoga class (yes, I watched an actress negotiate filming a nude scene via text message while in Virabhadrasana II—completely surreal yet somehow remotely acceptable at Maha Yoga).

And every second that passes as you wait for a response, your mind tries to assemble a scenario of the other person’s current reality from the blurry pixelated puzzle pieces of your text message conversation and the time it takes for them to respond.

You wonder,

“Is my wife really shopping at Whole Foods or is she screwing her tennis coach again? I thought that was over. Why is it taking her so long to text back?”

To my friends and recent girlfriends (too many of whom have ended our relationship via text message or what is known here as the “fade out,” which is when they slowly stop returning messages, and like a frog being boiled alive, you end up scalded by the silence): I have made very specific requests.

Please only text me for one of two reasons:

1. Egregious flirting. For example, “Ira, you’re super cool!” “You’re magic!” “You’re dreamy!” “You’re hugely gorgeous!” “You’re both dope, fresh and rad!” “I miss you!” “When can I see you again?”

2. Emergencies. For example, “Dude, I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 35 years and I still can’t calculate traffic into the equation. My GPS told me I would be there three months ago. I’m sorry I’m late. Dinner is on me.”

However, I have witnessed potential partners have entire one-sided passive-aggressive conversations and self-implode like Jon Favreau in “Swingers” via text message on my oh-so smart phone.

I have watched vacations in Paris spontaneously combust via text messaging on my oh-so smart phone. Worse, I have had imminent threesomes float off into the ether, never to be seen again, thanks to text messaging on my oh-so smart phone.

All joking aside, trying to communicate anything of note via text message equals one thing: fear of intimacy.

Anyone who can’t pick up the phone or look you in the eye when conveying vital information suffers from a dreadful fear of abandonment which manifests as a fear of intimacy. That’s why they like to keep everything vague—so that it appears more like Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field” than an outright lie, when they preemptively flake on you (before you can even think of flaking on or abandoning them).

After ten years and thousands of texts, I feel comfortable saying that the deficits outweigh the benefits regarding text messaging.

By now you’ve read or heard about Sonja Lyubormirsky’s book “The Myths of Happiness” so you know that most of the things you learned growing up in America will unequivocally not bring you happiness—right?

Once you are above the survival level, and if you are reading this article in your home or office and didn’t drag your pilfered three-wheel shopping cart from Venice Beach to the library this morning to shower in the bathroom sink, then you are probably doing better than just surviving.

The only thing that correlates strongly with happiness is the quality of intimate face-to-face relationships.

If you set your iPhone on the sink or toilet when you take a shower, then it is safe to say that technology is no longer your friend.

Facebooking and Tweeting delude people into believing they are engaging in relationships. But face it: nobody is ever going to receive a hug or pat on the back through a video screen. We need eye contact, we need to break bread with other human beings, we need touch, we need to practice the dying art of conversation, we need face-to-face empathy, love and compassion to get all of those mirror neurons firing again.

Oh, yeah, anyone notice the massive rise in depression, alienation and isolation, or the 100 million prescriptions for anti-depressants written every year in this country of 314 million people? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

All of the preceding is to explain why today I eliminated text messaging from my mobile telephone.

I want to rob people of the ability to reschedule via text message when I’m already sitting at the restaurant. I want to eliminate the possibility of a future girlfriend breaking up with me via text message or by fade out. It’s too easy. It’s too impersonal. It’s like assassinating someone by drone rather than knife and having his blood spurt all over you.

Horrendous improprieties and flagrantly inconsiderate behaviors have become tolerated due to text messaging and micro-scheduling. It is time that we realize that all of this multi-tasking—texting multiple people, while monitoring Tweets and Facebook feeds, while watching marathons of “Breaking Bad,” while eating Chipotle take-out, while paying credit card minimums online, while checking World of Warcraft scores, while skimming Youporn to see if you recognize anyone from Spring Break—isn’t making anyone happy.

Except possibly Time Warner Cable and their shareholders.

Most of you are too young to remember the famous line from Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network:”

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Well, you can call me Howard Beale if you like.

But you will no longer be able to text it to me. LOL!!!!!!!! :-)



Coffee Talk: Gadgets and Health

Clearly there are ways technology aids in starting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle: the step counter, the scales, the BBC News Health App 🙂

But do we *need* gadgets and technology to be healthy?  Could they, in actual practice, be more distracting than helpful?


Today I’m grateful for the infiltration of the “health market” in the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.  Hey, if we can get gamers off the couch for some actual engaged embodiment, there’s hope yet!

Check out this article from a newspaper that’s kept me surprisingly awake at many a mid-morning brunch, The Guardian

The HAPIfork … vibrates when you eat too fast.

The Consumer Electronics Show, an annual innovation showcase which brings over 100,000 industry professionals to Las Vegas and fills 172,000 square metres of convention floor space, is traditionally a cornucopia of gadget prototypes for couch potatoes. At this year’s CES, alongside the usual array of computers, robots and giant televisions, about a quarter of the exhibits were related to health and fitness, selling the idea that technology is the key to mental and physical wellbeing.

It does not sound a promising combination: geeks tend to neglect health and fitness; Sin City discourages moderation and sense; and conferences are graveyards of diet and exercise. Yet companies and developers unveiled a parade of apps, accessories and gizmos to help lose weight, eat properly, exercise regularly, prevent disease, manage illness and banish infirmity. Believe the hype and it is a mystery how our species survived this long without technology.

“Everybody could benefit from this,” says Philippe Monteiro de Rocha, an engineer with the French company Hapilabs, holding a fork. And it’s not just any fork but a prototype HAPIfork, a piece of smart cutlery to help you slim. “It has a capacity sensor in the handle which monitors the speed you eat,” he explains. Eat too fast and the fork vibrates, reminding you to slow down. People feel full after 20 minutes of eating so if you eat less during that time, you’re on your way to a thinner you. An unexpected hit at the expo – “We’ve been covered by [journalists from] 62 countries in the past 48 hours,” marvels Hapilabs’ Renee Blodgett – the forks are due to go on sale in the US this summer for $99 (£60) and in the UK later in the year.

Metria wearable sensors.
Among the thousands of products ranging from daft to useful to ingenious, the connecting thread is wireless technology – using smartphones and tablets to collect data about your body in real time. “Everybody is trying to leverage this technology into the field of wellness,” says Ryan Hruska, an engineer with Vancive, a Chicago-based medical technology company exhibiting a wearable sensor called Metria. You put the small patch on your chest for seven days, during which it measures heartbeat, skin hydration, breathing, steps taken and sleep patterns, recording the duration and quality of sleep (poor, good, excellent) on the basis of how much you tossed and turned.

This information is sent via Bluetooth and can be instantly tracked on a phone or tablet, meaning you can be on the other side of the world and check up on Grandma’s precise medical condition, says Hruska. “A lot of elderly people live on their own. This way you can make sure they’re OK.”

The disposable patch, which lasts seven days and can be worn in the shower, is due to go on sale this year for between $30-$40. The US air force is considering it to monitor pilots. Drug companies could use it to observe subjects’ adherence during drug trials. Insurance companies could, in theory, use it to verify medical conditions. “It will become more difficult to lie to insurance companies but it cuts both ways. If you’re taking medication as you should you’d be able to prove it,” says Tim Ensor, a product developer with Cambridge Consultants. The British firm’s wares include an algorithm which uses a bike, Bluetooth and smartphone to calculate and adjust the gear for optimal efficiency.

Fitness straps, which can record medical data in real time.Exhibitors hammered the message that smartphones and tablets could now help liberate us by processing medical data instantly and precisely. “Some diabetics need to test their blood sugar six to 12 times a day,” says Joseph Martorano, of iHealth, a California firm which has developed an app to record and store such information using one of the increasingly ubiquitous “cloud” services. Dozens of other companies such as Fitbit, Fitbug and BodyMedia vied to show “wearable” fitness devices you can strap around your wrist or ankle to record, it seems, every pore that opens.

If information management alone could deliver health and fitness then soon we would all be athletes. Sadly there is no app for willpower. There is, however, a gadget you can strap around your head to harness your brainwaves. “You just have to concentrate,” says Steve Castellotti, the founder of PuzzleBox, snapping a black band around my head. A sensor node rests on my forehead, a device is clipped to my ear. Castellotti taps on a computer. “Ready.”

My brow furrows, my eyes squint and hey presto, a toy helicopter buzzes upwards, controlled by my thoughts. The device works by measuring brainwave electroencephalogram and heartbeat electrocardiography. Seconds later the helicopter plunges – I lost concentration.

The point of the software, says Andrea Shukis of NeuroSky, which has partnered with PuzzleBox on the brain-controlled helicopter, is to teach the value of concentration and focus. They also had on display furry cat ears with sensors that swivel, prick and droop according to what you’re thinking. “You can use it to teach children and to help adults keep their brains active.”

Who would have thought: Las Vegas, the temple of indulgence, showing us how to eat less, monitor health and exercise willpower.

Harnessing the Power of the Mind

A new wave of technology is hitting the market, fresh out of development in private, public and university settings. Designed to read the millions of messages the brain communicates through the reading of brainwaves (beta, alpha, theta, delta, etc.), these devices are similar to the EEG machine – minus the hideous electrodes pasted to your skull!

The reading of brainwaves has been used in psychology for decades.  More recently, South Korea’s archery team trained using biofeedback to increase their accuracy and focus.  The implications are incredibly broad. Improve your memory, up your golf game, fulfill your fantasies of telekinesis!


One of the more socially conscious inventions, recently featured on the Discovery Channel, is a non-aggressive socio-responsible gaming line, specifically designed to encourage users to learn how to access certain brainwaves to simply relax.  The more relaxed you are (the more beta waves you emit to the headset), the further along your character goes in the game!  Meditators, ya’ll should be ROCKIN’ this one…

This technology has the potential to make leaps and bounds in education, ADD, autism, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, brain injury, Cerebral Palsy, and even Parkinson’s Disease.  One San Jose-based company working with such prestigious universities as Brown and Korea University is Neurosky.

Check out their Jedi Training Tower and company schpiel below to get caught up!

Grounded in Medical Research

The last century of neuroscience research greatly increased our medical understanding about the brain and the rich energy it emits. Brainwave patterns of varying frequencies combine to form electrical signals detectable on the scalp. Measuring this has historically required complex, intimidating and immovable equipment costing thousands of dollars, limiting the benefits to the medical research community.

For a broad market, NeuroSky ThinkGear technology senses analog electrical brainwaves and processes them into digital signals to make measurements available to power the user-interface of games, computers and medical applications. NeuroSky has worked within this academic trove of research and pioneered technology for broad use in consumer products, educational electronics and medical devices. The next century will be characterized by a much deeper understanding of the brain. Technologies from NeuroSky will be instrumental in the effort to harness, maintain and heal this most vital of human organs.

Brainwaves, Not Thoughts

Our stainless alloy sensor monitors neural signals, inputting them into our ThinkGear ASIC chip, which processes the signal. A monumental hurdle lies in distinguishing brain signal from the noise that comes from ambient environment, muscle movement, chewing, etc. Such noise interferences are digitally filtered out and eliminated. Raw brain signals are amplified and processed by algorithms—delivering concise input to the device with which the user is interfacing. Algorithms come from both NeuroSky as well as research institutions and universities, and are grounded in decades of clinical research. They currently include “attention”, “meditation,” and physical eyeblinks. Many new algorithms are in development with partners. NeuroSky technology accurately measures mental state brainwaves today, but is busy in labs throughout the world advancing development in new areas of emotional EEG, EMG (muscle movement), EOG (optical movement) and ECG (cardiac behavior).

MindSet for Developers and Consumers

The NeuroSky MindSet headset is our first manifestation available for the consumer market. As a turnkey consumer or research acquisition tool, it measures electrical impulses generated by mental activity, and uses proprietary algorithms to calculate the observed types of brain behavior. For consumer games and education, The MindSet makes calculated brainwave levels and interpreted mental states (currently “attention” and “meditation”) available as digital input for computers, software, and devices. There are currently over a dozen games and educational applications available for download. For sophisticated developers, raw unfiltered brainwave measurements are available through use of our SDK. Data is fed to the computer via wireless Bluetooth.

Developers Meet Developers Meet Consumers

Our open platform is a marketplace gathering of early adopters of all walks. From visionary game developers to university algorithm mathematicians to medical research scientists; everyone will find a buyer in the BCI value chain. Consumer traffic to the Neurosky.com site is the point of monetization for many developers, although many business models and distribution channels exist through distributors and retailers worldwide.

Our technology principles:

1) Easy to use

2) Non-invasive

3) Single-Dry sensor

4) Untethered Mobility

5) Access to both raw data or algorithmically optimzed data.

6) Open platform for any industry

We pride ourselves on pioneering mass-market, Brain Computer Interface technology (BCI) that is user-friendly and cost effective. In addition to the current applications using BCI, including toys made by Mattel and Uncle Milton, we actively support opportunities for broader and more socially beneficial applications of our technology. We are honored to be working with the world’s leading brands, universities and minds in ADD, autism, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, brain injury, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, and many others.

MindSet is Only the Beginning

The value created by NeuroSky comes from expertise in the melding of science and technology with our creative vision, which is driven by a simple mantra; “what if?” We are experts in the field of Brain-Computer Interface and the first solution that brings the power of the mind to consumers, in ways that have only been dreamed of…until now.

Our ASIC is a programmable chip that can integrate into any BCI form factor, combined for a multi-sensor solution, with an option to hard code to protect your IP. The MindSet is a brainwave interface headset with medical-grade data acquisition for research or consumer use. It leverages Bluetooth for ultimate mobility and includes both audio and voice support in addition to core BCI capabilities.