Monday, February 22, 2016

Smart Phone Zombies A Danger To Themselves And Others

Ok, in the interest of preliminary full disclosure I do not own a smart phone, Call me a Luddite or Neo-Luddite if you want but this is the truth. I have no use for the damned things (besides I am a typer not a texter) and the tiny screens are way too small for my current vision capabilities. Besides, when I go out for a walk or exercise, I like to take in the world and be "present in the moment" (in the parlance of Buddhists) not distractedly become enmeshed in a tiny, electronic facsimile of reality. (My wife does own a smart phone and loves it - but then she can see the damned screen and has fingers nimble enough to text).

But the point of this blog post is not whether smart phones themselves have value in our modern world, it is more how they are used. And by all indications they are not being used intelligently or in a way that even advances the survival interests of many users. (Making them all unintentional candidates for a collective Darwin Award). For those in doubt or mystified I invite you to Google: "smart phone users in near accidents while texting", or "smart phones and accidents". It will be sure to be an eye opener.

These obsessed texters and smart phone gazers have actually been seen walking into freaking traffic, falling off curbs, walking into each other, walking into street signs and even (in Chicago) walking while texting until falling onto a subway track. You'd think this collection of clowns would have the good sense to put their gizmos away until they at least get to café or park bench where they can focus on getting their text out or seeing their Instagram feed - but no, they're too damned into navel gazing obsession to do that.

To be sure, it is a public safety conundrum as we're soon reaching a point where some places are having to hire actual street and traffic guards to call out to motorists to save the "smart" phone dopes from themselves. ("Hey, bub, watch the idiot there walking into the street texting!"). One columnist from the WSJ has even opined that "it's a design failure in smart phones". I believe he is getting at the phones sounding some kind of a loud alarm when the Zomboid user, errr......human, is still texting while approaching an intersection or a subway station.  Or better yet, the phone goes blank when the user gets into any imminent danger. (Better than accidentally earning a "Darwin award"!)

The situation has gotten so ridiculous in Deutschland that the Germans have now coined a name for these detached nitwits: "Smombies" - that is the combination of smartphone plus zombie. In some quarters a new malady called "inattentive accident" has been coined to describe the sometime catastrophic encounters between texters and inanimate objects.

One set of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, crunched by the same WSJ columnist, found that emergency room visits involving distracted pedestrians using cell phones increased 124% in 2014, up from 2010.  Also, up tenfold from 2006. It seems as the damned buggers get jazzier more and more people are converted into smombies with the inevitable consequencs. These increases are also consistent with a separate study by Jack Nasar a professor at Ohio State who found a similar uptick.

The gizmos are now being blamed for at least ten percent of all pedestrian injuries, including broken legs, fractured skulls and even shattered spines.

Maybe the best option is for the geniuses at Apple and elsewhere to design a new generation of i-phones etc. with protections for distracted dopes. In the meantime,  when walking on the streets - especially busy ones, perhaps users need to put the things away until settled or ensconced at a defined place where texting or stupefied screen gazing can be done without walking into a mailbox, fire hydrant, street lamp or an oncoming truck.

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