Misquoting Einstein and the FUD that follows every new technology

14 10 2013

Got an email from Mum today, another meme that I just couldn’t help debunking.

It starts with a series of pictures (see below), showing youngsters with their heads buried in smartphones, followed by a quote attributed to Einstein:

“I fear the day that our technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.”

The near meaninglessness of the quote immediately raised my suspicion that it wasn’t a quote of his at all, so I spent 30 seconds googling and discovered I wasn’t the first one to question this attribution.  This one neatly sums up the situation.

This is what I replied to Mum:

Einstein actually never said that, or in fact anything like it.

It is an “internet meme” concocted by people who hold the view along the lines “this is what we [or at least some of us] are, so this is all we can be”, and I think it’s rubbish.

fear, uncertainty and doubt – FUD – have followed on the coat tails of EVERY technological advance.

Fearmongers claimed that the gramophone would put an end to public performance of music; that movies & cinema would end live theatre; that TV would make our eyes square; that computers would make us dumber.  and that’s just some of the relatively rational claims…


live music is alive and well.

theatre lives on, aided in many ways by technology.

eyes continue to be round, and countless billions educated, informed, and entertained by it every hour of every day.  no one claims now that all TV is bad because of what people choose to watch, any more than they claimed with any credibility that all books were bad because of what some people choose to read; remember, Mills and Boon was a product of YOUR generation! ;)

computers give us, among many things, the ability to type a few words into Google and find out if Einstein really did say those words, and discover in a matter of seconds that in fact he didn’t, and then pause to wonder at the mind(s) and intent/motivation behind those who claim that he did.

Einstein and his peers discovered and invented something that still threatens our survival as a species on this planet even now.  but that’s not all that opening that door of inquiry did; many secrets of our physical world are still unfolding since crossing that threshold, and many tangible benefits have come from it that out-number the deleterious risk of its original application in just about every way you care to measure it; and we continue to have the option, if we are sufficiently motivated, to cease using that original application of nuclear technology.

each step of the way, our collective culture has to take each of these new technologies and experiment with them, learn what they’re good for and not-so-good for, and adapt it to human needs and wants.

having “the internet in your pocket” (or in your hands while seated at a cafe table with your closest friends) is so utterly new and novel and empowering that our culture hasn’t yet settled on new norms and etiquettes for dealing with the social ramifications of these new tools.

prior to 7 years ago when business executives or True Geeks pulled out an internet-connected smart-phone and tapped away at it while in the company of Normal People, they were looked upon with a bit of disdain, but it was mostly tolerated; “their interests are specialised” the ignorant folk conceded.  back then smartphones were an insignificant blip on our collective radar.

then Apple showed us how to make proper smartphones and tablets, and everyone else (manufacturers) followed.

now everyone wants one and wants to use it in all sorts of ways and places and situations that were never possible or practical before.

some other people want society to jump to some imagined conclusion point, some “this is how and when and where smartphones should be used in public, BUT NO FURTHER!”.

well, they can keep wanting, because it will simply take time, not withstanding that there will never be one universal etiquette on the who/what/when/where/how of their use, any more than we can agree on a pan-cultural, universally acceptable use of, and behaviour within, a public toilet.

i’d like to think that Einstein would just shake his crazy-haired head at these pictures and accept that technology is a continuum, and say that people will sooner or later rediscover what’s most important, and re-define the limits of what is acceptable and not acceptable for the use of each technology for themselves, and leave others to do as they wish.

but then, Einstein probably never said anything of the sort ;)



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Gaydar wants to screw you for going mobile

31 03 2009

Dear Mr Johnson,
(his email quoted below)
Thanks for the notice about an iPhone-friendly adaptation of GaydarMobile.  However, that wasn’t the main thrust of my last communication to Gaydar on the matter.  But it *is* nice to know you’re keeping track of ‘interest’.

Aside from the lack of an actual iPhone *application* for Gaydar, where this latest adaptation to the GaydarMobile website may be an acceptable compromise (I have no intention of finding out), my point is that I still think you’re NUTS for wanting to charge me US$48 for Gaydar + GaydarMobile, vs $28 for just Gaydar (3 months).

So, lemme get this right.  Regardless of which mobile device I use, you want to charge me a 70% subscription premium to access the same service, simply for the ‘privilege’ of doing so from a mobile device?

I can’t comment on what others may or may not be doing specifically in the online gay dating site genre as regards mobile device access, but I *can* comment on the broader explosion of mobile accessibility options, and the business models behind them, and yours is heading, in my humble opinion, in 180 degrees the exact wrong direction, by charging *any* premium, let alone such a steep one, and is thus doomed to failure.

It’s my contention that free – or very low premium – access to said same service via mobile would attract a larger subscription (from the many guys who baulk at sitting down in front of a computer for any length of time – you see this sentiment expressed in profiles all the time), and thus pay your development costs, and *then* reap the reward.  If you need any evidence of this rapidly growing phenomenon, I would draw your attention to iPhone apps such as WhosHere (for a ‘general’ audience but clearly embraced by gay men) & Grindr (specifically for gay men) to name just two.

Yours sincerely,

On 18/03/2009, at 3:02 AM, Simon Johnson wrote:

Hello iPhone Fan,

You recently got in touch with us as you’d like to use GaydarMobile on your Apple iPhone. Great news! We’ve updated GaydarMobile to now work on iPhone.  You’ll find GaydarMobile is easier to use on your iPhone than logging into the online version of Gaydar that uses frames and might be difficult for your phone to understand.

GaydarMobile lets you plan your perfect night in, even when you’re out. Using your mobile phone you can send and receive messages, view profiles and chat to your friends and favourites. Here’s how…

§  Text GAYDAR to 69080 (UK only) or tap in http://www.gaydarmobile.co.uk through your mobile phone internet browser.
§  Log in with your existing Gaydar username and password. If you don’t have a Gaydar account, you can join free through GaydarMobile or online at Gaydar.net
§  Once you’re logged into GaydarMobile follow the on screen instructions to validate your number.

Once you’ve followed the above steps you’re ready to use GaydarMobile. Congratulations! GaydarMobile is very easy to use, and you’ll find that you have the same features available on your mobile as you do online. So it shouldn’t take too long for you to find your way around.

GaydarMobile isn’t a text service, however it does use data and you should check with your service provider if you have a data package. Most call packages now include data as standard.

Start cruising from the comfort and privacy of your mobile phone handset, no matter where you are. On the train, at your desk, on the beach, in your favourite bar or queuing in the supermarket. Who knows, a hot guy might be behind you!

I hope you find this information useful, if there are any other features of Gaydar you’re unsure about or need help with, hit reply and ask questions. We’re here 7 days a week, from 8am to 11pm (GMT).

At Gaydar we are committed to providing our customers with the best possible service. If you haven’t received the support you’d expect, please let me or any of the Gaydar Support Team know.

Play your way, enjoy Gaydar.

Simon Johnson
Marketing & PR Manager
QSoft Consulting Ltd