Book Review of “The Glass Cage” by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing UsThe Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr has brought the role of technology in our lives into focus with another aspect that I doubt many of us really understand in its pervasiveness in our everyday lives and what it is costing us, not just in obvious ways, but in ways that are fundamental to being human and be uniquely skilled to productively and expertly interact in and with the world of opportunity and possibilities we’ve been given.

The subtitle of this book is “Automation and Us,” and how automation has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and what we’re losing in the process is Carr’s subject in this book.

Automation, of and by itself, is not bad. It is the things we’ve automated and our relationship to automation (serving it instead of letting it serve us) that turns what could be a good thing into something that is destined to destroy us – our unique human abilities, skills, and talents – unless we take control and do something different.

One of the points that Carr makes in this book is that we have offloaded critical thinking skills, technical acumen, analysis, and creativity to technology. By doing this, we gradually lose the ability to operate successfully manually (without the technology) and use judgement, intuition, experience, and knowledge to navigate our lives and our professions.

Carr looks at the impact of automatic in the airline industry (specifically looking at how autopilot has degraded the skills of pilots to successfully deal with emergencies and crises when flying), in business (stock market, accounting, business decisions, human resources, hiring, etc., which have all been relegated to software to handle, with no human factors involved, resulting in the global financials messes we now deal with and with a loss of talent because there’s no human contact or intervention to recognize the talent), in medicine (with the advent of electronic medical records in most medical facilities, software is now making the decisions that doctors used to make and because the software adds procedures and tests, the costs, which were supposed to go lower, have actually increased exponentially) and in manufacturing.

He also looks at us and how we’ve turned over our brains to automation. We depend on social media to decide who and what we like (or don’t) and who we’re friends with (and who we’re not – anyone who chooses to limit this exposure disappears and becomes invisible because they simply don’t exist outside the virtual world) and we have chosen willing to live in this virtual world more than we actually interact with the real word.

We’ve given control of our lives to our electronic devices: to do lists, calendars, phone numbers, etc. We let our software do things we should be doing ourselves: spell-checking, grammar-checking, basic math functions, etc. We have fallen for the myth that automation gives us more power, when instead it erodes our power and our humanness.

As we don’t use our brains, we lose our brains, leading to the brain itself atrophying and dying. This sadly, is a lifestyle factor that will lead to dementia, unless we make the choice to stop it and reverse it. We already are more impacted than we realize.

But it is not too late for us to put our lives and our brains back on manual and let automation serve us in ways that don’t jeopardize the health of this wonderful brain we’ve been blessed with.

People are much more extreme in their polarization of love and hate (nothing in between) in an automated world. It often seems that empathy, compassion, care, concern and love – all unique human abilities – is absent in the presence of a world that is automated. We lose our ability to relate to each other in any kind of real way and, as a result, we lose our humanness, and we become programmed to polarized points of view that we simply pick up and accept by what and who we choose to listen to, follow, and expouse in the landscape of technology (cable, streaming, internet, etc.).

We are losing our life blood – our hearts, our souls, and our minds, because we serve the god of automation that lacks emotional richness, deep understanding, and caring concern. I hope we reverse this trend, but I also am realistic enough to realize that we probably won’t and it will probably get much worse before it gets better.

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Profiles in Dementia: Coach Pat Summitt (1952 – 2016)

Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Women's Basketball CoachCoach Pat Summitt, who coached the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) women’s basketball team for 38 years until her retirement in 2012 after she announced that she had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, was known for her fair, but ethical, disciplined, and meticulous coaching that emphasize hard work saw Coach Summitt experience unparalleled success on and off the court, but more importantly, saw the efforts of her leadership and coaching develop in her basketball players the same kind of work ethic, fairness, ethics, discipline, and meticulousness.

In stark contrast to many players in men’s college basketball players who typically don’t graduate from college, but instead go to the NBA in their sophomore or junior years, Coach Summitt held a 100 percent graduation rate for all of her players who completed their eligibility at the University of Tennessee.

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How War Damages and Destroys The Brain: Blast Wounds, PTSD, and Neurological Damage & Decline

Blast force wounds are common in modern warfare and leave long-term neurological and emotional damageWar is hell.General Sherman Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), who led Union forces through the South during the United States Civil War, made not only this insightful observation on the nature of fighting wars, but also added “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it;…”

The ultimate purpose of war is malevolent: to maim, to injure, to destroy, and to kill to force one group of people to surrender to another group of people. Continue reading

Elder Abuse Awareness Day – June 15, 2016

Elder Abuse Awareness Day: June 15, 2016There are many forms of abuse that humans can inflict on other humans. We see these kinds of abuse – and sometimes experience them ourselves by being on the receiving end – in action on a daily basis in the world around us.

While you and I may be strong enough, savvy enough, knowledgeable enough, and aware enough to recognize and prevent (or avoid or remove ourselves from) these manifestations of abuse, the most vulnerable people in our human family – children and the elderly – are often the most susceptible to and unable to protect themselves from these kinds of abuse. Continue reading

Remembering What Would Have Been My Parents’ 60th Wedding Anniversary

mama-daddy-wedding-announcementSixty years ago today at 4 p.m. in Unaka Avenue Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, my parents, Ned Moses Ross and Muriel June Foster, in front of a few family and friends, took their vows of marriage to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as they both lived.

Although neither of them on that day could have imagined how their lives together would unfold, testing along the way the strength of the unconditional commitment they made to each other, my daddy and my mama were lovingly faithful throughout their union to their promise before God and their promise to each other.
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Profiles in Dementia: Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016)

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)Muhammad Ali is remembered as one of the greatest boxers of all time. His physical strength and abilities, his agile footwork in the ring, and his witty and intelligent – and sometimes boastful – running commentaries about himself and his opponents made Ali compelling and appealing to a much wider segment of the population than just those who liked to watch boxing.

But as Ishmael Reed so poignantly points out in his New York Times article about Ali, none of this came without a cost. A very high cost. An eventually fatal cost. Continue reading

Military Service, War, and Dementia Risks for Veterans

Samuel Anderson Foster (1898 - 1936) Oakland Presbyterian Cemetery, Telford, TennesseeWe pause on Memorial Day 2016 (in the United States) to remember our deceased military veterans.

I also pause to remember all those who have died – especially the civilians who weren’t drafted or who didn’t volunteer, but who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and became collateral damage – because of war because they should not be forgotten either.

However, in light of Memorial Day, it seems fitting that we should also consider how military service and war increase the risks of developing dementia for veterans. Continue reading