The Deep Space of Digital Reading

LaFarge_BR-machine.16TH-CENTURY INTERNET: The “book wheel,” invented in 1588, was a rotating reading desk that allowed readers to flit among texts by giving the wheel a quick spin.Wikipedia

Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind.

In A History of Reading, the Canadian novelist and essayist Alberto Manguel describes a remarkable transformation of human consciousness, which took place around the 10th century A.D.: the advent of silent reading. Human beings have been reading for thousands of years, but in antiquity, the normal thing was to read aloud. When Augustine (the future St. Augustine) went to see his teacher, Ambrose, in Milan, in 384 A.D., he was stunned to see him looking at a book and not saying anything. With the advent of silent reading, Manguel writes,

the reader was at last able to establish an unrestricted relationship with the book and the words. The words no longer needed to occupy the time required to pronounce them. They could exist in interior space, rushing on or barely begun, fully deciphered or only half-said, while the reader’s thoughts inspected them at leisure, drawing new notions from them, allowing comparisons from memory or from other books left open for simultaneous perusal.

To read silently is to free your mind to reflect, to remember, to question and compare. The cognitive scientist Maryanne Wolf calls this freedom “the secret gift of time to think”: When the reading brain becomes able to process written symbols automatically, the thinking brain, the I, has time to go beyond those symbols, to develop itself and the culture in which it lives.

A thousand years later, critics fear that digital technology has put this gift in peril. The Internet’s flood of information, together with the distractions of social media, threaten to overwhelm the interior space of reading, stranding us in what the journalist Nicholas Carr has called “the shallows,” a frenzied flitting from one fact to the next. In Carr’s view, the “endless, mesmerizing buzz” of the Internet imperils our very being: “One of the greatest dangers we face,” he writes, “as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system, is … a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.”

There’s no question that digital technology presents challenges to the reading brain, but, seen from a historical perspective, these look like differences of degree, rather than of kind. To the extent that digital reading represents something new, its potential cuts both ways. Done badly (which is to say, done cynically), the Internet reduces us to mindless clickers, racing numbly to the bottom of a bottomless feed; but done well, it has the potential to expand and augment the very contemplative space that we have prized in ourselves ever since we learned to read without moving our lips.

Critics like to say the Internet causes our minds to wander off, but we’ve been wandering off all along.

The fear of technology is not new. In the fifth century B.C., Socrates worried that writing would weaken human memory, and stifle judgment. In fact, as Wolf notes in her 2007 book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, the opposite happened: Faced with the written page, the reader’s brain develops new capacities. The visual cortex forms networks of cells that are capable of recognizing letterforms almost instantaneously; increasingly efficient pathways connect these networks to the phonological and semantic areas of the cortex, freeing up other parts of the brain to put the words we read into sentences, stories, views of the world. We may not keep the Iliadin our heads any longer, but we’re exquisitely capable of reflecting on it, comparing it to other stories we know, and forming conclusions about human beings ancient and modern…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/the-deep-space-of-digital-reading-rp

WIKK WEB GURU

Chasing the Dragon – America’s Struggle With Opioid Addiction

by Dr. Mercola, Guest Waking Times 

If you or someone you know is hooked on prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, or street drugs like heroin, you’ll connect with “Chasing the Dragon,” a raw 2016 documentary about the horrors of drug addiction.

Produced by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the film features ordinary Americans sharing personal stories of danger and destruction that characterized their lives prior to recovery from hard-core drug addiction.

Because the documentary is filled with harsh language and disturbing images, parental discretion is advised.

In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly one third of them, 15,281, were by prescription.1,2,3 Meanwhile, kidney disease, listed as the 9th leading cause of death on the CDC’s top 10 list, killed 48,146.4

The CDC does not include drug overdoses on this list, but if you did, drug overdoses (63 percent of which are opioids), would replace kidney disease as the 9th leading cause of death as of 2015.

Many of those featured in “Chasing the Dragon” are regular people from good homes and loving families. The one characteristic they had in common while using was a feeling of powerlessness to escape the spiraling cycle of drug use and abuse that dominated every moment of their lives.

One recovering addict, a woman named Melissa, had this to say about her drug use: “It became my full-time job. The needle was my boss — a very demanding boss.”

To prevent you or someone you love from becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, I’d like to take a closer look at opioid abuse and offer several healthy alternatives to help you manage pain.

How Bad Is Prescription Drug Abuse in the US?

A 2015 study5 suggested 1 in 4 Americans who use opioid painkillers become addicted to them. Despite the drugs’ high risk of addiction, a 2016 NPR health poll6indicated less than one-third of people said they questioned or refused their doctor’s prescription for opioids.

Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, recommends you discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have about receiving a prescription for narcotics.

Due to their highly addictive potential, it’s important, she says, to ensure such drugs are your best and only option:7

“Ask why. Often other alternatives, like not [taking] anything at all, taking an ibuprofen or Tylenol, physical therapy or something else can be effective. Asking ‘why’ is something every patient and provider should do.”

Wen’s concerns are well placed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),8 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2014.

On average, more than 1,000 of them land in emergency rooms every day as the result of abuse or misuse of prescription painkillers.

“There’s very little difference between oxycodone, morphine and heroin,” says Dr. Deeni Bassam, board-certified anesthesiologist, pain specialist and medical director of the Virginia-based Spine Care Center. “It’s just that one comes in a prescription bottle and another one comes in a plastic bag.”9

Bassam, whose views on drug addiction are presented throughout “Chasing the Dragon,” believes most drug dependency starts innocuously:10

“A friend offers you something at a party or at home. Or you’re having a bad day, and you need something to pick you up, so somebody hands you a pill and says, ‘Here, this will help you feel better.’ That’s how this problem always starts.”

Deborah Taylor, senior vice president and executive director of Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization operating in 10 U.S. states, notes:11

“The progression of addiction and the behavior that comes with it is pretty standard regardless of where you’re born, how much money you have, how old you are and your race or nationality.

You can be the smartest person in the world — and the minute that chemical hits your bloodstream, you lose control of what it does in your body. You can’t control it. Nobody can control it. I don’t care who you are. It’s not controllable.”

From Prescription Opioids to Street Drugs

The transition from prescription opioids to street drugs like heroin is a relatively easy one. When a prescription runs out, the cost to renew it becomes unmanageable or a physician refuses to renew a prescription, many addicts look for other options.

Heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to obtain than opioids, is a popular alternative. Chemically, the drugs are very similar and provide a similar kind of high. Without additives, heroin is as dangerous as Oxycontin and equally addictive. However, when dealers cut heroin with other drugs, the results can be deadly.

According to the Chicago Tribune,12 in just six days during August 2016, a staggering 174 heroin overdoses took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city that records, on average, 20 to 25 overdoses a week.

The Tribune13 claims the unprecedented number of overdoses was precipitated by heroin cut with carfentanil, a drug originally developed as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants. Cut into heroin, it was meant to deliver a stronger and more extended high, which would presumably keep users coming back to buy more.

Instead, it resulted in a string of overdoses and deaths that left law enforcement begging local citizens to not buy heroin until the ultra-potent batch was off the streets. Their advice made sense considering carfentanil is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than morphine…

more…

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/04/20/chasing-dragon-americas-struggle-opioid-addiction/

WIKK WEB GURU

How Your Credit Rating Came to Define Your Life—And Your Ability to Buy Almost Anything

Life as we know it in 21st-century America is dictated by your credit score. Those mysterious three digits — decided in secret, and as vulnerable to simple accounting mistakes as to willful misdeeds — are the biggest factor in whether the bank decides to give you that life-saving loan; whether the dealership will sell you that car; whether the store will give you that credit to tide you over till payday. All of that can seem arbitrary, unfair and mysterious. Of course, we can’t help with the first two — the arbitrary and unfair nature of it all — but we can help clear up the mystery as to how these three little numbers have come to define our lives.

Where the Credit Score Originated

In the early 1900s, merchants who wanted to sell stuff to customers on credit found that the best way of figuring out which customers would pay on time was simply to talk to other merchants. “City merchants realized that if they could pool their knowledge of which customers could be trusted and which could not, they would all benefit by being able to extend more credit and make more sales, while having fewer losses from the deadbeats who wouldn’t pay,” says Adam Jusko, CEO of CreditCardCatalog.com, a credit card comparison and information site.

The first American credit company, Retail Credit Company, went from merchant to merchant collecting their customers’ payment habits, simplified into one of three categories: “Prompt,” “Slow” or “Requires Cash.” They then compiled this information in a pamphlet called “The Merchant’s Guide,” and sold subscriptions for $25 a year (a giant sum of money at the time).

Demand soon skyrocketed, and as communication systems in the U.S. became more advanced, they found themselves able to collect information on more and more consumers across the country. Eventually, Retail Credit Company became Equifax, while TransUnion and Experian — the two other companies that, with Equifax, make up the big three of the contemporary credit rating game — arrived on the scene as competitors.

It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century, however, that the credit landscape we know today started to take shape. Up to this point, credit reporting agencies were neither regulated in what information they could collect, nor required to reveal what data was collected that might lead lenders to deny a loan. Even more, they weren’t just collecting data on payments, but also “lifestyle” (i.e., information such as sexual orientation, marital status, drinking habits and cleanliness).

After enough public uproar, the government passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, which forced credit reporting agencies to be more consistent in the way they rated consumers, limited how much information they could keep (and for how long) and forced them to be more transparent about how they scored things. After much trial and error, the Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO) score was born. It’s basically an algorithm that analyzes consumers’ past behavior to predict future behavior — or omniscient data that decides, just like those olden-day merchants, whether or not you’re a respectable, trustworthy citizen.

What the Numbers Mean

Since the majority of lenders in the U.S. use the FICO score, your consumption habits — including how timely you are with your bill payments — are run through that algorithm, which spits out your position on a spectrum between 300 and 850 (the closer you are to 850 the better). The FICO equation is often altered to better reflect contemporary spending habits, but generally, the score weights certain behaviors more heavily than others:

  • 35 percent of your score is based on your credit history — more specifically, how much of a delinquent you are. You can get dinged for foreclosure, bankruptcy, tax liens and consistent late payments on things like rent and bills. These incidents can take up to seven years to stop affecting your credit score.
  • 30 percent of your score is related to how often and to what extent you utilize your current credit card. So if you’ve got a limit of $1,000 and consistently spend $750, you’re at 75 percent utilization rate. To lenders, this looks like you’re thirsty to spend every penny you’re given, which like anything that could be described as “thirsty,” is a risk. According to FICO, the sweet spot for utilization is 30 percent. So even if you’re paying off your credit cards on time, consistently maxing them out is a bad idea.
  • 15 percent is based on how long you’ve had credit lines open, so don’t be too hasty to close old, unused credit cards.
  • 10 percent is how many credit cards you have open, since lenders like to see that other lenders have trusted you. Since this is a lightly weighted factor, though, it doesn’t mean you should say yes to every cashier offering you a store credit card.
  • The remaining 10 percent of your score is based on inquiries into your credit — not inquiries you’ve made yourself, but inquiries made by other lenders. If lenders see you’ve recently applied for a ton of credit cards or loans, they’re going to think you’re either untrustworthy and take your score down a notch…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/how-your-credit-rating-came-to-define-your-life-and-your-ability-to-buy-almost-anything-c071792bd211

WIKK WEB GURU