and why Johnny doesn’t read
I recently got a Pixel 2 smart watch. From time to time, possibly every hour, it beeps to tell me how many more steps I need to take; I have not yet found a way of getting it to stop doing that. I did find a way of getting it to stop insisting on my putting in my password every hour or two — by entirely removing the password protection, after which it tells me I can no longer use the watch to make payments. Which I wasn’t doing.
Subscribe for free to receive new posts.
115 points in West Coast Culinary Symposium
You earned the top contributor badge!
It’s official! You’re a top contributor in West Coast Culinary Symposium. Keep up the great work.
That isn’t the reason I post on Facebook.
Sometimes when I open the Kindle program on my cell phone there are words of praise for how much I have read recently. I never instructed it to praise me for reading; I don’t read for the purpose of being praised. I have not found any way to stop it.
I came across a Facebook post about all the good effects of reading with a graph of how many books a year put you in what percentile of the population, a new reason for you to feel superior to unknown strangers or, if you are only in the fortieth percentile, to read another book. It apparently did not occur to whomever posted it that correlation is not causation, that the fact that reading lots of books correlates with a higher income or a lower divorce rate does not imply that if you read another book your income will go up and your wife not divorce you. Dead people do not read even one book a year; it does not follow that you take care to read a book a year you will live forever.
That, like the kindle nag, reflects the idea that reading, like cod liver oil, tastes bad but is good for you.
Elsewhere online I found:
Exposure to vocabulary through reading (particularly reading children's books) not only leads to higher score on reading tests, but also higher scores on general tests of intelligence for children. (8 Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real) Book)
The link to “higher scores” led to an article which contained (bolding mine):
However, unlike those authors, we did not find associations of reading exposure (measured by the ART) with later intelligence; the only associations in our models were with reading ability. (Does Learning to Read Improve Intelligence? A Longitudinal Multivariate Analysis in Identical Twins From Age 7 to 16)
Neither FaceBook nor the Kindle app can make people do things but schools can and do. I was told by friends with children in elementary school that they were required to read a fixed number of pages a week. That is how you do a chore, not how you do something you enjoy. Teaching children that reading is a chore they must get through is not likely to encourage them to read once nobody is making them do so — which may explain why the number of children who read for fun is going down.
When I raised the issue of robot nags online, I got lots of other examples:
My car refuses to let me program the navigation system or read text messages while the car is in motion. It doesn't care that I'm the passenger when I try these things.
My microwave beeps once every 30 seconds after it has finished, and won't stop until you open the door.
Windows 11's power settings try to guilt-trip you if you chose setting that increase power consumption.
Aldi self checkout kiosks. You have about 3 seconds from the time you scan something before robot woman screams at you to scan another item or pay for your stuff. Not even enough time to bag the item you just scanned and grab another one.
If I turn the headlights on or off, the display tells me that this has happened, every single time (obscuring the information normally on the display). If I do anything at all to the cruise control, even adjusting it by a single mile per hour, the display tells me this has happened. It does this despite the fact that there are little indicators on the display that show me the status of the headlights and the speed the cruise control is set to at all times. Same with the parking brake, and many other status messages: they all trigger pop-up messages that cover the display for a second or two. A rental car I had was even worse: every change to cruise control would pop up a wordy explanation of what cruise control does for those not familiar with the concept, and leave it there covering the dash for several seconds to give me time to read it. Every. Single. Time.
I can top that for pointless robot nagging stupidity: my car, apparently at random, will have its information center pop up with a message informing me that taking my eyes off the road for too long could cause a crash... and requires me to look at it and hit OK to get it to go away, thereby forcing me to take my eyes off the road.
Most of the nags attempt to get you to do something on the theory that it is good for you, robot paternalism, but some are attempts by an authority to make sure you are doing something you do not want to do.
There was one class that required me to spend two hours viewing it. If I read too fast it would refuse to go forward to the next page until the appropriate time. I had to interact with it frequently, both advancing to new pages and answering quizzes, preventing me from letting it run in the background. The content itself was irksome---DEI rules that I partly disagreed with.
Or, in interaction with an AI:
Like if you ask Claude for an innocent request "e.g. repeat the word 'hello'" it may refuse because of fears that you might be spreading misinformation. Or that you "have to speak to a professional" if you ask it about a medical problem. (https://nostalgebraist.tumblr.com/post/728556535745232896/claude-is-insufferable)
The last sentence of which makes me wonder if perhaps the current incarnation of Dear Abby is actually Claude in drag.
Subscribe for free to receive new posts.