Friday, February 23, 2007

Medical Tricorder + Flame Wars

This article on the BBC News website states "An electronic clipboard that has the potential to save lives has been unveiled." My first thought was "at last, we're one step closer to the medical tricorder!" The device, which goes by the rather lame name 'mobile clinical assistant (MCA)', promises to allow clinicians to "access patient records at the bedside, write notes and order essential tests in real-time". It also has, amongst other things, a camera for taking pictures of injuries. It's also expected to "cut mistakes made when administering drugs by up to 70%". Sadly, it's also "prone to frequent crashes"; rumours that Microsoft wrote the software have been vehemently denied. (Note: I made that last part up)

Not quite the tricorder, but merge it with the iPhone in some way and build in some kind of scanner, and we're halfway there! Also, rumour has it that because of the frequent green screens of death it turns users into crotchety people who mutter things to themselves... like 'that green blooded Vulcan'. Pointy ears sold separately.

The New York Times has a story about why people turn into uncivilized animals when engaging in online written communication. Huh? I thought this mystery had already been solved - isn't it because people are assholes and the anonymity of the web allows them to reveal their true nature? Apparently not. It's actually got to do with a "design flaw inherent in the interface between the brain’s social circuitry and the online world". A design flaw? Scientists that believe in intelligent design are not to be trusted! This is all bunk! The article goes on to state "Without the raised eyebrow that signals irony, say, or the tone of voice that signals delight, the orbitofrontal cortex has little to go on. Lacking real-time cues, we can easily misread the printed words in an e-mail message, taking them the wrong way. And if we are typing while agitated, the absence of information on how the other person is responding makes the prefrontal circuitry for discretion more likely to fail. Our emotional impulses disinhibited, we type some infelicitous message and hit “send” before a more sober second thought leads us to hit “discard.” We flame."

So there we go. The next time I get into an online argument, I'm going to blame it on my orbitofrontal cortex. That excuse is golden - God I hope my orbitofrontal cortex is still intact! Orbitofrontal cortex orbitofrontal cortex orbitofrontal cortex!


sanity index said...

"Design flaw" + average person = inadequate communication. The latter factor is a big part of it, I think, because plenty of people have managed to skillfully channel their words/tone in printed medium. Do people not read books/magazines anymore?!

If they'd said this medium causes verbal diarrhea because there's no quality control, I'd be more likely to believe them. :>

Antimatter said...

I agree actually, I've seen lots of reasoned and well thought out 'conversations' conducted online.

But it must be said that conversations are quite different from reading articles and books, and I can see where things can go wrong - emotional cues can be ambiguous, if they are even present at all. Reasonable people are able to work around these limitations, that's the difference.

Barriers to entry are so low now that any moron can get online and start flaming. I don't think the people involved in this piece have been to enough message boards to actually understand that flaming and trolling have little to do with misunderstanding. I think the Penny Arcade guys said it better! :D

"verbal diarrhea"... hahaha... ouch.

sanity index said...

What was that old saying - "if a million monkeys types on a million keyboards for a million years, eventually all the works of Shakespeare would be produced, but now, thanks to Usenet, we know this is not true." :D

(Usenet...boy I feel old.)

I used to roam around chatrooms/IRC channels way back when, and yeah, most people had no problems with communication, except for the trolls.

Antimatter said...

Heh heh, I got this weird feeling of deja vu... we had a similar conversation before and reached the same conclusion. Dumb people + Internet = rubbish communication. :D Although that Internet part might be redundant.