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Technomancy appears in MP3 players

Category: Social effects
Tags: magic

Technorati tags: magic

I've written about how I feel that given enough exposure to digital black box devices whose function is difficult to discern, people may likely start projecting psychology onto the devices, much as they project consciousness on the natural world. Gizmodo has a description of the Cure-Alpha MP3 player that

will not only allow you to listen to your favourite tunes, but it will also produce "alpha waves" that are, according to certain scientists, beneficial for the human being and the human brain. You can find alpha waves in the sound of water falling or in the noise that waves make.

(quote from Akihabara News)

I'm reminded of quack medical electrotherapy devices that appeared in the early days of electricity. Then, as now, the new technology seemed magical, and so magical properties were assigned to it. It's not surprising to see it happening again with contemporary digital technology, especially technology that's so personal and portable as MP3 players and cell phones (whose emissions have been the subject of a lot of scrutiny because, as ubiquitous objects whose actual operation can't be easily understood, they naturally create suspicion--because magic can be both good and bad, and we don't trust magic that's appeared to be all good for so long). As ubiquitous computing becomes, well, more ubiquitous, I can imagine both phenomena appearing: first, a projection of magical properties onto everyday objects; then, a backlash and suspicion (see I, Robot for an example of an expression of these fears percolating in culture already).

This, of course, is not to say that such thinking is necessarily bad, quack radiation therapy preceded therapeutic radiation therapy--and there are positive electrical therapies. I'm more making an observation about human nature and the cycle of social acceptance of technology.