As the internet has become more and more mainstream, I often wondered if there my be some sort of impact to the way that people absorb data. Apparently, there are some that are of the opinion that the internet is having a pronounced impact on reading habits. The reaction to this is a ‘slow reading’ movement.

So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual tidbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, “we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion”.

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I was listening to a report on the radio the other morning about how postal rates in the US are going to increase and how this was going to cause issues for some people. I had to laugh. To me it seemed that if they did it right, they could solve two problems at once.

The obvious solution to me was to eliminate the ridiculously cheap ‘bulk rate’ (aka corporate welfare) that businesses have enjoyed and abused for years. Bring this to parity with the ‘first class’ postage rate that the private citizens that fund the postal service have to pay. The net effect of this should be two fold: 1) less junk mail being sent out 2) less junk mail being thrown away. Those who wish to continue to send me 4 catalogs a month from which I have never ordered a single thing may continue to do so — only now paying their fair share.

And while we are at it, require all those tax-dodging corporations who have incorporated offshore to pay international rates for all of their domestic mailings. After all, for tax purposes they are a ‘foreign’ company, they should be for postal purposes as well.

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