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America is a nation of habits. Roughly one in four Americans has drunk to excess in the past month. Twenty-eight million smoke cigarettes daily; 11 million have a pack-a-day habit. Ten million are addicted to gambling. Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults are online "almost constantly." We spend roughly six hours a day watching "video" of all kinds, including that consumed by the 80 percent of men and 26 percent of women who are weekly porn users.
When we think about addiction, we usually think about controlled substances: heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and so forth. But the number of people who use illicit drugs—on the order of 11 percent of the population, of which 9.6 percentage points are marijuana users—pales in comparison to these figures.
Conceits - Age - Addiction - Book - University
One of the basic conceits of Age of Addiction, the recent book from University of North Florida historian David Courtwright, is that these legitimate—i.e., legally sanctioned—habits are, in important ways, the same as their more-infamous illicit counterparts. They each produce, at least in some people, what he describes as "a pattern of compulsive, conditioned, relapse-prone, and harmful behavior." That some are legal and some are not is not necessarily arbitrary, but it is secondary for Courtwright's purposes to this underlying principle.
This addictive paradigm has suffused modern culture. Humans have always sought out pleasures in the natural world—alcohol, tobacco, and gambling are older than civilization, never mind the "oldest profession." But the chemical and psychological mechanisms that make these pleasures pleasurable were never so central to commerce as they are today. Nor was technology so finely tuned to driving the feedback loop of addiction.
Thought - Process - Building - Applications - Facebook
"The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'" Sean Parker, Facebook founder,...
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