This Moron Shrink Says Siri Is As “Toxic Psychologically” As Drugs And Video Games

This Moron Shrink Says Siri Is As “Toxic Psychologically” As Drugs And Video Games

How do you know you’re reading a report from a bug-eyed, sensationalist quack? When they take the newest and hottest trend and then say, “It’s almost as bad as this other popular trend amongst godless teenagers today!”

Here’s a good case study. Over at Fox News, a psychiatrist is claiming that Siri is just as damaging psychologically to kids as “violent video games!” WHAT?!?! Heaven forfend!

The claims are being made over at Fox News’ website by Dr. Keith Ablow, an accredited graduate of the Krazy Klown School For Advanced Pseudopsychiatry. His bio describes Dr. Ablow as a “member of the Fox News Medical A-Team”; given the analogy, I can only assume this means that he is one of five sketchy doctors in an old van on the run from the authorities.

Anyway, according to Dr. Ablow, Siri is as damaging psychologically as violent video games and “some street drugs.” That last claim is just preposterous, but even the first comparison is ridiculous, because there are simply no credible studies (let alone consensus) that prove that there is a causal link between violent video games and mental illness or disorders. None. That makes Ablow’s claim that Siri is “toxic psychologically” as patently absurd as, say, Dr. Wertham’s crusade against comic books in the early 1950s. It’s the equivalent of a shrink from the 1920s telling you that this new-fangled invention, the “telephone”, is as poisonous psychologically as that flapper jazz devil music all these kids are listening to. Totally clueless, and without any scientific basis whatsoever.

But why does Ablow think that Siri is corrupting our nation’s youth? He explains:

But I believe that personifying machines and interacting with them as quasi-beings actually dumbs down our interpersonal skills and encourages us to treat other people like machines. Ultimately, it diminishes our ability to empathize with one another, because we’ve been chatting up a non-existent person and can get used to considering real people as essentially non-existent, too.

To the extent that people become “attached” to Siri and “rely” on Siri and think Siri is “funny,” they are just a tiny, tiny bit less likely to value a friend’s responsiveness, or a colleague’s help or even to appreciate the nuances in tone of voice that real humans use to convey emotion and communicate with one another.

No. You’re a moron. Prove it.

This is just the same old technophobic crap with a new slathering of paranoia. All Ablow is saying is what numerous doddering old fuddies with and without medical degrees have been saying for a century: technology somehow makes us less capable of communicating with each other, not more. They said it about telephones, they said it about radio, they said it about television, they said it about computers, and now they are saying it about smartphones. But guess what? Thanks to the amazing advances in technology over the last century, the average person on this planet is more in touch with his fellow man than at any point in history.

You say that every time we interact with a machine, we empathize with our fellow humans less? How do you explain millions of people taking to Twitter to support Egyptian protesters, or the Syrian revolution, or the Occupy Movement? I have friends I deeply care about, who have changed the way I look at the world, whom I’ve never met. How does being in touch with thousands of people on a daily basis from a practically infinite array of belief systems and cultural backgrounds narrow my understanding of the human condition? How does being an email, text message, or phone call away from 1/3rds of the world’s population at any given moment make me less of a humanist than some Nebraskan pig mucker from the 1860s who lives alone with his wife fifty miles from the nearest town?

Sorry, Doc. Here’s the truth: because you’re afraid of technology, it’s you who is less capable of understanding and empathizing with other human beings, not me. Which, come to think of it, might be why you’re writing for Fox News in the first place.

Related
  • Sam Parmenter

    I think that you went a bit overboard with the article to be honest. As soon as I saw that he was part of Fox news I gave up. Anyone that watches Fox news needs their head examining. Anyone who believes Fox news needs to be lobotomised.

  • atimoshenko

    Keith Ablow is a well-known blowhard. He gets outraged on Fox over pretty much everything.

  • GJNilsen

    Fox got absolutely no credability, only morons watches Fox.

  • Blair Schumann

    Really? Sure Ablow may be a wrong for saying that, but you people just HAVE to bring up the fact that he’s a Fox News contributor, and bash Fox, who has NOTHING to do with this. Seriously people, get over it and watch your station of choice, and quit barraging people who don’t have the same political leaning as you.

  • Maneesh Kumar

    I definitely think you went a bit overboard with this article.  Nowhere in the Fox news article that you linked is Dr. Ablow trying to prove a point, he’s stating his opinion.  And he goes out of his way to make that clear, using obvious phrasing as “I believe…” and even emphasizing his conclusion may not be all that significant by saying we may value human interaction a “tiny, tiny bit less.”  

    The entire second half of this article misses the point.  Interacting with Siri is interacting with a machine, with code.  Your examples of the telephone, twitter, emails, and text messages are using technology as a tool to interact with other people.  And that’s the key difference, who is on the other end of the technology, a real person or zeros and ones?  

    He may not have cited articles to prove his opinion, but it makes logical sense.  The more we can get information, news, enjoyment, satisfaction, etc. from technology in our pocket doesn’t it make sense that that MIGHT make us less likely to seek those same things from real people?

  • densimpson

    Ablow is narrow-minded, granted. But before you go off on a rant using people different from yourself as examples of why he’s a bad man (suggesting he may be right in your case), do a little research. Perhaps a mild starting point for you would be the following.
    http://scienceblog.com/49794/v

  • tiresius

      To borrow a phrase from that noted Fox News pundit, Bill O’Reilly, “Albow is a pinhead.”  

      You’d think that in the same week a well researched study revealed that teenage sexting is NOT nearly as rampant as news readers lead us to believe, even someone with Albow’s credentials would be a bit hesitant to pontificate on something he knows so little about.  

       Next up:  Television:  Electronic Crack in Your Living Room.  

  • DrM47145

    Hahahahaha! Brownlee, take a chill pill! The doc clearly doesn’t have a point and hes absolutely full of S, but calm down man! Remember Mario Puccio’s advice “Never speak when you are angry…”.
    Just saying!

    BTW, I enjoyed your style, I like seeing people loosing it. I guess it makes me feel less alone!

  • DrM47145

    Hahahahahaha! I like people with strong opinions! Hurray!

    Occupy FOX! 

  • ScorpionGeorge

    I agree with you. The more satisfaction we get from machines, possibly the less we’ll seek it from fellow humans because we’ll just be getting it from personified machines. It’s a matter of understanding behavior, I believe. Things like cell phones, Twitter, texting, etc., those are all just communication tools. Completely different from something like Siri. Therefore, they won’t have the same effects like the author of this article makes it seem like.

  • 69Voltage

    Fox News. “Nuff said.

  • facebook-602274890

    This was spot on.  It’s friggin Faux News.  Are we really surprised?? :)

  • facebook-602274890

    I disagree.  I get lots of satisfaction from my gadgets and I’m still a very socially engaged and connected person.  Your mileage my vary.

  • Todd Jones

    Don’t mince words…what do you really mean? I don’t know which is more entertaining, the Fox news blowhard or the blowhard that wrote this article. You both are just a little over the edge. Unplug and smell the sunshine!

  • yeahaboutthat

    Maneesh:

    I can’t believe you’re that naive. First off, the so-called psychiatrist Ablow is representing himself as an educated commentator on a topic he suggests to have expertise in–that in and of itself rises to something more of “just an opinion.” Second, while I realize many Fox viewers and readers are quite content to believe opinions because “they make logical sense,” those with a true understanding of how scientific inquiry and evidence-based knowledge works know better. I’m sorry you don’t get that. This guy is a joke. His article was awful, but aimed precisely at people, like yourself, who don’t have a clue as to how real knowledge is acquired or should be disseminated.

  • iDaBoss

    Oh hai brownlee. kettle, meet pot =)

  • Maneesh Kumar

    You’re reading too much in to a simple news article.  It doesn’t sound like, to me, that Dr. Ablow is trying to state as a fact that interactions with Siri is definitely devaluing human interaction.  He’s just making the argument that it’s possible.  If he was trying to make a scientific inquiry or actually PROVE that point, your argument for needing evidence holds.  But, just because you may not agree with his opinion does not de facto mean that he is a joke, he is wrong, he doesn’t understand the scientific process, or is unintelligent.  

    Furthermore suggesting that he needs evidence to support his opinion is ridiculous.  You’ve made your opinion clear that you think I don’t understand science or the scientific method, but you provide no evidence for that.  You also assume I agree with his conclusion (I don’t) and again provide no evidence for your assumption.  It’s important to remember that people have differing opinions and you can appreciate someone else’s viewpoint without believing it.

  • Maneesh Kumar

    You’re reading too much in to a simple news article.  It doesn’t sound like, to me, that Dr. Ablow is trying to state as a fact that interactions with Siri is definitely devaluing human interaction.  He’s just making the argument that it’s possible.  If he was trying to make a scientific inquiry or actually PROVE that point, your argument for needing evidence holds.  But, just because you may not agree with his opinion does not de facto mean that he is a joke, he is wrong, he doesn’t understand the scientific process, or is unintelligent.  

    Furthermore suggesting that he needs evidence to support his opinion is ridiculous.  You’ve made your opinion clear that you think I don’t understand science or the scientific method, but you provide no evidence for that.  You also assume I agree with his conclusion (I don’t) and again provide no evidence for your assumption.  It’s important to remember that people have differing opinions and you can appreciate someone else’s viewpoint without believing it.

  • Goldie20

    Why was Brownlee watching Fox News ???

    What the h…, why am I reading Brownlee? I guess I like watching train wrecks.

  • yeahaboutthat

    Wrong. He’s making an argument as a person who, according to his supposed title, is generally expected to have real, empirical knowledge. Would you see a doctor who treated patients based just on his “opinion?”
    Of course you wouldn’t. Of course it’s just opinion, but it’s opinion offered by an expert, and many folks are unable to separate the two through critical thinking and evaluation.

    As for your point about assuming you believed this tripe, I was a bit flippant on that, and I apologize, but as a behavioral scientist, I don’t apologize for pointing out the real problem between believing what is “logical” on it’s face, and believing empirical or evidence-based knowledge. Of course, even knowledge garnered through scientific inquiry is never an absolute, as scientific methods only seek to provide usable information, re-evaluate the new knowledge through further inquiry, then continue the process each time new information is acquired. Perhaps you understand that, but many others, and unfortunately many of the Fox readership that will be exposed to this nonsense, don’t.

  • cassandralite

    “They said it about telephones?”  Really, John.  Here, I’ll borrow your own words: “No. You’re a moron. Prove it.” 

    Tell you what, buddy, you’re the one who comes off as the biggest moron, because you didn’t even try to disprove what may indeed be a fatuous claim.  But your response to it, rather than reasoned argument with–what’s the word?–facts, appears to confirm his point.  You really have forgotten how to communicate properly.  Moron, indeed.

  • Sikmen11

    I hope by “drugs” he means the debilitating poison he gives his patients. He would still be wrong about siri being worse though. 

  • Jeffrey Gee

    I don’t think you went overboard in this article unlike the other commenters.  I agree and I would have said the same thing.

    Fox News == Faux News

  • Maneesh Kumar

    Everytime you see a doctor you are treated based on his opinion.  It’s an opinion backed by what they learned in medical school, but it’s still an opinion.  That’s why patients are free to seek second…second whats?  second OPINIONS.  When you get a suggested course of treatment from a doctor do you ask for supporting evidence?  citations?  I’m guessing not.  But, if you disagree with the doctor you seek out more information.  

    This guy did the same thing; based on his expertise (whehter you think of him as an expert is a matter of opinion) as a psychiatrist he’s offering a suggestion.  Whether or not you believe it, again, is up to you.  It’s not the author’s obligation to give the reader both sides of the story.  It’s just the author’s obligation to not mislead the reader.  And nowhere in his article does he do that.  He doesn’t make any claims to facts or evidence, just suggestions at possibilities.  If you don’t agree, it’s up to you seek out evidence to refute his claim.  A quick google scholar search gives a lot of articles that could support his argument.  As a scientist, you should be open to other opinions and possibilities.

  • yeahaboutthat

    Im sorry, but again, you’re just missing the point. To refer to your own analogy, the very fact that your sitting in a doctor’s office getting a second “opinion” is because of either his reputation or your confidence in the thrust of what an MD means, or should mean, in terms of quality treatment. That’s why I have a problem with what this pseudo psychiatrist said–it bears a certain weight based upon his status, or what he says is his status. As such, it rises to more than just an opinion, or said another way, the opinion of someone who isn’t a doctor.

    What if your doctor was of the “opinion” that your child’s cancer could best be treated through lots of prayer? You’d most certainly think it was crazy, and you’d be right of course. You’d be right because you would expect your doctor to offer the best possible course of action based on the scientific evidence out there at the time–while there may be some “opinioning” around the edges of complicated situations, by and large, doctors agree on what is the best treatment for a particular condition.

    And to answer your question, my internist is both actively involved in research and is in fact extremely focused on evidenced based practice. He would chuckle if I referred to his diagnosis as an “opinion.” You may find it interesting to google the term “evidence-based medicine”. It’s now the cornerstone of medical education in the developed world.

  • rolandgosebruch

    “Anyone who believes Fox news HAS BEEN lobotomised.”

    FTFY

  • Maneesh Kumar

    A#1: “Your” and “you’re” are different words. (it’s petty, I know, but it’s one of my pet peeves.)

    B#2: He’s not a pseudo-psychiatrist, he’s a psychiatrist.  He went through medical school and residency giving him the title of psychiatrist.  I may not agree with his point, but that doesn’t negate his degree.  Just like I’ll still call you a scientist, even if I don’t think you’re a very good one.  Which brings me back to the point that you, and Brownlee, are so entrenched against his ideas, you’re not separating the ideas from the person.  You can read Dr. Ablow’s article and think, “hmm, that’s not something I agree with,” without thinking he’s a moron.  A good scientist is able to see multiple sides of the same argument.  It’s the basis of the scientific method.  If you have a hypothesis but only see the evidence that supports your hypothesis, you’re missing the entire other side of the scientific process.

    C#3: But the article is still his opinion.  And while he doesn’t outright state the knowledge or facts that support that opinion, there are definitely facts and research out there that do.  Just like when you go to your doctor you get his opinion on the best course of treatment without that doctor citing the sources for that reason.  But there is evidence out there that supports his opinion for treatment.

    D#4: Not everyone thinks that prayer to treat disease is crazy.  There is a large body of anecdotal and at least a little bit of research-based evidence that supports treatment of the spirit and mind to treat biological based disease.  Which brings me back to the point, just because you don’t agree, doesn’t make it crazy.

    E#5: You are mischaracterizing what evidence-based medicine means.  The doctor still interprets what the research, or evidence, means.  It’s still an applications of the doctor’s opinions and thought process to the evidence that that doctor is familiar with.  Furthermore, it’s not fool proof.  Evidence at one time suggested that a glass of red wine every day protects your heart.  Evidence later suggested that was wrong.  I’m sure evidence will soon surface saying, nope, we were wrong again, it is good.

    F#6: How can anyone not agree with the idea that technology causes us to devalue human interaction?  Have you ever checked your phone for a text or email in the middle of a conversation?  Has anyone done it to you?  I know I do it all the time.  Also, have you ever seen a couple of people at a restaurant and they’re all on their phones, no one talking to each other?  I saw it just the other day.  It definitely happens in everyday life.  Of course, as another poster mentioned, mileage may very.  But it definitely exists.

    Thanks for playing.

  • Njideka Okafor

    could be stating the less obvious. Probably because there aren’t any cumulative effects. But technology is here to stay and we better know to tell between man and machine in the years to come.

    -iLove Siri

  • Njideka Okafor

    Now you get the gist. So things only prove themselves with time. Like the “Light is the fastest stuff in the universe and nothing can beat it theory” I think empirical knowledge fixes a lot of the assumptions logic makes. But only with time. So lets give this view a chance and see how it plays out centuries from now.

    First we should consider is what would a society without ability to properly appreciate human and machine influences look like. Then we can begin to where possible anticipate these anomalies the doc suspects. Technology is here to stay, no doubt about it and iLove Siri but they all come in pairs.

  • Njideka Okafor

    I think the rel trouble here is the degree of perception we have for these changes as technology becomes more a part of our lives then in the past. For instance there has definitely been lots of changes in the ways we communicate or value human relations over the years. If we could model the values of relations from the past before tech too its realms and compare to present day, I’m pretty sure we would find lot have been lost as well as gained. The real trouble is we accept these changes as normal relations, but in time it could pose a real issue.

    iLove tech but ever as always, they come in pairs and one gives way for the other on the scales. We may talk more but it wont mean same as we spend  time together.

  • Njideka Okafor

    LMAO!!!!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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