Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Nanny State, or let's just go live in a foam rubber cave

Much of the material I write about involves experimenting with edgy, unpredictable science and technology. Of course, I don't condone recklessness or overtly dangerous behaviour. But it's a dangerous world in which we live. Get on with it.

When authorities attempt to supress reasonable experimentation in the name of iron-clad safety and risk avoidance, it strikes me as wrongheaded and ultimately foolish. But even worse, when authorities kow-tow to pseudoscience, lamely masquerading as public health and welfare, it goes beyond merely that.

Here's a recent article about a school in England that has ripped out its wi-fi network, thereby depriving the students there of a wonderful, learning enhancing technology in order to satisfy the half-baked concerns of the misinformed and the techno-phobes.

Wireless computers are dismantled

Chichester's 500-year-old Prebendal School has bowed to pressure from parents and agreed to dismantle its wireless computer network, amid concerns that it could threaten children's health.

Vivienne Baron, of Sidlesham, who is bringing up her 10-year-old grandson Sebastian, joined parents to lobby headteacher Tim Cannell.

"The school was wonderful, and responded to what we were saying," she said.

"Many people are unaware of the potential dangers with wireless computer networks. But they are like having a phone mast in the classroom, and the transmitters are placed very close to the children."

Full report in November 23 issue of the Observer

Vivenne and grandson --->

I googled vivienne to see what else she had to say on the matter. From the results, it appears to me that she is an "anti-radiowave" activist and spends considerable time campaigning against the "dangers" of cell phone towers.

My opinion: to deprive students of valuable educational technology based on such unproven concerns is a bad thing. Authorities need to stand up to Nanny State silliness.


Anonymous said...

Nanny'ness is unavoidable in this day of age as ridicules as it may be. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun right. But only as long as the policemen that show up knocking on the door have a sense of humor and some common sense

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way; we have to have a class of people who know how to say, 'Would you like fries with that?'

Anonymous said...

"My opinion: to deprive students of valuable educational technology based on such unproven concerns is a bad thing."

I respectfully beg to differ. Unless and until wi-fi is proved to be harmless, the same "educational opportunities" can be provided to students through wired connections, rather than wi-fi, with only a small reduction in convenience.

I believe that it's wiser to require new technologies to prove themselves safe, rather than expect consumers to prove them unsafe. After all, where there is a financial gain (and the industries promoting wi-fi are making huge profits), there will inevitably be a rush to popularize tech before it is thoroughly tested. After all, the technology that's become so prevalent in so short a time has not had long-term health effects studies.

I'm no Luddite, but let's not pretend that wi-fi, cell phones or any other new tech that works in seemingly benign ways IS benign. One could list dozens of examples, but chemical fertilizers, microwaves and Thalidomide are three that come to mind that were presumed safe for years before cause-effect relationships of chronic health problems were proved. Heck -- just 60 years ago, doctors were advising their patients with sore throats to smoke cigarettes!

There's much that we simply don't yet know about low-level microwave fields, and there's a growing body of evidence to suggest that there are negative health effects associated with them. Wikipedia has an informative page on the World Health Organization's study of wi-fi and related tech health concerns at .