Consequences of Infinite Stimulation

1. If a generation of people have been exposed to graphic porn on a regular basis, will it be harder for them to be sexually aroused during the real thing?

2. If a generation of people are accustomed to high quality information from multiple sources delivered in a customized format (RSS), will it be harder for a general, un-customizable product like a magazine or mass newspaper to intellectually stimulate?

3. If popular music keeps getting louder and louder volume-wise, will it be harder to discern quality and differentiate in music?

My answer to #1 is probably yes, #2 absolutely yes, #3 probably but not sure if this example is connected to #1 and #2.

(hat tip to Stan James for helping brainstorm this idea in Costa Rica)

11 Responses to Consequences of Infinite Stimulation

  1. #1 yes — assuming that you think sex is like pr0n. If you actually like stimulating someone, you may not want to have sex after too much online gaming :)

    More seriously, this question falls in the category of changing expectations and establishing norms.

    Consider this example: the generation gap in dialing long distance. In the old days, a LD call cost a lot. These days (cell phones), area codes are three xtra digits but no extra cost. Younger people do not hesitate to dial “long distance” but older people do.

  2. Charlie says:

    Absolutely agree with you on #2. I have a really hard time reading newspapers. They’re clumsy (flipping large pieces of paper to get to the next page articles vs. clicking a button) and they lack interaction (can’t leave a comment on a newspaper article very easily).

  3. Mohit says:

    1. Agree with David Zetland.

    2. Depends on the magazine/newspaper. RSS/feed aggregators, etc. can increase access to information but there is no correlation with the quality of information available. I read The Economist regularly and look forward to it arriving in the mail. I can’t comment on it in real time, but I find ‘letters to the editor’ highly stimulating and of much higher quality than most blog comments.

    3. Probably, if evolutionary pressures lead to changes in our hearing mechanisms!

  4. Alex says:

    I disagree with you on #2. When I go to my RSS feed, I know what’s going to be there every time. The same blogs/sites, covering the same type of news. Whenever I read a newspaper, I’m bound to read and article I didn’t originally intend to.

    I enjoy reading newspapers, maybe it’s just me, but every time you pick one up you’re not sure what you’ll end up reading; you browse and flip until something catches your eye.

    With a customizable media source like RSS, we know what we subscribe to and it’s all there. There’s something to be said about picking up a major paper and just perusing, enjoying the printed pictures and reading anything, from food reviews to foreign policy breakdown, as it catches your eye.

  5. Krishna says:

    On #1 – If you look forward to the smack of the lip, slurply swallow followed by the big smile (towards the end) in the real thing, you could be in for disappointment…(So, what are you checkin’ out on, dude ;-)

    On #2 – Certainly. Reading on the web tells on our capacity to dive deep into words and spend time reflecting and internalizing. We’ve gotten so much used to just skim along the surface as our ability to process info-thickets has been badly compromised. Now I am so paranaoid to open a newspaper in a public park, for the fear of being mistaken for an old-fashioned spy at his rendezvous, waiting for the informer across the street to emerge from the shadow.

    On #3 – That leaves a great scope for one to start appreciating soft music – just soft music no matter what genre, all the more.

  6. Chris Yeh says:

    Anyone who would prefer porn to actual sex isn’t doing it right.

  7. Ben Casnocha says:

    Chris – it’s not about preferring porn to sex, it’s about ease of arousal.

    Alex – You make a good point about the randomness of a newspaper. That is an advantage.

  8. Richard says:

    Alex makes a point – newspapers have the power to be more intellectually stimulating by giving you something you weren’t asking for. Their survival appears less likely though, and it’s hard to tell if they’re really trying to use this advantage.

  9. Richard says:

    Alex is right – newspapers have the power to give you something you didn’t ask for which can be intellectually stimulating if done right. It seems less likely that this will help their survival, or that they’re even using it to their advantage. I’ll subscribe to RSS feeds I disagree with or that have a topic seemingly unrelated to what I’m doing, but I won’t read about things that don’t affect me, meaningless speculation, and people who do nothing all day.

  10. Julianna says:

    1. If you essentially train yourself to become sexually aroused at anything (which is the quality of porn these days), I think the arousal will come faster, if not the same rate. The difference is the stamina. If you watch porn to get off, you stimulation is trained to be short, and you won’t get a lot of “the real thing”.

    2. Definitely. Not only does the news provide poorer quality, more redundant information than I can get online, it’s often times less reliable (esp. the newspaper articles going on about the lack unreliability of the internet.) Besides, you don’t need fatten RSS feeds like you do newspapers, magazines, or TV news shows.
    And the randomness of newspapers doesn’t begin to compare with the stuff that stumbles on to the pages of Freakonomics, Overcoming Bias, Marginal Revolution, or, on delightful occasion, this blog.

    3. Yes and no. No, it won’t be harder, but will people bother? I like a lot of music, but if it’s quieter than I’m used to, I’m not going to play it. The net effect, I suppose, could be an essential ‘yes’. That is, if the pendulum doesn’t swing, with ‘these kids today’ deciding that they don’t want to pay for surgery on their deafened ears.

    ~Julianna
    16yo, NC

  11. #1 is going to be an increasingly large problem. I think it already is a large problem in Japan, which as a general rule is 5 years ahead of the US technologically.

    The real problem with #2 isn’t that you stop reading newspapers, it’s that you stop reading novels and textbooks.

    #3, no clue.

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