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Part I:
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Island Syndrome

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Part 2: A Link Between Biology and Technology

(September 15, 2010)

Introduction to Part II

"What does something that's invisible look like?"
— Dennis the Menace (Saturday, October 20, 1984)

I wrote Part I of The Island Syndrome to be descriptive, not technical. Part II of The Island Syndrome, however, is technical because my intention is to demonstrate a firm connection between biology and technology.

There are, in fact, several such connections and I have found in my research that they are particularly strong. In the following pages, I will show you one such connection. I will also explain why it exists, and how it leads to troublesome consequences.

Specifically what I will show is the following:

Our brains are "wired" in ways that render us susceptible to certain types of troublesome stimulation and behaviors, even when engaging in such behaviors is against our own best interests. For this reason, wise people throughout history — for example, mothers — have always counseled that certain types of behaviors should be avoided. Other types of behavior should be practiced only in moderation.

Modern technology, however, makes it possible (even likely) that many of us will indulge in such behaviors without fully recognizing the long-term consequences of what we are doing. In such situations, the parts of our brains that make up the so-called "pleasure center" are stimulated in ways that, in some of us, lead to unexpected and unpleasant consequences. Once we understand how the brain works in this regard, the link between biology and technology becomes clear.

Harley Hahn and Casey the dog

There are a great many situations in which these principles are important. In the following pages, I describe two specific examples of such behavior, each of which illustrates a serious problem. The two examples are excessive text messaging, and excessive use of pornography. After introducing these problems, I explain a bit of neuroscience and neuroanatomy to help you understand the biology of what is happening. Finally, I will show you how these aspects of our biology are influenced directly by modern technology in ways that did not exist even a single generation ago.

The last section of Part II contains the citations for all the references quoted in the essay, including books, research papers, Web sites, and even TV shows.

To make it easy for you to follow up on the references, I have included small links within the text to indicate all the citations. If you click on such a link, you will jump directly to the information for that particular reference. Here is an example that will take you to the top of the page of references.[*] If you have a moment, you may want to glance at this page before you start reading.

Before we move on to Part II of The Island Syndrome, I want to make one last remark:

What you are about to read is going to astonish you — but it is all true.

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A Link Between

The Island Syndrome
1. What Is the Island Syndrome?
2. What's in the News?
3. Difficult Questions
4. Why the Nature of Communication...
5. No Man Is an Island
6. Putting a Name to the Malaise
7. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
Living in the Bubble
8. What's in the News?
9. The Three Mandatory Machines
10. Life in the Bubble
11. Why We Keep On Keeping On
12. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
The Importance of the Brain's Biochemical Environment
13. What's in the News?
14. The Story of Dave
15. Importance of Neurotransmitters
16. The Stuff of Moods, Feelings and...
17. What Does Dave Need?
18. The Lady and the Psychiatrist
19. Introduction to Part II
20. The Island Syndrome
21. Excessive Text Messaging
22. Excessive Pornography Use
23. Understanding the Biology
24. Hormones and Neurotransmitters
25. The Pleasure Center
26. Too Much, Too Fast: Craving and...
27. The Female and Male Brains
28. Biology of Excessive Text Messaging
29. Biology of Excessive Pornography...
30. Conclusion: The Island Syndrome...
31. References