The Greatness Agenda: Popularity Contests Reign Supreme

Popularity Ratings Trump the Interests of Parents and Children Alike

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In a world where majority of students usually fail to learn the basics well — a sad fact in the case of U.S. educational system, as well — the sitting president of the USA would like to introduce all of the students to an extremely disruptive medium, the Internet.

Over the years, Internet has earned a reputation, and not without good reasons (the documents linked to not only furnish but also endorse these reasons), for being a medium whose use without proper care or strict management can result in a loss of focus and hours and deterioration in overall performance. Some studies even suggest that just the presence of hyperlinks can induce carelessness and aimless wandering on the Internet, especially in adolescents. During these formative years when majority of children, even under normal circumstances, find managing tasks and attaining focus an enormous undertaking, introducing them to a technology that can expose them to not only a plethora of information, in itself a potential information management nightmare, but also a myriad of disruptive applications, breaching their concentration every so often, should only serve as a recipe for disaster.

Although just the swift access to the wealth of information, and of course the rest of the material that becomes accessible, can lead to an instantaneous addiction, a major issue in itself, modern day computers come equipped with applications that have built in alerting mechanisms, like pop-ups, sounds, or other audiovisual aids, that can diminish the focus and overburden the working memories. These continuous interruptions, requiring extra processing by the brain, result in a loss of information from the working memory leading to a fragmented transfer of information to the long-term memory (read the previously linked document for in depth analysis). All of the foregoing impairs the brain’s ability to form meaningful connections, in the process, badly affecting the brain’s prowess to process the information acquired during such periods.

The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.

As an individual who during the early 2000s, specifically between 2000 and 2002, struggled badly with the interruptions caused by messaging applications, I can certainly vouch for the aforementioned statement based on personal experience. Although I have become a much more focused user than I used to be, I still, at least on occasions, have to remind myself forcefully that better tasks than reading the news on the web await my attention. (The problems caused by connectivity that I have had to deal with personally.)

As the sitting President has tried to present himself as a person waging a war against the rich, the most commonly employed tactic to win over the lower income families, hence the language used, which more or less translates into empowering the children of the lower income families, should come as no surprise. However, while employing the tactic to win some popular vote, Mr. Obama failed to take into account the mounting evidence that suggests that when used without proper management and guidance, the Internet becomes the sole cause of many a lost hour and greatly diminished performances. In case of families where parents currently do not have to interact with the computing infrastructure, introduction of such a technology in the lives of their children would place even greater demands on such individuals. To manage the lives of their connected children properly, they would then have to find the time to learn to police their online lives. With the inability to manage multiple tasks well, especially those which require learning new skills, already keeping such families trapped in a cycle of poor performances and poverty, introducing in their lives a highly disruptive medium — whose successful use hinges upon proper management of resources and keeping a close eye on its users — should only exacerbate their problems.

Snail Paced Connections: Expensive Connections to the Rescue

When it comes to solving the problem of slow data transfer rates experienced by the masses, the lower middle classes and those hovering around the poverty line, Mr. Obama has once again failed to focus on the core problem.

Although image and text compression algorithms have been around for over half a century now, according to a survey conducted by w3Techs.com, only 54.4% of all of the websites currently accessible to the masses use compression techniques. While the inclusion of images, which lend themselves to compression quite well, to create a more arresting first impression on the users has continued unabated, majority of modern websites still largely consist of textual data; this textual data also includes the HTML and CSS text used to structure and style these sites. Despite the presence of excellent text and image compression techniques[1][2][3][4], according to the results of the aforementioned survey, almost half of the websites do not take advantage of any of them. Even with minimal to almost zero investment on the part of the website owners, their refusal to employ these techniques means that the majority of the data currently travelling through the world’s Internet channels continues to occupy far greater bandwidth than it needs to in order to reach its destination. At the time of the article’s last revision, , even some of the most visited websites, for example www.bbc.co.uk (56th most visited in the world and 5th most visited in the UK — source: www.alexa.com) and the websites of most of the other news channels, do not take full advantage of the various types of compression techniques available to reduce the burden on the telecommunication infrastructure and provide a better user experience to the masses. As most of the investors in the USA, in all probability, benefit from the year on year stellar results posted by the giants of data providers, the government’s lack of interest in mandating adherence to certain best practices related to data transmission appears to have its roots in inflating the monetary gains enjoyed by such businesses; bear in mind, lobbyists in Washington spend millions to protect their various profit streams. Having identified the actual cause of the data transmission delays faced by the masses, I would like to suggest to Mr. Obama that before resorting to the rhetoric designed to appeal to the masses, focus on mandating the use of the decades-old measures that exist to ensure the optimal use of the currently available infrastructure.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, there was another significant change to the economy. Large, professionally organized corporations in the oil, mining, financial, and railroad sectors allowed individuals to amass large fortunes.

Those who fail to become a part of these goliaths of corporate world — as accomplishments in the feild of education invariably elude such individuals, consequently, securing an impressive and convincing educational record proves an excercise in futility — apparently, then inflate their bottom lines by protecting the interests of those very corporations.

To bolster the argument for providing access to fast Internet, Mr. Obama mentioned the ever growing size of the children’s knapsacks (paragraph nine and ten) and how the use of the Internet can solve this problem, as well. To reduce the size of children’s backpacks, Mr. Obama would like to introduce the children to not one but two (at the very least) extremely problematic not only a disruptive and addictive medium – Internet, the panacea for all ills – but also energy hogging and bright light emitting devices – the mighty iPads and its variants. Although I fully support the idea of reducing the literal weight on the shoulders of today’s children, but Internet, laptops, or tablet devices while incapable of solving the problem, certainly possess the potential to derail a child’s life and further complicate the lives of those who decide to follow the beloved and decorated leader’s advice. To lift that unnecessary weight, today’s children should be provided with eInk readers without Internet connectivity. Such devices place a minimal strain on the reader’s eyes and energy infrastructure. When it comes to managing the lives of children using such devices, the lack of connectivity would simply obviate the issues created by the Internet. Whenever they would need to download a new book or some extra essential reading material, they would just have to ask the right person, librarian or the person in charge of managing the digital content, to download the needed content using USB connectivity.

E-book readers are similar in form to a tablet computer, and usually refer to readers that use electronic paper, resulting in better screen readability, especially in bright sunlight, and longer battery life. When disconnected from the web, an e-book reader's battery will last from weeks to months.

Instead of increasing problems in the lives of those who already have their plates full, Mr. Obama, try to find the right solutions. Instead of focusing on popularity contests, focus on finding the ways to improve the lives of those who have to pay unnecessary fees and spend avoidable extra hours to access certain mainstream services because the controlling few, owing mainly to the government’s inaction rooted in vested interests, simply refuse to incorporate almost half a century old techniques. With most of the digital data currently originating from the US, hence the inaction on mandating the use of decades-old compression techniques, designed to reduce the burden on the telecommunication infrastructure and improve data transfer rates, degrades the user experience not only for the Americans but also for the citizens elsewhere. This inaction by the governments, especially the government of the USA, increases the cost of using the Internet for everyone involved, by depleting the finances steadily and plundering precious moments imperceptibly.