Smartphones Steal Your Energy (and Snowden stuff)

According to two new studies, people who used a smartphone after 8pm slept more poorly and had much less energy the following day. The smartphone-users simply couldn’t focus as well.

The studies compared smartphones to tablets, laptops, and TVs, and found that smartphones had a bigger negative effect than any of those.

Forget “personal tracking device.” It’s an energy-stealing leech that happens to tell everyone where you are!

The reason for this appears to be twofold: one, they’re ideally suited to keeping people “mentally engaged” — read, addicted like a gambling zombie at a Vegas slot machine — late into the evening, which hurts sleep.

Two, they emit blue light, which is known to prevent the pineal gland from secreting melatonin, which keeps you awake. (You often see politicians and news anchors speaking in front of a blue background…)

Where’s the security connection? Simple. People are often the weakest link. Tired people who don’t have much energy and can’t focus are even weaker links. You make mistakes when you’re tired — and you’re more easily suggestible (in a security context, that means ‘gullible’) to boot.

More on Snowden’s remarks: He makes the point that “intelligence agencies do have a role to play.”[1] Unfortunately, I have trouble disagreeing with him given the current “hand off responsibility to the government” social order. How do you get around persuading the other side’s people to betray their fellow men?

Case in point, one of the saddest in recent memory: up until the financial crisis, Greece was one of the most pro-privacy countries in Europe. They had excellent privacy laws and very little “police state” infrastructure. Then the financial crisis came along and they found themselves totally hammered by the states which had massive intelligence capability — in essence, Greece found itself taking a good bit of the financial beating which by rights should have gone to the Americans.

Can anyone prove that it was espio-meddling that brought about Greece’s downfall? Doubtful, unless Snowden 2.0 drops those docs. But it’s telling to look at the Greek phone tapping scandal in light of Snowden’s releases.

(The dilemma with intelligence agencies is almost identical to the problem of psychopaths in business and politics: yes, they’re beyond evil, but what exactly do you propose to replace them with…? So far every apparent attempt to solve this problem — under Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, Google, Facebook — has only made it vastly worse. Quoth George Orwell: “Collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.”)

Snowden makes another excellent point: even if you go by the NSA’s internal definition of abuse, the system has seen more cases of intentional and clear-cut abuse than it has stopped any kind of terrorist plot at all.


Snowden can stay in Russia as long as he wants. Nobody is particularly surprised.

“Using a smartphone to cram in more work at night results in less work the next day, indicates new research co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar.

In a pair of studies surveying a broad spectrum of U.S. workers, Russell Johnson and colleagues found that people who monitored their smart phones for business purposes after 9 p.m. were more tired and were less engaged the following day on the job.

“Smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep,” said Johnson, MSU assistant professor of management who acknowledges keeping his smartphone at his bedside at night. “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.”


Across both studies, the surveys showed that nighttime smartphone usage for business purposes cut into sleep and sapped workers’ energy the next day in the office. The second study also compared smartphone usage to other electronic devices and found that smartphones had a larger negative effect than watching television and using laptop and tablet computers.

In addition to keeping people mentally engaged at night, smartphones emit “blue light” that seems to be the most disruptive of all colors of light. Blue light is known to hinder melatonin, a chemical in the body that promotes sleep.”

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