Letters

Raymond Kurzweil’s article, “Live Forever: Uploading the Human Brain,” in the February issue is perhaps the most baseless and speculative piece of journalism I have ever read in your magazine. When Kurzweil writes that “In 2029, we will swallow … billions of nanobots … to enter a three-dimensional cyberspace …,” he presents what should be considered only a possible future reality as a certain outcome. Dr. Kurzweil should not make predictions about what could happen 30 years from now based on preliminary developments occurring in the present.

Furthermore, when Kurzweil writes that uncontrolled nanobot self-replication could put other beings at risk and that someone could use nanobots to spy on and control other people, he seems to be delving into the world of science fiction rather than making a responsible prediction about the future. Maybe he has watched the Terminator movies too many times!

Joel Joseph Chicago, Illinois

In response to “Live Forever: Uploading The Human Brain” by Raymond Kurzweil: “Live forever” propaganda is unethical. PSYCHOLOGY TODAY is promoting a disembodied, virtual reality, likely to produce artificial, ego-driven, robotic containers with an inability to distinguish between what is “reality” and what is fabricated.

The implication for society and the individual is disturbing.

The article is a nightmare growing exponentially. It serves as an endorsement for the unquestioning embrace of technology while avoiding consideration of the very real ethical dilemmas. The invention of “conscious machines” will signal mass psychosis.

Mr. Kurzweil speculates, “Technological evolution moves us inexorably closer to becoming like `God.'” However, mind is not spirit. He refers to “… the severe limitation of our biological form.” In contrast, I view our embodied existence as a precious gift with innate wisdom. Body-oriented psychotherapy is a healthy alternative. I urge readers to turn off your computers, feel the wonder of your body and live today.

Stacy Kinkade San Francisco, California

Marital Bliss

The article on marriage (“Will Your Marriage Last?” February 2000) was terrific! Having myself experienced the end of one storybook marriage many years ago, I was more than professionally interested in this piece. I think the reason my present wife and I have clocked 20 years (and still counting) is that we respect each other and treat each other with kindness. Passion inevitably waxes and wanes, but we have always been the closest of friends–and experience also counts.

John Hesley, Ph.D. Arlington, Texas

Hooked on Phonics

Kurt Fischer’s “new recipe for reading” (Frontiers, February 2000) will leave many children literacy-starved. “Fun” may enhance all learning, but what is crucial in learning to read–and what Fischer nowhere mentions in the interview–is grasping the alphabetic principle, the idea that each letter or digraph “goes” with a given sound or sounds. This principle allows for the decoding of over 90% of English words; but it must be taught, explicitly.

Unlike learning to talk, learning to read is not “natural.” In its early stages, careful, systematic, step-by-step instruction is called for. Preschool children may be read to each evening and be surrounded with books, yet they will still have trouble learning to read if someone doesn’t make the alphabetic principle very clear to them.

In countries where reading focuses on the alphabetic principle, the number of children who have difficulty learning to read is far, far smaller than in the United States–where children are expected to guess their way to literacy. It has also been shown, in thousands of cases, that the most effective cure for so-called severe “dyslexia” is to teach the alphabetic principle through phonics, clearly and directly.

Hector Hammerly, Ph.D. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Get with the Program

The article “Shyness: The New Solution,” (February 2000) was good but Dr. Carducci’s apparent lack of specific knowledge on how Alcoholics Anonymous meetings work throughout the world may “scare off” the shy alcoholic. The “newcomer/curious” addict is never forced to “stand up right away, to be highly visible, to immediately disclose highly personal information,” as Carducci states in his article. The shy newcomer need only say a first name and pass. AA does not work squarely against shy people, In addition, there are usually speaker meetings in every group where the shy person/possible addict need not say a word. The above is true, based on my own attendance of hundreds of AA meetings over 15 years, the first of which, shy as I was to be seen in a club that would have a person like me as a member, and for many meetings afterward, I said nothing but my first name.

Edward N. Orlando, Florida

I am an extremely shy AA member with bipolar disease from New York State who would very likely be dead if I had never just shown up at meetings. I was shocked and appalled at the author’s description of AA meetings in the shyness article of February’s issue. The description printed in the article was not fully accurate and, in my opinion, very dangerous.

There are many speaker meetings where people are invited to just come and listen. I never had to say a word to anyone until I was ready and, believe me, I didn’t. But I needed the meetings. It also was the only place I was fully accepted just as I was and gently encouraged to learn decent social skills. I was scared and vicious at first (due to shyness). I blew up in people’s faces telling them to just stay away from me. The response of people in AA was simply to back off kindly and wait for me to “warm up”–three years later. I am sorry that your author did not see a more suitable example of an AA meeting, but what got printed was incomplete and biased. I am very concerned that the article may have frightened away from AA thousands who need it most. The 12 Steps work toward self-awareness and self-acceptance, preferably with another human being, but there are no hard and fast rules in AA.

I wholeheartedly encourage any “shy alcoholic” to find that speaker meeting or the “too big” meeting. Dash into your corner and just listen and then dash right back out. Sneak out early if you have to and slink in late–that is allowed! There are no rules.

June Ithaca, New York

Medication, Please

I couldn’t help responding to what I believe is your magazine’s consistent bias against biological treatments for behavioral illness. The most recent example was Dr. Carducci’s discounting of medical treatments for social anxiety in his February article, “Shyness, The New Solution.” The dismissing of antidepressants, such as Paxil, as a method for addressing such problems does a great disservice to individuals suffering from social anxieties. The article suggests that medical approaches are inferior, or somehow do not deal with the problem directly. Your readers may not be aware that the research supporting the use of such biological treatments arises from a totally different perspective on the origins of anxiety disorders. A biological perspective would suggest that some individuals–through no fault of their own or their parents–are “hardwired” to be excessively sensitive to some stressors. Psychological approaches can assist these individuals in coping with this fundamentally medical problem, but probably can not alter this underlying neurochemical sensitivity. To suggest that uses of medication are somehow inferior to psychological approaches is irresponsible.

The bias reflected in this article seems consistent with your magazine’s general editorial stance toward medical interventions. This is particularly annoying since PSYCHOLOGY TODAY consistently reports on and advertises unproven “herbal” treatments for behavioral disorders. Your readers may be unaware of the longstanding rivalry between medical and nonmedical therapists about issues relating to medical treatments for behavioral disorders. The downplaying of medical treatments–which have been the subject of empirical investigations and are the best, although imperfect, science we have today–reflects this bias.

Ironically, the best practice shaping up in scientific literature appears to be the combination of biological and psychological interventions.

Chet Taranowski, Ph.D. Chicago, Illinois

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