Dec 26, 2018

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: President Trump has made a surprise visit to U.S. servicemen in Iraq.

Breaking: The Dow went up by nearly 1,100 points today, breaking a losing streak dating back to last week.

1 big thing: Escaping the tech obsession

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For eight young men the AP tracked down in Seattle, tech obsession has become something much darker, getting in the way of their normal lives.

  • "We’re talking flunk-your-classes, can’t-find-a-job, live-in-a-dark-hole kinds of problems, with depression, anxiety and sometimes suicidal thoughts part of the mix," the AP's Martha Irvine reports.
  • "The young men sit in chairs in a circle in a small meeting room in suburban Seattle and introduce themselves before they speak. It is much like any other 12-step meeting — but with a twist."
  • “Hi, my name is,” each begins. Then something like, “and I’m an internet and tech addict.”

Why it matters: For those looking to dial back, tech obsession likely ends up feeling like a very cruel Catch-22, Axios managing editor Kim Hart notes.

  • Even those who have developed a tech compulsion and try to limit their use of it usually aren’t able to completely avoid it in their daily lives. More and more jobs require at least some contact with screens and internet-based systems.
  • “The drugs of old are now repackaged. We have a new foe,” Cosette Rae tells the AP.
  • "A former developer in the tech world, she heads a Seattle area rehab center called reSTART Life, one of the few residential programs in the nation specializing in tech addiction."

The big picture: Scientists take pains to describe tech differently than alcohol or drug addiction because the research around tech or internet addiction is not yet settled.

  • "An American Academy of Pediatrics review of worldwide research found that excessive use of video games alone is a serious problem for as many as 9 percent of young people."
  • "This summer, the World Health Organization also added 'gaming disorder' to its list of afflictions. A similar diagnosis is being considered in the United States."
  • "It can be a taboo subject in an industry that frequently faces criticism for using 'persuasive design,' intentionally harnessing psychological concepts to make tech all the more enticing."

The bottom line: We're still in the early phases of understanding how these devices and screens are rewiring our brains. But what we increasingly sense is that the benefits of totally reorienting our lives around screens may also come with real costs.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

An Iraqi youth dressed in a Santa suit distributes gifts to children in the old city of Mosul, which has been free for a year after being left in ruins by ISIS.

2. What you missed
  1. The Trump administration is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar that extends a block on a proclamation President Trump signed in November that would bar migrants who illegally cross the border from seeking asylum, CNN reports.
  2. Holiday sales in the United States hit their highest mark in six years at more than $850 billion, Reuters reports.
  3. Russia conducted a successful test of the hypersonic weapon called "Avangard" and has plans of including it in Russia's arsenal by 2020, CNBC reports.
  4. Box office hits drove ticket sales up 6% in the U.S. and Canada to a record-breaking $11.8 billion in 2018. Go deeper.
  5. Amazon says it had a record-breaking holiday season, with the company adding "tens of millions" of Amazon Prime subscribers. Go deeper.
  6. Billionaire venture capitalist and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has apologized for funding a group responsible for spreading disinformation during the Alabama Senate special election last year, according to the Washington Post.
3. 1 drone thing

Alphabet subsidiary Wing is testing one of the world's biggest drone delivery projects in Bonython, a suburb of Australian capital Canberra, dividing neighbors over its intrusion into their daily lives, reports the Wall Street Journal.

  • Why it matters: While Amazon's long-promised drone delivery is still years away from overcoming regulatory hurdles, Bonython has become ground zero for Wing's advanced trial.
  • The program allows residents to get household staples delivered in just minutes with no delivery fee, but the company must also contend with neighbors who complain of constant, loud flybys and messy packages delivered to the wrong homes.

Go deeper: The drone nightmare is here

Mike Allen