Alexis Madrigal deflates a classic technofear argument. You know the one about how devices enslave us, that we're addicted to mind-controlling machines.
Maybe there's another explanation?
To elide that one of the reasons we spend so many hours in front of our screens is that we have to misses the key point about our relationship with modern technology. The upper middle class (i.e. the NYT reader) is WORKING MORE HOURS and having to stay more connected TO WORK than ever before. This is a problem with the way we approach labor, not our devices. Our devices enabled employers to make their employees work 24/7, but it is our strange American political and cultural systems that have allowed them to do so. [emphases and caps in original]
Why this matters:
when Richtel blames the gadgets themselves, he channels the anxiety and anger that people feel about 24/7 work into a different and defanged fear over their gadgets. The only possible answer becomes, "Put your gadget down," not "Organize politically and in civil society to change our collective relationship to work."
Imagine if 19th-century factory workers blamed the clock for the length of their work days. The answer to the horrible working conditions of the late 19th century was not to smash the clocks or the steam engines! The solution was to organize and fight for your right to a 40-hour week and paid vacations.
Once again, we blame the tech to cover up other explanations of the world. This can be both easy and entertaining.