The following post originally appeared in Human Infrastructure Magazine, a Packet Pushers newsletter on life in IT. You can get a free subscription to Human Infrastructure by signing up here.
Everybody’s looking for an edge: some exercise, supplement, or software to help us boost our productivity and enhance our performance so we can get ahead at work or school.
And there’s no shortage of companies willing to take our money in exchange for dubious high-tech elixirs.
Consider Lumos Labs, creator of the Lumosity “brain training” program. Recently it agreed to pay $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising.
The FTC alleged that the company misled customers with “unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment…”
According to the FTC, “Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
Then there’s the Babypod—a music device designed to be inserted into the vagina of a pregnant woman to play music for the fetus.
The Babypod Website touts the benefits of music on the mind, including “acting as a stimulus for learning” and “positive effects on brain development.”
The makers of Babypod cite research from the Institut Marques, a gynecology and obstetrics clinic in Barcelona, to back up its claims.
Whether or not Babypod can prove any benefit from its device, both it and Lumosity are two of many companies that prey on the anxieties of our modern, performance-driven age.
These anxieties tell us that if we aren’t maximizing our efficiency, boosting our productivity, and constantly stimulating our brains, we—or our children—will be bulldozed by the relentless forces of competition.
IT certainly isn’t immune to these pressures. Some days it seems like if you aren’t a full-stack engineer who can DevOps the crap out of an OpenStack distro in GitHub, you might as well curl up and die.
A little anxiety can be a good thing. It can spur us to greater effort, or provide incentive to get creative.
But if we’ve reached the point where parents feel compelled to maximize fetal vocalization in the womb with an inter-vaginal iPod, perhaps we’ve gone too far.