Smartly written consideration of how “cupcakes, iPhones, and Vicodin,” among other marvels of our time, are stealthily, intentionally creating a world of addictive behavior.
Saturday Telegraph lead columnist Thompson (Counterknowledge, 2008) hammers home a twofold thesis: that the “twelve step” model of addiction as disease, endorsed by therapists and others, is inaccurate in addressing the wide spectrum of compulsive desire as seen by brain science and, more disturbingly, that numerous forces are harnessing this misconception for profit by using innovation and marketing to make elements of modern life more subject to dependency, from pornography to smartphone apps. Although he acknowledges his own youthful struggle with alcohol abuse, he wisely balances the memoir aspects with a wider look at research and the views of others; this, and his generally wry voice, gives his discussion of troubling issues a deft rather than a lugubrious tone. Thompson excels at teasing out the addictive patterns forced upon us in ordinary life, beginning with casinos and strip clubs, and he makes shrewd cultural cross-connections: “Digital porn is the equivalent of cheap gin in Georgian England: it provides a reliable, dirty hit that relieves misery and boredom.” When he examines such disparate phenomena as the migration patterns of new synthetic drugs, the abuse of attention deficit drugs by students, the revenue-generating tricks present in electronic pastimes like "Farmville" or "World of Warcraft," and the popularity of hard-core porn on the iPads of adolescents, he sees technology as a common culprit, creating “the quickening of desire....Most of us [now] face an intensity of temptation that we can only intermittently resist.” The author blends science, personal experience,and witty and bemused commentary into a convincing take on compulsive behaviors that many readers will recognize: “it’s as if someone or something has sneakily moved the boundaries of your self-control.”
A clever look at an insidious consumer landscape, long on sharp observations and worried predictions but short on proposed solutions.