The Guardian published a report recently about the health effects of Apple’s new operating system for iPhones and iPads. The operating system relies heavily on animations for its user interface. Since its introduction, users have reported experiencing dizziness, nausea, and vertigo.
The discussion in the Guardian, which included interviews with researchers studying motion sickness, attributed the effect to users having a vestibular disorder. “Vestibular” refers to the system of your inner ear that gives you a sense of motion and balance. If that system is telling you one thing and your other senses are telling you something else, you get dizzy, nauseous, and so on.
Experts interviewed by the Guardian say that about 5% of people suffer from vestibular disorders triggered by visual cues. Although that doesn’t seem like a huge number, everyone interviewed was very sympathetic to the plight of avid iPhone and iPad users who suffer when using the new operating system.
Except Apple, which did not respond to requests for comment. This was surprising because Apple has been extremely attentive to meeting the needs of various disability communities—for example, developing user interfaces for the hearing and vision impaired.
I want to remind you that dizziness, nausea, and vertigo are well-documented effects of exposures to radiofrequency radiation—the radiation the boils out of iPhones, iPads, and all mobile devices generally, whether products of Apple or not. So a reasonable person might conclude that the new operating system is simply a more powerful trigger for a condition induced by the device itself. In other words, the problem isn’t the operating system, it’s the object being operated.
This reminds me of the experience and research into the increase in auto accidents caused by cellphone use. Police departments noticed the trend, attributing it to the distraction of the device. Research into cellphone use by drivers found that the effect is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08—which is legally drunk. We now have numerous laws forbidding the practice.
What was avoided in all that driving-under-the-influence-of-a-cellphone discussion was a clear communication of whether the effect was caused by the nature of the cellphone communication or by the radiation from the cellphone or both. Again, since we know that radiofrequency radiation has damaging neurological effects, a reasonable person might conclude that in fact it was both—the radiation induces a hypersensitive state and the use of the device triggers a response.
Why isn’t that discussion in the Guardian article?
Because it is not part of the generally accepted discourse on wireless technology. We see this in the way the article is constructed. The people who suffer are associated with “vestibular disorders.” That is, there’s something wrong with them. They have a disorder. But good news, there aren’t many—only 5%. At least that’s what the article implies: the 5% refers to the number of people in the general population for whom visual triggers cause motion sickness. No one knows how many iPhone and iPad users suffer these symptoms.
If we were doing this scientifically, wouldn’t we want to know that number?
But not to worry. Application developers interviewed for the Guardian article are responding by adding controls to their applications that enable users to tone down the animations. And everyone is confident that Apple will offer a general solution. So everyone can continue to use mobile devices without fear of falling over or vomiting or both.
A reasonable person might ask: even in the absence of overt and dramatic symptoms, does exposure to mobile devices compromise everyone’s vestibular system? I ask this because there have been a number of research projects showing that, whether or not an experimental subject reported symptoms after an exposure to radiofrequency radiation, everyone experienced a biological effect as measured by physiological markers.
Which makes me think that a reasonable person might ask: why is the development of technologies left exclusively in the hands of entities whose purpose is not to shower us with the benefits of those technologies let alone provide us with an overtly and explicitly healthy technology but to sell us products?
A reasonable person might say: we should seize the means of production.