Going Wired

Cat 5 o’ nine tails via BoingBoing

The dangers of radiation from cellphones has been in the news lately and, from what I understand, existing studies are either inconclusive or deeply flawed. But it got me thinking about the safety of wireless internet networks–should I be concerned about possible health effects?

In terms of a direct physical effect, probably not.  Dr Michael Clark of Britain’s Health Protection Agency, speaking in a 2006 Sunday Times article says,

When we have conducted measurements in schools, typical exposures from wi-fi are around 20 millionths of the international guideline levels of exposure to radiation. As a comparison, a child on a mobile phone receives up to 50 per cent of guideline levels. So a year sitting in a classroom near a wireless network is roughly equivalent to 20 minutes on a mobile.

So I’m probably not going to get cancer from a wireless internet network and the jury’s still out on cellphones. But what about the power of suggestion, so often neglected in our materialistic world? What about the symbolism of a world crowded with cellphones, wireless telephones, radio stations and now ubiquitous wireless internet networks? What about a kind of negative placebo effect?

I think we should acknowledge the symbolic implications of the technologies we use as well as the power of the unconscious mind. Even if we fancy ourselves thoroughly modern, what about those lingering doubts buried in our subconscious? Couldn’t those doubts cause deleterious effects both mental and physical? The placebo effect is real.

Our wireless modem recently failed, giving me the opportunity to put my theory into action by going “wired.” A neighbor gave me a hundred feet of ethernet cable, so all I needed was a few other supplies and a trip through the crawl space under the house to make it work. Initially the clerk at Radio Shack thought that I was insane when I told him I wanted to get rid of our wireless network. After several visits the clerk eventually warmed to my eccentricities and kind of got into the project, looking up things on the internet in the store for me. After a few hours on the phone with AT&T tech support (located in the Philippines!) we went fully wired.

Like the Radio Shack clerk, Mrs. Homegrown also thinks I’m crazy but I hope she appreciates the non-ethereal benefits of our wired network: greater security and higher speeds.

For more on the advantages of an ethernet network see this comparison of wired vs. wireless.

And, as Marshall McCluhan used to say, if you don’t like that idea I’ve got others . . .

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  1. Studies about wireless or gsm radiation or genetically modified organisms are all flawed for one simple reason: Only after a generation passes, the effects can be assessed properly and the results are relevant.
    Electromagnetic radiation does inflict damage to living cells in a greater or smaller amount.
    Read on The Body Electric: Electromagnetism And The Foundation Of Life to see how it affects the living tissue. http://www.amazon.com/Body-Electric-Electromagnetism-Foundation-Life/dp/0688069711

  2. Welcome to the club!!! I’ve never had wireless and hopefully never will. A friend was staying with us for awhile and she was trying to talk me into getting a wireless modem but I never got around to it and I’m glad I didn’t. I always worry about security with those things. We also use a landline for our telephone. We have cells for emergencies but rarely if ever use them.

  3. We just had a presentation by Ling O’Connor of Pasadena City College. She spoke to the energy that is between all particles, quantum physics, which I’ll bet is disrupted by all these wirelesses. She also brought out how scientific evidence that is contrary to the comfort of our lifestyles gets dismissed and discarded.
    Simultaneously I am reading the totally amazing Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale (a MUST read for all) about how many chemicals there are around us, how we presume gov’t is regulating this, and in fact there is no meaningful regulation at all.
    The combination of resources is making me say that to err on the side of caution is probably quite wise, because future studies will probably confirm what our gut sense is telling us now.

  4. I have been increasingly worried about the cell to my ear all the time. My home phone is always forwarded to the cell, and I talk to friends for hours some days. I will not use the wireless phone because police monitors and baby monitors pick that up easily. The wireless is great, but I use it in one location only. Sitting in the yard with a wireless laptop seems to not work for me. I want to be present and enjoy nature. Anyway, my thoughts for months has been to have a telephone outlet put right next to my chair and go without the wireless. I feel no ill effects, but I don’t want my first symptom to be auditory nerve cancer. Now, it seems there is evidence to do so without feeling paranoid. I am to the point that I just assume that the government is lying when I am told anything is safe–fluorescent light bulbs cause me great problems, but the govt denies the facts. Great post.

  5. I have both wired and wireless in my home. Ignoring the potential health concern, from a technical standpoint I strongly prefer connecting with a network cable to the home router with perfectly consistent speed and connectivity hiccups. The speed of transferring files between devices on a wired network is significantly higher than a wireless one. Even with three different routers over the years, the wireless network has had hiccups, especially when doing something like streaming video or audio on Skype where it is obvious when there are connectivity problems.

  6. I really think its a smart choice to go wired. Unfortunately, we are wireless right now, but as I work on the house more Im pre-installing all the hard line connections. My main desktop is wired, but in the bedroom its wifi, just because we dont have a wired line in there yet. I cant wait to get rid of the wifi all together though.

    As another added idea to security, about 5 years ago I switched to Ubuntu linux operating system. (macs are based on linux) Ubuntu is totally free, easy to install, has 36,000+ free programs, is extremely safe (ive never had a virus in 5 yrs) and its very secure (no gov backdoors). It comes prep-installed with a complete office suite, video & audio editing software and more. If its not pre-installed, you can easily install what you want/need from the Software Center for free. It is community driven so anyone can help make the OS better. The source code is called “opensource” so nothing bad gets into the OS. Ubuntu is really fast too since it uses a different file structure than MS does. And if you have a solid state drive Ubuntu boots from power on to ready in a matter of seconds. Check out some of these videos…

    What is Ubuntu?

    Ubuntu is Humanity

    Ready To Work?

    If interested, check it out at http://www.ubuntu.com/

  7. I’m a huge believer in symbolism as it pertains to one’s everyday life. It guides and focuses the mind, and makes us more productive. The unease we feel about our no-user-serviceable-parts-inside technology is profound and widespread. It why the steampunk movement in art, literature and, in some cases, lifestyle is one of the fastest growing phenomena in popular culture. We want our technology to be tangible, physical, and above all controlled by us, not by “magic people” in an R&D lab someplace. I applaud your low tech decision.

  8. We went wired at my insistence, and my husband (the technologist in our home) is very pleased with the results. We still have a wireless router, but I think it’s only so he gets better service on his cell phone. The wired connections are so much more reliable than wireless! No more dropped connections and missing networks.

  9. Our house has 2 floor. Going wired is nearly impossible. My PCs/DVR, etc. are all wired, but the laptops? Good luck w/ those while walking around the house.

  10. I’m with Joanne P. in erring on the side of caution. While we’re waiting for the conclusive results, we might be damaging ourselves with all the EMFs flying around.

    Remember how they use to let people smoke in hospitals? They thought it was ok back in the day. We think that’s blasphemous now, and maybe in the future we’ll think the same about cell phones.

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