4 Modern Countries With Surprisingly Backward Technology
Most of us think of the world as clearly split into two parts. There are those poor, backward places where peasants still haul water in woolly mammoth skins, and then there are the fortunate modern countries that are one short step away from British-accented hologram butlers. But reality is never that simple; a lot of places that we think of as "modern" are still trailing stray bits of old-school technology, like a Van Halen cassette whose magnetic tape has gotten caught in the back wheel of a flying car. For example ...
French Doctors Still Practice Freudian Psychoanalysis
Back in the 1950s and '60s, things weren't so great for people with autism. Doctors at the time explained the condition using the theory of the "refrigerator mother": a cold, unloving maternal figure who unconsciously hates her own child. This repressed hatred causes the child to shut down like an angry spouse after a drunken Thanksgiving dinner incident, and voila! Autism.
"We have also determined that your child's heart condition is caused by your stupid hair."
Obviously, that theory is dumb, and doctors have known that it's dumb for decades now. Today, autism is recognized as a neurobiological problem that has nothing to do with repressed parental emotions, and this view is shared by the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Society for Well Duh. It is not, however, shared by France.
French psychiatry has views on autism that make Jenny McCarthy look like Bill Nye. Many French psychiatrists still follow the teachings of Jacques Lacan, a Freudian psychoanalyst who believed that autism was caused by a mother viewing her child as a replacement for her own missing penis (no, I'm not making that up). For some bizarre reason, Mom Penis Lacan never made it big in the English-speaking world, but he remains a hit in France. So even in recent years, French mothers of autistic children were commonly interrogated about things like whether they'd really wanted a baby, and what sort of dreams they'd had while pregnant.
"I did have this weird dream about strangling a guy in a white coat."
The penis-mom attitude has started to change in the last couple of years, but this doesn't help most of the current generation of autistic French people. While most First World countries now treat autism with behavioral therapy designed to help patients cope better with their daily lives, French people with autism are more likely to receive Freudian talk therapy, or maybe a charming practice called "le packing," in which patients are wrapped in cold, damp cloths in order to rid them of their "pathological defense mechanisms," because apparently dressing up as an ice mummy is the best way to do that. These treatments work about as well as you'd expect, which is probably why France has 17 times fewer autistic people studying at university than the United Kingdom. It's almost like it's not wise to treat a neurological condition with unproven theories about missing penises. And speaking of penises ...
Japan Really Doesn't Like Modern Contraception
Japan is the closest thing the world has to a science fiction utopia. When it comes to sex technology, though, the inventors of the robot dog and the 45 mph elevator are disappointingly low tech. Less than 5 percent of Japanese women use the pill for contraception, and this isn't because Japan has developed another way to prevent pregnancy, like maybe some type of nanobot that implants itself into your genitals while you're sitting on one of their futuristic supertoilets. Nope, around 80 percent of Japanese people use good old dick sheaths as their prophylactic of choice, and most of the others use the even more traditional "pull out at the end" method.
The situation makes a little more sense when you realize that the contraceptive pill was only legalized in Japan in 1999, after decades of stonewalling by male politicians who predicted that female-controlled contraception would crush traditional Japanese society like ... I don't know, some kind of giant lizard monster or something. The pill is also difficult to get: Contraceptive pills are not covered by Japanese health insurance and usually require a non-renewable monthly prescription, meaning that the rest of your sexually active life will be an endless stream of visits to inform your doctor that, yes, you're still playing Hide the Shinkansen with your partner of choice.
"Yep, looks like your vagina is still there. I guess we'll have to continue treatment for another month."
Related: Reminder: You're More Likely To Be Struck By Lightning Than Get A Blood Clot From The Johnson & Johnson Jab
Australia Has Ridiculously Slow Internet
Australia is blessed with many things: the second-highest standard of living in the world, a stupidly good economy, and a reputation for dangerous creatures that keeps away unworthy tourists. But there's one thing it doesn't have, and that's fast Internet.
That's right: Australia comes 41st in the world for average Internet speed, well below powerhouses of modernity like Russia and Romania. Almost a million Australians live in areas where the peak download speed is less than 4.8 megabits per second, which is several megabits below the speed at which one is legally required to call one's provider and scream at them that you're just trying to watch Adventure Time here.
"Bitch, I will fucking cut you."
What's at fault is partly the country's remote location. Australia is a relatively isolated continent, separated from every other country on Earth by vast tracts of ocean. On the plus side, this means that Australia's animals can't escape and overrun the Earth, but it also means that Australia is sadly lacking in submarine telecommunications cables connecting it to the rest of the world.
With so few of these undersea Internet tubes, connections are going to be slower, and the problem isn't helped by the fact that most of the country is also barren wasteland unsuitable for human civilization. Australia has the same number of people as New York state, stretched out in small lumps over an area almost the size of the contiguous United States. To provide good Internet for the whole country, you'd have to dump a lot of money into infrastructure, without all that many people to pay for it. Australian politicians simply haven't been willing to pump billions and billions of dollars into a "my porn isn't streaming fast enough" development project.
Let's eliminate child poverty first, they said. Free education for all, they said.
As a result, most Australians still use ADSL connections that run on the country's 100-year-old phone line system, while others have no option but to rely solely on 3G wireless broadband, aka "the type of Internet you use on your phone when you're too shy to ask for someone's Wi-Fi password." But before too many Americans start laughing at Australians for their backwardness, remember that ...
The U.S. Military Still Uses Hopelessly Obsolete Technology
If the news is anything to go by, the American military stands at the awesome, robot-patrolled cutting edge of tech. They're about to start using laser guns, for God's sake. Man, these guys must be only a few funding projects away from building bases on Mars.
"Day 5463: No enemy contact, because we are on fucking Mars."
But while it's true that some parts of the military do use awesomely newfangled stuff, other parts are so out of date that ... well, we're talking about floppy disks here, people. For those of you who are under 25, a floppy disk was a kind of weird, flat USB drive with a storage capacity so small that it could barely hold the first three chapters of your Sailor Moon fan fiction epic, and none of the illustrations. Unlike my Sailor Moon fan fiction, which I'm still shopping around to publishers, floppy disks are obsolete today ... except in the military, where they're still used for some unimportant shit where it doesn't really matter if something fucks up, like, uh, our storage facilities for nuclear missiles.
And that's just the beginning: Some parts of the U.S. Navy, for example, still use VAX minicomputers. To get an idea of how obsolete these things are, keep in mind that VAX computers were first picked up by the U.S. military in the 1980s, because unlike similar computers of the time, they didn't require a water cooling system to function.
Seconds after this picture was taken, the world's first overclocking club covered the computer with glow-in-the-dark water tubing.
Elsewhere in the military, a lot of computers still use the 14-year-old Windows XP operating system, and some military websites are accessible only through Internet Explorer. For a lot of people, today's military reality is less "robots and supersoldiers" and more "your grandfather who can't stop installing Ask.com toolbars everywhere."
How the hell did it come to this? Anyone who's dealt with a large bureaucracy knows that implementing even the smallest changes is usually a process that would make Kafka throw down his pen and say, "That's it, I can't even write about this." Federal bureaucracies can't switch the kind of eraser they use without a mandated 300-slide PowerPoint presentation and several training days. A task as massive as updating all of America's missile silos would require at least 10 years, $350 billion, several animal sacrifices, and the help of Batman.
Then there's what I like to call the "Galactica" factor. In Battlestar Galactica, the decrepit Galactica is the only starship able to escape computer infiltration and destruction by the enemy Cylon race, purely because it's an old, crappy ship that relies on obsolete technology. Similarly, if anyone wants to bring down America's store of nuclear missiles from the inside, they'll have to somehow figure out computer technology that no normal person has used in decades. This means that America's potential missile-silo enemies are now limited to really, really old people and extreme hipsters.
"Oh, you no longer store all your personal data on huge rolls of magnetic tape? That's cool, I guess."