Both papers imply that the epidemic of fat three in five Americans are overweight is what Edward Tenner, author of "Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences" (Vintage Books, 1997) might have called a "revenge effect." It is the kind of unintended consequence that often flows from new technologies and social change.
Obesity arising from more (and safer) work is a dispiriting manifestation of this syndrome, but Dr. Chou, Dr. Grossman and Dr. Saffer have come up with an even nastier one: the war on cigarettes, they observe, is making people fatter, too, simply because smoking, however harmful, causes people to eat less.
Daniel Akst, "Belt-Loosening in the Work Force," The New York Times, March 2, 2003
Craig Webster, "Technology's revenge," The New Scientist, August 14, 1999
The world seems to be getting even with mankind, twisting our cleverness against us. Or we may be unconsciously twisting it ourselves. This is not a new phenomenon, but technology has magnified it. Wherever we look we face unintended consequences of mechanical, chemical, medical, social and financial ingenuity. They are revenge effects, and they are less the malignant ironies of a spiteful world than the results of a lack of human foresight.
Edward Tenner, "Voice mail and fire ants," The New York Times, July 26, 1991
Today's post marks the birth of a new Word Spy subject category called, simply, Effects. It contains "X effect" phrases such as revenge effect and recent posts such as driveway effect and house money effect. The rest of this week's posts will also fall within this new category.