Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Post 4 (You Are Not A Gagdet...but what if I like gadgets?)

While I was initially a little more than frustrated with trying to understand exactly what Mr. Jaron Lanier was trying to say in his book, it's no coincidence that his words strike a chord with people in the modern age who have so quickly engrossed themselves in the world of social media technology and whatever web 2.0 is supposed to mean. His book, from what little I've admittedly seen of it, works more like a warning of things to come, like this ever vigilant fear that he has that we are losing our humanity, than some kind of treatise on how to stop the world from being sucked into some kind of Facebook/social media black hole never to return.

I remember watching an episode of the Outer Limits where the entire population of the world was connected together through some kind of computer network. Everyone could access information whenever they needed it in an instant. Except the protagonist, who through some kind of fateful accident was unable to be implanted with the device or whatever. Unlike his peers he had to learn to read and teach himself things instead of relying on the collective knowledge of the world. In the end the computer goes crazy in some misguided attempt to attain all possible knowledge and as a result people start to die until our hero successfully shuts it down. The end of the show has our hero teaching grown adults, no longer connected to all knowledge or whatever, how to read a word like cat. Basically what I'm saying is that Mr. Lanier is probably really afraid of something like this happening and is prescient enough to realize that we might be heading in such a direction.

Of course, Mr. Lanier is from the old guard of technology people who were around before technology became "cool" or whatever. He's seen the nature of technology and the internet change for much longer than most people even realize. Maybe, by writing this book and making a big deal, he's offering wisdom and guidance to the younger generation who are all too willing to look up everything on Wikipedia and read Facebook every waking hour as a warning against what could be in the future. He isn't much of a Luddite so it would be wrong to say he is against technology, but it's a fair warning. Whether or not people see him as a potential source of insight or just a bitter old guy wishing the internet wasn't so big and confusing, like a crotchety old geriatric, we'll just have to wait and find out.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah Jason I think you're totally right. I think Lanier is a member of the old school of programmers who understand the possibilities and pitfalls of an overreliance on technology. I can envision quite a few scenarios where the destruction of certain information sources on the web (2.0) would ruin some people's lives. I can't imagine what would happen if Facebook went down. I literally think some people would end their own lives over it.