I just read an interesting book, Digital Vertigo, about the way the world has become/is heading. Basically, it is about social media and connectivity. The book predicts that everyone on the planet will be connected, somehow, in the future. If still alive, someone will have to place a gun to my head...
First conclusion: I am glad that I am retired! That is not my world. I use the internet (which supposedly will be replaced by social media), but do not want to join Facebook, Twitter, or their ilk (proliferation seems to be a potential problem). I am amazed at how much information people willingly make available to everyone. Aristotle, Konrad Lorenz, and others stated that “man is a social being”. All failed to reckon with the likes of people like me!
Next, I thought of the famous Apple commercial from the 80s, in which they portrayed IBM as Big Brother. I find it ironic, since Apple has taken over the role of Big Brother, because they “control/can spy on” anyone that purchases one of their products. This difference is that the drones the audience of today, as opposed to the actors in the IBM commercial audience, all volunteer to be watched.
Next, if everyone is connected everyone else on the planet, how many of those people will they actually know? The current definition of friend will no longer apply. I recall speaking with Russians, after the fall of the Soviet Union. They told me that a “friend” was someone you could trust with your life...because lives were lost and prisons filled because of non-friends. Connectivity cannot mean trust. I thought of a crowded London subway car, where people play with iPads, smart phones, etc. Many might be "connected" by some social media site, but are unaware to each other's proximity and actual existence. All remain mere "faces in a crowd", despite being connected. To me, this is "faux social".
Finally, I have another question. If connectivity means that people will “never be alone again”, what about jobs, salary, food...survival, which is the other (negative) trend of the future? I doubt that social media can solve society’s problems, nor do those companies want to. People running these businesses seem to be interested only in the money. If you read the book, you will notice how many times the author uses the term “multiple billionaire”.
After this brief foray into the real world, I will happily return to fiction...
Once again, I had a strange thought. Sorry. I can’t seem to stop.
I was thinking about what happens to all the data created for the Internet. Is everything stored forever? Is anything erased, like burning leaves in the fall, which disappear into smoke (carbon atoms?)?
If all data is saved, a huge pile must exist somewhere, because a whole bunch has been created since the advent of the computers...and the mountain grows. Perhaps, data expands like universe, whose extent is unknowable.
But, that was not my strange thought. I wondered if the saving of data could be a metaphor and compared to people’s belief in Heaven (and Hell). All humans that ever roamed the earth (and associated pets) are supposed to reside in Heaven (or Hell), which must be rather large spaces. That’s a whole bunch of folks and the crowd grows each day...like the total amount of data. Perhaps, they could also expand like the universe...
I noticed the phrase “internet addiction” in a headline. I am certain my wife thinks that I suffer from this...whatever the definition might be. I know this, because she occasionally complains about the time I spend using a computer. This happened more than once on vacation, where she had expected to enjoy all my attention.
The problem is not being addicted to the internet: my problem is one of self-discipline. Once I start something and commit to deliver, I will continue until I have. Starting a blog produces a never-ending dilemma: either you post something each day or you do not. Which raises an existential question: if a blog is not posted each day, is it still a blog? To fulfill the demands placed upon you by starting a blog, you must spend time on a computer.
I have attempted to explain this to my wife, but....
I noticed a headline about Iran’s plan to build its own internet and the possibility of other nations following suit. The phrase “internet in pieces” appeared.
Who cares? The number of people wanting access to everything must be too small to register on any scale. I am interested in English (and, occasionally, German) sites, not unlike most people on this planet. Like it or not, English is the global language and US-style commercialism has not lost its appeal. The American Dream might have faded for people residing in the United States, but dreams of America and things American flourish in many a head around the world.
Today, I realized an advantage of the laptop computer, iPad, etc. When one reads an internet “newspaper”, one is not hidden behind a large piece of paper. One can placate one’s partner by still being visible, if said partner is the kind that suffers from lack of attention. No one can complain about another person disappearing behind the newspaper at breakfast...or any other time of the day. Of course, this might be a disadvantage for anyone wishing to avoid eye contact or a glimpse of a partner, whose appearance might have deteriorated since their first pain of Cupid’s bow.
Technology has solved the two opposite, age-old problems of marital discord...
Or the yoke...
I have gone from staring at marvelous vistas (Lake Como, Alps, Jungfrau) to staring at computer screens (I have four...don't ask). Each activity stimulates the mind in different ways, and each provides some sort of fulfillment.
One benefit of returning home is reliable and inexpensive internet connections. Because the connection was dodgy at Lake Como, my wife complained about me being addicted. She could not grasp the concept on slow connectivity. Reading my usual newspapers took longer, but filling the bloody blog each day was trying. She criticized me for being addicted to the internet.
I am not. But, having started this blog, I feel obliged to feel the hungry animal each day. Either one accepts responsibility for one's follies, or one finds excuses for failure. This might mean ignoring spousal critique...or worse.
Recently, a hue and cry has arisen about lack of privacy and use of personal data by advertisers to target messages, based upon characteristics/interests/practices.
My beef is rather different. I do not mind advertising. Some is even entertaining and creative; some is informative. After all, it is merely a form of communication, some of which I do not mind receiving. What I mind is being “targeted”.
First of all, I do not want someone to decide what I should see or not see, based upon an erroneous interpretation of my likes and dislikes. Trolling my internet searches will not result in a valid profile, because my searches are an eclectic mess and have little to do with my shopping preferences. I do not “do” Facebook or Twitter and rarely shop over the net (mostly books).
Second, I want to see a wide range of advertisements and do not wish to have my exposure to this quasi-art form/communication vehicle to be restricted. I want to decide want to look at more closely and what to ignore. I want to see the entire spectrum, from horrible to excellent. I might not like much of what I see, but I want to know what’s out there.
This is similar to my feelings about news media. I do not want to be targeted with messages I want to hear. I certainly loath much of what I hear or read in unbridled rightwing media and disagree with most (not all) of their opinions, but I want to be informed about what garbage these turkeys are spewing. How else can I have informed opinion about key issues?
Finally, these evil people must do a better job of interpreting data and choosing ads. To date, all ads on websites that carry targeted ads have been worthless. None has had anything to do with my likes or dislikes and have had no relation to any searches, which I have made in the past.
I read an interesting article in The New Yorker on Internet dating.
( http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/04/110704fa_fact_paumgarten )
I am very happy not to have to operate in that world.
One thing of which I am certain: no Internet dating site would have hooked me up with my wife. We are too different, which is probably the key to the success of our long-standing relationship. We are a perfect combination: one that would be impossible for a computer to recognize or predict. No algorithm could make such a match, regardless of questionnaires that feed it. We were lucky to have crossed paths, but serendipity and coincidence played the biggest roles. Some might call it fate, if one believed in such things.
She is an extrovert, whereas I tend to be introverted. But, we tend to agree on the big-ticket items, like religion, politics, and child-raising. And, we enjoy the same kinds of vacation spots. We rarely argue and are both fairly even-tempered, although she can be rather emotional at times. She likes to watch soccer; I do not (I like to do sport, but rarely like to watch others do it.) She likes spicy food; I like it bland, like my mother used to cook. Fortunately, she prepares our food in a way that is more to my taste and tends to go wild in restaurants (like a friend, whose vegetarian wife allows no meat in the house, must pig out on beef on business trips).
The article was interesting, but I have no need to even check out an Internet dating site. As long as I have known my wife, I have not come across another woman that could tempt me to stray. I have no reason to start looking…
Dictionary definition: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy beneficial way...’making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.
Creative and inventive minds use this, and it may become a lost talent in the future. I mentioned serendipity in an earlier post about libraries, about wandering the racks and randomly discovering unknown subjects, books, and facts to help inspire the imagination. This is difficult, if not impossible, with the Internet.
Young people cannot imagine life without the Internet. I can, because I lived before it was even imagined. That does not mean that I would like to live without it. I have come to rely on it for many things in life (like this bloody blog...which we could all live without!).
I’m a big fan of the Internet, even if I lived quite nicely without it during my trip to the Seychelles. I reverted to books, conversation, and thought. The Internet is a tool, a very useful tool. It does not replace thought or imagination, but can be crutch for those unable to manage either mental task. I do not know how I would live without Google.
Dealing with words, as I do, I rely on dictionaries, thesauruses, and encyclopedias. Each of these is available in great variety on the Internet. Speed is the only advantage of Internet versions of the first two; the third is a special case. I find it best to use as many varieties as available.
I have a huge Oxford English dictionary (the size of which would cause my doctor to advise me not to lift in my current state of health), which I consult frequently. I like the feel of the pages and comfort of scholarship behind each entry. I trust it. Its definitions seem more substantial.
Writers constantly need synonyms and cannot live without a thesaurus. I have the first copy of Roget’s, which I acquired at 15. It is a bit dog-eared, but still delivers the goods for which it was designed. Occasionally use the Mac widget version, if I am in a hurry and do not seek perfection, but prefer the real thing. I would be happy to challenge someone with computer to best me and old friend.
The matter of encyclopedias is tricky. I like Wikipedia. One can find information quickly and easily. I have found answers to be credible, although I have read rumors about inaccuracies, misinformation, and deceit. One over the traditional printed form is the ability to make changes as new information becomes available (without killing a forest).
Overall, the Internet is great for searching specific terms. It is great for reinforcing existing knowledge or beliefs. It is great for honing individual likes. Unfortunately, it is worthless for, and even detrimental to, serendipity. One can randomly discovery something new, as one could with a printed encyclopedia. I recall our first volume (probably too expensive for my parent’s budget, but required to expand their children’s horizons) and sitting on the floor of the living room discovering new things. I cannot recall a single fact, but I’m sure they provided a foundation for later learning.
In the above definition is the word sagacity: one cannot make discoveries without a certain level of intelligence...but serendipity contributes to sagacity. The death of serendipity would mean a sad day for human evolution...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.