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The web and the wider world

It’s pretty much undeniable that technology has rapidly altered much of how we live and promises to continue doing so; often in ways that seem to be outside our control and maybe outside any control, given the nature of these systems. So it seems reasonable to view this as one of the major challenges facing the modern world, and as being fairly unique within the history of humankind.

This way of operating has now become so interwoven with our lives: practicalities around organisation, banking, communication, knowledge; ways we relate, think, and approach things. It really slipped into how things were, making them into this new way of being (see Notes One).

All of which clearly changes things, taking us into uncharted territories where we may come up against unexpected consequences. At this point surely everything is merely theory. No one knows the implications of changing how we relate on this scale, or of making the impacts of our actions remote, vast and essentially invisible. We might have the best of intentions, but does that carry or ultimately make a difference to the outcomes?

The world’s being reshaped by this tool we’re wielding on a global yet very personal scale. And while there may have originally been visions of it becoming a self-regulating force for good, it seems we’re more often demonstrating our need for regulation and the potency of our darker inclinations when left almost completely unchecked (Notes Two).

Indeed, it seems many of those developing ‘solutions’ in these fields actively draw on their knowledge of human nature in order to foster addictive tendencies and other behaviours that may be better off un-indulged. The fact companies are deliberately using our psychology against us seems so concerning, as this then becomes a game played on that level and bearing those costs.

When it comes to life, surely our minds are some of our more treasured possessions? This is how we see the world, how we understand society and our place within its structures; it’s how we know our own worth and that of others; how we make sense of all the information we receive in order to respond wisely out of our humanity (Notes Three). Did we really reach this pinnacle in order to undermine its foundations?

With tech, it’s a difficult conversation. It’s an industry largely driven by commercial interests, so presumably there’s less concern over the human wisdom of paths taken. It’s also fast-moving, with the risk of being so caught up in opportunity or overwhelm that we resign ourselves to a relatively passive acceptance of what’s offered; effectively entrusting ourselves to those in control, their values, and their insight into our nature.

But while it’s complex and may leave us feeling powerless, can we afford to not get to grips with this and find some ground for more conscious engagement with all it offers? If technology is a tool offered us within a marketplace, then responsibility for understanding and using it wisely seems to rest in our hands.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The potential of technology
Note 1: Using internet to construct community
Note 1: “Response Ability” by Frank Fisher
Note 2: Individual responsibility, collective standards
Note 2: Zimbardo & the problem of evil
Note 3: Need to stand alone & think for ourselves
Note 3: “Brave New World Revisited”
Note 3: David Bohm, thoughts on life

Wrapping this up, Patience with the pace of change considered the nature of change & ways technology may alter our perception of that.

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