Cracks on a charred tree trunk

Is this the riskiest place we’ve lived?

Within the history of humanity, is the internet perhaps the riskiest place we’ve lived? In some ways it’s probably not, in that it sits within periods of previously unheard-of “peace” between our various nations. But, on the personal level, isn’t there quite a lot of risk involved in this way of life? Also, collectively in terms of the destabilising forces technology seems to be bringing along with it.

Maybe it’s simply a question around the nature of risk? The physical risks of societal instability or conflict; the risks that come where expertise, resources or infrastructure are lacking; the interpersonal risks when convention or values aren’t upheld. Life must “always” carry risk in various forms – all those points where things could strain, break apart or fall away to leave people exposed.

In the past, maybe those risks were simply different: more tangible and obvious within our environment as things we should shield against or avoid. Things like cold, hunger or violence that communities might strive against through their diligence, foresight and careful preparation. All the effort that must’ve gone into creating, sustaining and defending any way of life and the future of those living it.

Almost as if society must, in many ways, secure its future by ensuring that the things it’s doing are sustainable, reasonable, justifiable and clearly understood. This sense in which communities create their boundaries and pass on their thinking to those that follow – painting a clear picture of “what life is”, “why we live it this way” and “what’s needed to fill these forms in healthy ways”.

Modern life might’ve made all that less obvious – hidden away behind obscure screens or drowned out by all the sparkly, distracting things that now surround those arguably boring aspects of life – but, beneath it all, the fundamentals perhaps don’t really change. Human needs being what they are, is life mediated by modern technology ultimately making our lives any more secure?

Sometimes it seems we’re just having to juggle that much more risk, pressure and exposure through being online. That, beyond the “need” of having access to it, we’re also having to defend against attempts to undermine our security. And, that we’re effectively now “open” to the entire world; anyone being able to reach into the confines of our personal space and deliver messages directly into our hands.

Of course, it’s a reality we can’t – perhaps, wouldn’t – choose to unwind: the advantages it brings are so many it may be impossible to argue we should turn the clock back to simpler times. Perhaps its benefits and its challenges are simply equal? A reality we must learn to master while ensuring that the fundamentals of our personal and collective lives are being enhanced rather than stripped bare.

Don’t we need to acknowledge the risk, though? See and accept the potential “cost” of this, instead of thinking it’s just “how things are”. Given humans have never lived this way, understanding exactly what we’re doing and why it still matters must be incredibly important.

Notes and References:

Responsibility for the bigger picture
Treading carefully in the lives of others
Does technology oversimplify things?
Attention as a resource
Appealing to human nature or the human spirit
Going along with what we see
Charting our own course

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