Naivete

By | September 6, 2006

ICM501 classmate Allan Hoving wrote a great line in his first response paper:

“We can call up every bit and serve out every byte, but the Hubble telescope still wears glasses and the election of the President of the United States hangs on paper chads.”

I agree with Allan. Technology is far from perfect.

I didn’t discuss Vannevar Bush’s essay in my first response paper, but after reading “As We May Think,” I kept thinking that Bush purposely avoided hypothesizing the potential negative impact of new communications techology. He didn’t discuss all the “imperfections” that could arise, such as the cesspool of electronic “junk” that today is so easily passed around.

Bush wrote: “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

But Bush’s vision is naive (granted, he wrote “As We May Think” in 1945). What about all the misinformation that has also been amplified? So many items on the Internet appear as fact, but are historically wrong or libelous, or worse. Urban myths propagate over and over. Think about all the SPAM you get in your inbox every day and the attempts of criminals to use online tools to obtain your private, personal information. What about the proliferation of  websites that promote activities detrimental to society and the human race in general?

Lots of people just don’t use manners online. Like the pre-teen boys who used the telephone to crank call people back when that communication tool was invented, internet users abuse email, “flame” people on message boards, and act in ruder ways than they would if they were face-to-face with another human being.

“There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record,” Bush wrote. “The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.”

What if the scaffolding is just plain wrong? 

How does the spread of misinformation via interactive techology further science or communication, or elevate man’s spirit? 

It doesn’t. 

The limitations and problems of interactive technology mirror the shortcomings of human beings. 


1 Comment

anyworld on September 9, 2006 at 10:05 am.

Re: “I kept thinking that Bush purposely avoided the potential negative impact of new communications techology.”

Makes me think of the Wright Bros., who hoped their invention would end wars because they would make it impossible for the enemy to gather without being seen.

In my opinion, it’s not that hard to predict the next technology, but the social and societal consequences … those are very different questions.



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