I had a GED, was struggling with homelessness, and was a telemarketer at Sears Product Services selling maintenance agreements. But I had access to Compuserve, AOL, and Usenet via dialup accounts work and at home. For me, the Net was an important route to a new life – a career I love – software engineering.
You would think that I would be a techno-utopian. A true believer that the Web, the Net, will be a tool that will help lift humanity out of its troubles by helping us be better informed and connected.
And I was for a while there. But time and experience has tempered my enthusiasm with a recognition that human nature is a hell of a lot more robust then we give it credit for. That, as Dave Rogers might say (and has I think), that technology may change what we do, but not who we are.
Now, for me, recognizing that, doesn’t eliminate my belief in the Web’s potential to enrich our lives and be an instrument of tremendous positive change. But it does force me to ground it – the Web is a reflection of who and what we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. Whenever I recognize successful social software it reinforces this to to be true to me.
What brought about this round of reflection?
Author and blogger Nick Carr wrote a provocative cover article for this month’s The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.
It’s worth a read. It’s over the top for sure. But maybe it needed to be so in order to draw attention to the fact that all is not as rosy with the Web’s potential as we’d like to think.
This same discussion has cropped up again and again, only to be dismissed by not only the digerati, but the mainstream media.
An example, in the wake of the publishing of David Shenk‘s “Data Smog”, back in 1997, a small discussion formed around similar concerns, that some branded as a movement called Technorealism. Read Newsweek’s put down of the discussion – labeling it as not worthy to have. As “glorifying the obvious”.
If it was so obvious, then why so much vehemence and venom in the face of it?
Kevin Kelly: Will We Let Google Make Us Smarter?
Andrew Sullivan: Google is giving us pond-skater minds
Rebecca Blood: Is the Internet making us stupid?
Burningbird’s RealTech: Timing
AKMA: Au Contraire
Publishing 2.0: What Magazines Still Don’t Understand About The Web
Slate: David Shenk: Was I right about the dangers of the Internet in 1997?
NYTimes: Excerpt: Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut