May 15, 2014

PUBLIC FORUM: Living in an age of disconnect


---- — Living in an ageof disconnect

The computer is probably the most transformational invention since the printing press, and the Internet has accelerated its evolution seemingly beyond one’s capacity to stay apace. I’m definitely a novice in this electronic era, but connected enough to marvel at the unlimited access to knowledge and information at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen. I’m in awe every time I hear of some new application, or learn a new process that was there all the time, but like every other revolutionary change there are good and bad properties.

Interested parties are already writing books and articles, and conducting studies on the psychological and social impact of this life-changing technology. This is important as we move into a future where every aspect of our lives will be micromanaged by an electronic brain trust. The government, the military, positional awareness, functions of our infrastructure, and the very concept of communication are all advancing toward complete dependence on this artificial intelligence. Hackers, viruses, and worms require constant vigilance; privacy is irretrievably challenged. The 9-11 terrorists were fools for taking innocent lives; a massive attack on our power grid would have crippled the entire country. That prospect appears all the more likely as we move ever closer to a singular faith in this electronic medium.

The social implications are obvious. You can witness it every day. Meet five cars on the road, and two of them are on a cellphone or texting. Out in public the number of people absorbed by their iPhone screens, or iPod Tunes is countless. It could easily be diagnosed an addiction.

Why converse spontaneously when you can measure every word you say via Facebook?

There’s no need to spell correctly, no need to think for yourself, remember anything, or calculate with the mind you were given; no need to directly interact with your own children. Why, pretty soon you won’t even have to drive your car. Such properties will all be immediately accessible from a cloud fast becoming a god of our own creation.

This cloud has the potential of becoming a heavy fog. I’ve always been a firm believer of “using it, or losing it.” Our brains and bodies must eventually deteriorate and fail us, but the sooner we cease exercising our human capacities, the sooner they fade. Computers are a marvelous tool, but much more so the mind that invented them.

Jeffery W. Wiseley

Star City