By Alan Tyrrell.
A generation is lost. Lost in a wilderness of self-obsessed conspicuous consumption. Lost in a life lived vicariously through socially enabled devices. And a life where our discovery of new knowledge is limited to choices pushed to us by an algorithm that learns everything from a population of one.
In this web of nothingness, a generation appears to show a limited ability to differentiate fact from fiction on a feed that neither accepts blame nor bears accountability. We’ve abdicated our responsibility for verifying what passes for news. And substituted it for a passing relationship with objective analysis. All because its handier.
I know that all sounds frightfully naïve and reflective of the current post-Trump, post-truth Zeitgeist. However, this blind worship of the new gods of knowledge that have emerged over the past 15 years has been a bugbear of mine for quite some time.
And just to lay some cards on the table. I am not a grumpy old man. I’m neither a member of the technocratti nor a technophobe. I can use a smartphone. I’m pretty good on LinkedIn. And Hootsuite is not a mystery to me. I was as amazed by Augmented Reality when it first came out as I am now in its second coming. So I am no troglodyte when it comes to technology.
That said, Coder DoJo entry level is far more advanced than I can manage. In fact, I find it hard to programme the central heating. I believe technology is an enabler and without it we’d be in a far worse position. But, as with most new toys, the gleam is dimming as whole segments of society – and particularly some in the media – lose sight of the role of technology. It is there to enhance rather than direct. It is there to support rather than stymie. And most of all, it is there to serve rather supersede.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. In fact, I applaud the fact that computer power helps to analyse weather patterns, aid autonomous vehicles, and connects devices that allow people to turn the heating on and off remotely. That’s all great. And pretty useful.
But before it’s too late, I think it’s time to reimagine things. It’s time to ask why there is such massive mainstream reliance on social media as the intermediator through which so many people seem to live their lives.
Heresy I know. But think about it - almost three quarters of the people on the planet do not use Facebook. And if all the duplicate accounts were stripped out, that figure would undoubtedly rise. For LinkedIn – my personal SM drug of choice – just 7% of the people on the planet use it. The stat is much the same for Instagram.
And yet social media platforms are being partially blamed for the US election outcome given that 44% of US citizens rely on Facebook for their news.
At all manner of events – be they as banal as Tuesday lunch or bacchanalian as those rare dates when The Jesus and Mary Chain actually played at one of their concerts, people these days choose to put a screen, a filter, a barrier between them and their event. Posts of fish and chips; viewing the concert through your camera phone; rabid rants from behind the keyboard; and so much more. All life intermediated through technology rather than being lived in real time. So instead of being fearful for a future world run by Terminators, we should be more scared of the world peopled with autobots. Autobots incapable of thinking for themselves without checking Dr Google.
In a world filled with so much nature, isn’t it time to disintermediate technology a little and start living life again for real. With so much technology empowered enablement cluttering our ‘modern lives’, isn’t it time to sense check what we use technology for and how we use it. Isn’t it time to reassess the relevance of it all.
All opinions are my own