Wednesday, March 12, 2014


So, I was in Walmart the other night with my wife, shopping for whatever it is that you shop at Walmart for. And I'm walking down the aisle with the canned fish and Hispanic foods. Then I see it. My first time seeing a person wearing Google Glasses.

It got me thinking a bit. See, I've been a fan of technology and connectedness for some time. Since back in the late years of the last century, at least. I was often an early adopter of hardware and sometimes of services. I never had a MySpace site or a Live Journal. But, I saw the potential of email and other forms of instant communications, storing files in a web-based location, etc. etc. Mostly, though, I liked hardware.

At some point, however, I started to step back a bit and question technology and the role that it plays in my life. I mean, I spend my days working on a computer and across a wide variety of networks, yet I try to stay away from cell phones as much as possible. I try to keep my surfing to a minimum and have tried and sometimes failed to stay away from most forms of social networking. I keep many of my files on cloud services and, obviously blog, but I've also tried to simplify by avoiding elements of technology.

And the dude wearing the Google glasses raised a question in my head. At what point do we become nothing more than the servant of our technology? When does the Matrix become real? What if it is already?

How about at a simpler level - at what point does our access to universes of information make it so that we are unable to think, reason, or problem solve on our own? I can't count the number of times I've been in a conversation and have posed a question that the other person could not immediately answer and had that other person pull out his or her phone and Google it. So we have all of the answers at our finger tips, but having the answers doesn't mean we know how to apply them, does it?

Example. My son is interested in all things nuclear right now. Who knows why? Maybe he watches The Simpson's too much. I don't know. But he's continually watching videos on YouTube about how to extract chemicals and isotopes from commonly available materials thinking that he is going to crack the code on fission. Or is it fusion? I think it's fusion, but regardless. He has this world of answers open to him, but he's no clue about safe lab procedures or how to ensure that he doesn't blow up his family or gas himself to death. He has the information, but information does not equal knowledge.

Knowledge is the conjunction of information and experience. So, we now have these little computers we can wear on our faces and get information on any topic we wish at any time. What does that do to our ability to gather information on our own and convert that to knowledge? I don't know. What does it do to our ability to have a real and honest interaction with another person not mediated by all the information in the world? I don't know. On some levels it is terribly scary to think about how close we are to the Matrix and our electronic overlords, how willingly we give up our innermost secrets to the web's billions of strangers. Hell, I'm doing it here. The paradox. And at what point do we realize that all the information that bombards us each and every waking moment isn't helpful, isn't informative, but is just white noise that tries to drown out our ability to discern the real facts and information? Is the information revolution a good thing?

My gut tells me that on the whole it's having more negative effects than positive, but I'm just a neo-luddite. Or something like that. Stinking hippie.

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