Tech has brought us some great things. Business processes flow both more efficiently and effectively. The access to all kinds of information both when we’re stationary and mobile has changed all aspects of things from the recall of an actor’s name through to the ability to do extensive research on a topic. However, there are negatives happening around this new tech that are concerning and are leading many to become increasingly disaffected with tech. There’s no stopping this forward momentum but tech as we know it, must be modulated by our governments based on knowing the potential downsides of what can happen when it is not controlled.
The Early Research
I was involved in the early development of our new tech a long with many others but who represented only a handful when looked at today. In the late 80’s and 90’s it was sometimes referred to as PCS or Personal Communications Services. The desktop personal computer only had started to roll out in the early 80’s but eventually it was followed by laptops then PDA’s and then the early smartphones primarily in the likes of the Blackberry and a bunch of disjointed players.
The early research was concentrated on business processes and the manner in which the technologies that were developing would aid those processes. Much of what has come was anticipated plus more as an extension of what was being planned for. What was not anticipated was the social aspects of the technology and its impact on societal function.
As an example, the broad use of social media was not considered and how this might impact society. In truth though, social media really only existed in the form of email in the beginning. Chat and sharing services didn’t exist at the front end. They developed as the tech allowed them to develop and they have been a quite success but…
Social Media has been too Much of a Hit
Today’s tech has produced a great number of positives.
- streaming media to the household TV
- ordering product online
- cars such as Uber
- remote work
And on it goes. In numerous ways it has enhanced our living. In many ways, things are simpler.
However, even though business and personal processes are much improved there is no question this has not had the effect of reducing our work pace. People are working longer and harder and the 4 day work week has certainly not materialized.
Additionally, there has never been more paper than we’ve ever had to deal with. The paperless office remains a dream for a variety of reasons which I’m not going to tackle in this article.
It is social media that is so concerning. People are awash in information. Social media, such as Facebook, keeps us in touch with others. However, in other ways it is keeping us awash not just in information, which may or not be true but we know it is a conduit for blatant lies that produce hatred, violence and bigotry.
Many are addicted to social media platforms such as:
- and others
wasting hours a day of time. Many get addicted to these platforms for one reason or another and spend far too much time on them. They are both influenced by others writings and that of a barrage of targeted advertising.
The Negatives of Tech
There is no question tech has been a huge positive in our lives. Yet, for some who use something like Facebook excessively or even moderately, people are comparing themselves to real and just online friends.
Humans like to compare themselves to others to establish how they’re doing. In school or university marks are meaningless unless you know where you stand relative to everyone else.
However, what if people are comparing themselves to an illusion or even to something real where they feel like a failure. This often leads to mental health conditions such as depression which in turn can lead to social dysfunction and even suicide.
Examples of Significant Issues – Trump’s Election, Brexit and the U.S Insurrection
There are many happenings that would lead to great concern around social media. However, four recent events highlight the significance of what can happen. These events not only demonstrate the power that our social platforms can have but also the severe negatives that can come their use.
Trump’s 2016 Election
Growing analysis is coming to terms with the fact that Trump’s use of Twitter allowed him to reach a large audience with lies and disinformation. Trump’s lies were being counted in the first year of his presidency up until the day he left office. He hit a chord with a large group in the States that feels it has been seriously left behind and are disenfranchised by the system.
Trump, mobilized with Twitter, knew he had hit a chord and that chord voted got him elected in 2016. It is broadly accepted that Russia wanted him as the president rather than Hilary Clinton. They purchased ads mainly on Facebook and through cyber hacking were able to support Trump’s platform. Many didn’t question what they were reading and thought Trump was supportive of their cause.
How does a New York billionaire (this actually is harder to ascertain) relate to the common people. What we have been seeing is a populist uprising starting likely as far back as Clinton.
The crash of the world financial system in 2008 was the breaking straw. The people saw these big banks who had been greedily enriching themselves at the expense of the people not only being bailed out with their tax dollars but further no one went to jail.
Is there true justice in America. Or are the people being brainwashed to believe there is. Certainly, there is some but it is known the rich benefit more so from the system. Simply put, the rich are getting richer and the poorer. Justice is not dealt equally nor fairly. Trump was able to engage in both American’s disenfranchisement and further their underlying racism. As Hitler blamed the fall of Germany’s greatness on the Jews, Trump was blaming it on everyone non-white whether the people were Americans or not.
In England, there was a growing movement for Britain to regain control of its autonomy even though Winston Churchill saw the alignment of a United Europe as the answer to move forward and prevent future conflicts amongst themselves.
However, with this growing pressure to separate, David Cameron decided there should be a vote:
The referendum was first announced by then-Prime Minister David Cameron on 23 January 2013. Cameron announced that he would attempt to re-negotiate Britain’s terms with the EU before holding an in-out referendum no later than two years after the next general election – should he still be Prime Minister.
The side that wanted separation from Europe to win bought data to understand people’s feelings and manipulate them. In the following article titled “The Great British Brexit robbery: How our Democracy was Hijacked” explains some of the dynamics that took place. The actions that followed was not only a misuse of data that was being collected by the people who wanted separate it clearly demonstrated another serious problem with our technology – our privacy is under attack.
Using this data and reports, documents and analysis were generated to manipulate the populace of Great Britain. It worked. Britain voted to separate based on sheer manipulation and some of the players behind this were Trump and his motley crew and those who were prepared to violate people’s right to truth for their own gain. Brexit, the term used to negotiate Britain’s leaving the European Common Market, won.
Right after the vote, many thought Britain had made a huge mistake. Scotland is now thinking of separating as they didn’t vote for this foolishness. Scotland is now trying to understand what they get from the union as they did vote to leave Europe.
Evil exists everywhere and this new technology, used inappropriately, can cause great harm. We no longer need canons and tanks to damage each other. Cyber warfare is becoming a thing. What is required and fast is for our governments to recognize this and control the bad about tech as there is too much at stake.
Trumps 2020 Election saw a Repeat of 2016
In this 2016 article titled “Donald Trump says Facebook and Twitter ‘helped him win the 2016 election” demonstrates clearly the power of social media misuse. America, as a result, almost lost its democracy. Trump will be remembered as the worst president in the country’s history but further history will judge Trump harshly on the world stage.
The 2020 American election found a desperate Donald Trump willing to win the election by any means. Although he lost to Joe Biden he pulled some very vicious stunts to cling to power. Continuing to use Social Media to manipulate the electorate and accusing Biden of some serious non-truths he went on to win around 74 million votes while Biden won a little over 81 million. It’s amazing how many people could vote for Trump but it generally tells a larger story of how divided America currently is.
The American Insurrection of Jan 6, 2021
On Jan 6 2021 a mob outside the capital buildings in Washington were incited to riot and overthrow the government of the U.S. by Donald Trump likely with support of some sick people in the government itself. Using social media, they were incited to riot and storm the Capital.
The logistics of the riot or coordination was managed through social media. Five people died trying to protect members of an elected government. Trump caused an insurrection against his own government he was so bent on doing anything to prevent Biden from becoming the next president.
Many were worried that the U.S. might crumble. It certainly won’t look anything like it did before the election of Trump. For the U.S. to return to normalcy may never happen or at minimum it will take many years to rectify the problems.
This type of thing could have happened without social media and history demonstrates that. However, social media made it far easier.
Fortunately Twitter and the others woke up to this reality and cancelled his account permanently. It’s too bad this wasn’t done long before the insurrection in Washington. Yet, it was done to reduce Trump’s false narrative.
Social Media is Not Evil but can Effectively Dispatch the Negative
Social media, in and of itself, is not evil. Humans are just that – humans and their intentions often can be deemed evil. Trump was far more than seriously mentally ill. He used these tools in a perverted way. Fortunately, all the media are cutting off many of the evil people that would use these tools for personal gain and not to be friends and distribute information but rather to pervert people’s thinking. Governments have to recognize and control this before this and other negatives get too far out hand.
Jacque Ellul on Technique
Jacque Ellul was a famous French Sociologist and Philosopher. The warning signals about our current “State of the Nation with respect to Technology” go back quite some time however, no one was more profound than Jacques Ellul on the subject. In his book “The Technological Society” he summarizes the concept as such:
Ellul argues that modern society is being dominated by technique, which he defines as a series of means that are established to achieve an end. Technique is ultimately focused on the concept of efficiency. The term “technique” is to be comprehended in its broadest possible meaning as it touches upon virtually all areas of life, including science, automation, but also politics and human relations.
Technology will continue to evolve as there is a self propelling mechanism. However, knowing these potential downsides is critical to useful technological advancement. Without the it, the dangers are extreme.
Orwell’s book 1984 is a profoundly forward looking novel of what technology uncontrolled can do. In a New York Times article titled “Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right: Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?” Regardless, the following statement sums up this question well:
Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic. And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.
Or it did until Donald Trump was inaugurated. All of a sudden, as many commentators have pointed out, there were almost daily echoes of Orwell in the news, and “1984” began shooting up the Amazon best-seller list. The most obvious connection to Orwell was the new president’s repeated insistence that even his most pointless and transparent lies were in fact true, and then his adviser Kellyanne Conway’s explanation that these statements were not really falsehoods but, rather, “alternative facts.” As any reader of “1984” knows, this is exactly Big Brother’s standard of truth: The facts are whatever the leader says they are.
Disaffected with our Technological Advancements with good Reason
The promise of our new information technologies provides both the good and bad all at the same time. However, the negatives are extremely concerning. Three major consequences of this advancement are:
- deluge of information making it next to impossible to keep up and manage.
- we are becoming slaves to information overload
- Addiction – we are impoverishing ourselves by reviewers and marketers who would have us believe we cannot manage if we don’t know how to use the stuff. Constantly upgrading perfectly good product is impacting our living standard as not only is this stuff complicated at one level it is expensive at another
- the loss of privacy and the use of our data against us to control us in the name of profit, blind-less ambition and the wreck-less consequences of gaining power by any means.
Yes, we have a society that is more comfortable to live in than any in the past but with the potential to loose all that makes us human. Awareness of these parameters can allow us to put checks and balances in place to ensure the positives while attempting to avoid the negatives. The negative is we have short memories though history teaches us much. In the States they had to reach Abyss to pull back and reign things in. The other side of the coin is a society most in the west would not want to live in and as we have seen with this recent American experience this is more than possible.