Football rode a golden age to America’s true pastime, and only a half-century or so later did we stop to realize and start to come to grips with the epidemic of head injury and CTE which was the flip side of a sport that brought so much to players and fans.
In a similar vein, if the Internet (and software) is eating the world, then it’s worth stopping for a second to take stock of what is coming out the other side.
Twenty-one years after NCSA Mosaic, the internet indisputably has demonstrated its magic through interconnection, creativity, shared content, games, aggregated demand, quicker and more accessible communication. This has led to new business models, ways to communicate, and political changes.
This has been enabled by a transformation in how we live our daily lives in which there is digital inter-mediation in most everything. We daily create a ton of data and we have processing speed which enables the ability to recognize and make sense of the data.
These are all good things generally, but also in a sense are dangerous to the human condition which depends on anonymity, forgetfulness, the ability to make mistakes, limits on the ability of people to exert evil, and recognition of the complexity of personhood. Facial recognition, email, web tracking, digital purchases, and search histories can create unalterable biographies that can be abused.
This is seen in countless contexts: the ability of the NSA to spy on us; an arguably greater ability for many private firms to know about us with almost no legal guidelines, and the ability for teenage hackers to steal credit card information from a third of the US in one shot. We can go on.
Our lives have become digital. We need to confront the waste that is a byproduct of this otherwise immensely positive fact. The digital life excretes indelible trails. This will affect some very existential elements of our humanity.