Retroactivity: Turning Back Technology

In the Information Age, our previous fears and fascinations with technology apparently have become defined by our personal and collective intelligent analysis of our acquired knowledge derived from the Internet—particularly that of the World Wide Web. Before the Web, each of our strongly rooted preferences for or against technology came from gut instinct, hearsay, or a one-sided relay of information. The techno-optimist is now sometimes seen as the blind follower while the techno-pessimist is the knowledgeable (but cautious) elitist—-whereas perhaps a few centuries ago, this view was just the opposite. I can look back at how I viewed the Web during its early public stages with wonder and awe, like a child faced with a box of chocolates, and compare it to what I presently foresee it becoming as an adult faced with Pandora’s Box as my knowledge of it grows. Although both the box of chocolates (a reference to Forrest Gump) and Pandora’s Box both give examples of random outcomes, in one of these examples, the subject expects to have darker and more dangerous possibilities than the other.

The more popular fight for sustainability (such as in eco-fashion) and the less-known revival of vintage culture and lifestyle (discounting the poseur) are just some examples of what knowledgeable individuals are concerned about as their awareness of technology deepens. Sustainability aims to prevent and lessen the adverse effects of technology on a finite earth, while the revival of vintage lifestyle is geared towards restoring the beauty in traditionalism. It may seem ironic that I am a supporter of both and more so a proponent of the latter despite my background and profession in Information Technology, but this supports my tenet that regardless of our station in life, we are able to intelligently discern what is beneficial to our humanity in the long run. We often hear about people deleting their social networking profiles, setting personal limits on TV usage and even texting, and installing content restriction software on their computers after they have been educated enough to make informed decisions.

Technological “advancement” is a paradox. It bears both a blessing and a curse. This reminds me of a discussion on privacy from an interview I read that featured the creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. He believes that Facebook breaks our habit of being someone else to different individuals or groups of people instead of being just yourself and having one identity shared with all. He believes in “radical transparency” and that our typical way of presenting ourselves to different people is a sign of a lack of integrity. To me, reality is actually the opposite. In normal and acceptable constructs of social discourse, we tend to choose to be intimate only with certain people, sharing a bit of ourselves with the rest of the world (hopefully without lying), and exposing more information about ourselves as we gain trust. Although my husband and I are on Facebook and on one account, we know that it does not mimic reality, and we certainly would not want reality to mimic Facebook.

As technology exponentially expands as shown in examples such as Moore’s Law and the like, certain informed groups of people revert back to what was good, divert from what went wrong, and proceed with caution and with a better understanding of manipulating nature and traditionalist ideologies with the least possible damage on both the environment and morality, including social behavior, as the outcome. When we realize that advancements in technology such as texting and Facebook claim to bring people together while actually pushing people apart by their impersonal nature, we attempt to tame them with the preservation of our humanity in mind. Our technologies are supposed to cater to our being human and not make us less of it—-but what the limit is to this is all subjective. This growing subjectivity leads me back to the informed decision maker’s discernment regardless of their society or place therein. Even if Pangea had existed and were still our world today or if Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic civilization had thrived, without the Web’s negative influence, relationships would probably be deeper and more personal.

Hey information highway
We’ll be online till the break of day
Hey computer age
You don’t need a house if you’ve got a home page.

- Datarock, “The Blog”