I was close to stopping the blog last week. It was becoming increasingly obvious to me that I had nothing of real substance to say. Who really cares where I am or what I’m doing? This thought was inducing a certain level of grumpiness on my part, largely aimed at the other people that I felt were guilty of spreading inconsequential trivia – in less than 140 characters.
In short, Web 3.0 is fuelling greed for attention (validation) and I felt that I was falling into the same exhibitionist trap as everyone else. I tried to explain this to a journalist who was interviewing me about connectivity last week, but she was having none of it. The future, as far as she was concerned, was social and if you are not part of this epidemic of over-sharing you clearly have something of substance to hide.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not this post is inconsequential trivia, but I was in Oxford last week giving a talk. You don’t need to know this in a sense. It’s either me showing off or, more likely, me attempting subconsciously to offset the fact I haven’t been to Oxford. Here we go again with the exhibitionism, to some extent, but the debate I took part in did convince to me that I might be on to something important and that it wasn’t only people of a certain age – my age – that are feeling that something is not quite right in our new technological utopia.
The discussion was about whether mobile addiction, automation, networked intelligence and predictive systems are demeaning us as human beings. This was interesting in itself, but then things got even better. I picked up a couple of new books. One, which I have yet to open, is Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier. The other, which I’m deep into already, is Digital Vertigo by Andrew Keen.
Keen argues lucidly that the mobile internet, in particular the online personal revolution sometimes known as Web 3.0, is debasing society. Among other things, sites like Facebook and Twitter are redefining success as the ability to momentarily attract attention and are transforming friendship from a private pleasure into a profit centre. He also says that over-sharing online is a gift for authoritarian governments, but I’m less convinced by this.
The issue for me is twofold. First, the cult of social is creating a rigid orthodoxy and conformist group culture. This cannot be good. Second, we know not what we do: We are giving away huge amounts of information – our identities to some extent – in return for what? I don’t mind profit-seeking companies collecting some data if this allows them to serve me better. But I do object to companies seeking vast amounts of data – where I am, whom I know, what I buy, what I think – and then selling this data for a profit to other companies without my consent.
More on this subject soon. For now I’m offline.