I believe each one moving to a new location, might be workplace, could be new school. It is never simple however excited you might be, there will always be new face you need to start over again with…
(Don’t be scared off by this cheerful intro, keep reading just a bit more.)
Now it would probably be a good idea to stop reading this. Moreover, you will almost certainly feel much better if you don’t keep reading. Or to say it with another Pink Floyd metaphor from The Wall, you might prefer to go ahead with your life, Comfortably Numb.
(Daddy, what d’ya leave behind for me?!)
There was a time in the 90s when it seemed that the Internet was going to change everything for the better. Immediate and free access to all the knowledge accumulated in the world, lack of borders in a new global community, decentralization of communications… all these new possibilities that we suddenly had were going to mean more freedom for all, less concentration of power in the elites, a more just, more advanced, better society. The future was there, within reach, since the speed of change was going to be breathtaking: in less than a generation we would advance a thousand times more than in the last 150 years. Companies that were born of that effervescence, like Google, dared to put corporate slogans such as “Don’t be evil”, imagining that if we can all access the same information through a neutral algorithm, the imbalances would be quickly diluted.
So what happened?
More or less, the same thing that had happened after the last scientific and technological revolution of that size. For dozens of years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, the common vision of the people was that the future would be much better thanks to technology. Trains had brought distances closer, the telegraph had revolutionized the access to information, the telephone had connected the people, electricity had abolished the night… we could go around the world in 80 days! Soon we could fly!
As it happened, this time everything went wrong much faster: 5 years after the publication of the article, the dot-com bubble exploded. And 10 years later the whole economy exploded, making it quite clear that the world was not going towards any utopia.
Of course, not everyone shared the optimistic vision of Wired at that time. This is an excerpt from an interview with the writer David Foster Wallace from 2000: “Personally I think the Internet is nothing more than an inordinate avalanche of information and entertainment, an accumulation of sensations with very little discretion when it comes to helping the consumer to choose, find or discern among the options that are available, in the midst of a truly raging maelstrom of capitalist fervor. This is true not only because of the way in which the internet operates, but also because of the way in which it is invested in. (…) Everyone is infinitely more interested in the economic and material aspects of the Internet than in the ethical and aesthetic, the inherent moral and political dimensions. (…) It’s really just an exaggeration of everything we’ve had so far.”
This idea of how we operate and invest in the Internet, and how the interest in its economic possibilities prevails over the moral and political ones, is one of the main keys to understanding what came shortly after. But to talk about that, maybe it’s better that we jump to the present.
(We don’t need no thoughts control)
We now finish this part of the wall with two quotes. The first one was written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in The Leopard: “Everything must change so that everything can stay the same.” The line alludes, in a very cynical way, to how elites conform to the revolutions, using them for their own benefit. The second is by Doris Lessing in Prisons we choose to live inside: “Yet I think we may very well see countries that take it for granted they are democracies losing sight of democracy, for we are living in a time when the great over-simplifiers are very powerful.” This line does not require any additional comment, beyond that it was written in 1985.
Wow, this really reminds of the ending line from that Woody Allen monologue: “I wish I could think of a positive point to leave you with… Will you take two negative points?”
(I have seen the writings on the wall)
Precisely. It’s up to us. Us in the tech industry, on the one hand. And it’s also up to you, on the other hand, in the way you decide to use the technology that we offer you. We sincerely hope that Goonder will not turn out to be yet another brick in your wall, but a tool for you to start knocking it down, or at least an alarm clock to wake you from being so comfortably numb. You have many tools at your service, applications of technology that are designed to help shaping a more just and equal society. To the extent that all of us, manufacturers, service providers and users, contribute to create a general framework of good use of technology, we can build that society.
It will always be better than having to call Ridley Scott to shoot “Ooops!”
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