Terwyl digitale media, soos Facebook, Twitter en blogging (!) hand oor hand toeneem, moet ons vra hoe dit ons siening van mens-wees beïnvloed. Die volgende resensie van ‘n belangrike boek het my aandag getrek…
It is my belief that Jaron Lanier’s book You are Not a Gadget is one of the most important books a serious minded person in the early 21st century can possibly read. It is so because the basic question it addresses is, “What does it meant to be human?” Perhaps even more to the point, it raises the question of “How do we appropriately recognize and honor one another as unique persons of depth and substance?”
The digital world and it its representations of persons threatens to diminish, reduce, and flatten us. And because we increasingly interact with each other through digital mediums instead of face to face, our relationship also are diminished, reduced, and impoverished. The individual is replaced with the hive. A unique point of view is obscured in a mash up. A distinct voice is lost in the computational cloud.
As an example of Lanier’s concerns, consider the following paragraph: “I know quite a few people, mostly young adults but not all, who are proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook. Obviously, this statement can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced. A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other. Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine interaction. The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that.”
Could it be that if we are ever going to be fully present in a given moment or to a given person, we are going to have to limit our connectivity?
A couple of Lanier’s suggestions:
- “Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that need to come out.”
- “If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state (my note: but that would take time and work and reflection!) instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would a machine.”
There are other questions Lanier asks that I expect aren’t even on most of our radars–but they should be. Otherwise the answers are going to be decided for us in ways that we may find profoundly disturbing, and it will be too late for us to be able to do much about it. For instance, there is the whole question of authorship. Lanier warns of those who consider it their “‘moral imperative’ that all the world’s books would soon effectively become ‘one book’ once they are scanned, searchable, and remixable in the universal computation cloud.”
This is just a tiny snippet of the kinds of substantive issues this book addresses. Coming from the “father of virtual reality”, a person at the top of his field in the very heart of technological prowess and progress, we ignore this book and the questions it asks at our own peril.
[This is an shortened version, read the complete review here.]