Monday, March 8th, 2021

Trapped in the Net: What They Don’t Tell You About the Internet & Social Media

Published on December 6, 2016 by   ·   1 Comment


David Thrussell,/Waking Times

“Technological progress is carrying us to inevitable disaster.” ~Theodore J. Kaczynski (a.k.a. ‘The Unabomber’)

Flawed, to a depth unlike any other beast in the animal kingdom, human beings rapaciously despoil their own environment and continue to conduct activities that appear to threaten the very existence of the biosphere – our home, planet Earth.

Through the latter half of the 20th century an insatiable technological race to develop weapons of mass annihilation resulted in nuclear standoff among a handful of belligerent nations and an incongruous co-operative policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D.). That dire policy still stands today, a shadow cast unthinkingly over all human endeavour and indeed life itself.

The very idea that humanity willingly chose to pursue a scientific course that delivered the capacity to destroy the world many times over should be breathtakingly troubling, yet inspires relatively little comment. From the very same tumultuous technological crucible that produced the enduring madness of nuclear weaponry came a more recent development – the Internet. The online world promises an ‘abundance of riches’ (as its techno-evangelists constantly assure) but it also has a profound (and profoundly under acknowledged) dark side.

Birthed from the Pentagon’s desire to be able to maintain communications through the early stages of a nuclear assault (by spreading the electronic and telephonic communications load over a labyrinth of interconnected routes and servers), what we today call the Internet (which at one point was called ARPANET) was shepherded into existence by D.A.R.P.A. (the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in partnership with the scientific, academic and corporate communities.

In these times of giddy techno-utopianism (sleekly designed Apple products are fetishized throughout our entire culture, social media is worshipped as the new frontier in community ‘cohesion’ and ‘inclusive’ communication – to name just a few examples) it would seem important to remember that the architecture of the Internet (and all the associated soft and hard-ware) was parented by a nexus of the Military Industrial Complex, the Secret State, the Corporate Leviathan and deliriously utopian elements of the scientific and academic worlds.

Many have noted the deleterious relationship between humankind and technological development, where humanity acts as virtual slave to a misdirected and essentially unstoppable scientific progression.

Though now used as a term of derision, the original Luddites rightly feared the impact of encroaching technology on their livelihoods and sought means to disable it. Thinkers from Karl Marx to Marshall McLuhan also addressed and questioned mankind’s enthralled relationship with technological innovation. For whom shall be the servant and whom shall be the master?

The New Dark Age of Mediocrity & Narcissism

Since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press five centuries ago, the linear/literary mind has evolved and shaped prodigious developments in art, science and culture. We may now have entered an era of far more seismic – though not necessarily positive – changes. Acclaimed neuroscientists like Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel suggest that the Digital Revolution’s hyper-stimulating and overtly transient landscape may be responsible for ‘re-wiring’ our neural circuitry to a more ‘efficient’ and industrialised state (producing more, more quickly) that also downgrades our capacity for concentration (the locus of education) and even wisdom.

Writer Nicholas Carr warns in The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains that “the seductions of technology are hard to resist” but, as German philosopher Martin Heidegger put it, the advance of technology dictates that a new, superficial “calculative thinking may someday come to be accepted and practised as the only way of thinking.”

Carr also notes that a raft of recent research indicates that the “more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion and other emotions.” Bombarded by endless linked options and stimuli, we reduce our human qualities and become more machinelike – simply fleshy automata.

Most online experiences are mediated by algorithms that expedite efficiency in searching the web, comparing products and offering connections to calculated similar content. They advance easyoptions, rarely subjecting us to the discomfort of a differing opinion or intellectual challenges (as may happen in the real world). If the World Wide Web is an infinite digital library, search algorithms are most likely to fill that library only with volumes chosen to please us. An endless feedback loop of gratifying, self-serving opinions and subtle reinforcement – a mirrored cubicle of refracting self-reflection, an echo-chamber of recycled automatic sound bites. An apocalypse for the enquiring soul.

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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Lou Simmons Lou Simmons says:

    Its a virtual ghetto.

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