Editorial: Seduced By Technology?

Sometimes the step-by-step development of an event, like technology, becomes society’s total focus and its historical, political or social meaning gets obscured. A space shuttle landing on the moon, an oil leak spewing in the Gulf of Mexico, the invention of nuclear power, or a demonstration for social change in Cairo’s Liberation Square. Is the medium actually the message as Marshall McLuhan prophesied in 1964? Has technology’s time horizon been curtailed to a day-by-day time cycle? What about its long term implications?

I’m reminded of Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949 by George Orwell. Highly praised for its ability to glimpse the future, this work of political fiction introduced terms such as doublethink, Big Brother, thoughtcrime and gave rise to the adjective, Orwellian. It was dystopian fiction about a political construct where society was ruled by an oligarchical dictatorship.

Orwell envisioned that it would be necessary to use brute force to enslave mankind in a way that would allow for a total and complete invasion of personal privacy, and glorify the end regardless of the means.

But what if Orwell got it wrong? How could he have imagined the Internet in 1949? Or the smartphone. Certainly not Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and Google+. Or a scenario where Big Brother was smart enough to create a subjugating influence so seductive and desired it didn’t require the force of a dictatorship?

Today we carry GPS-equipped phones that know exactly where we are 24/7. The words we search for online, our emails, personal calendars and more are perfectly positioned for Big Brother’s inspection in the cloud. And then there are the social networks where little by little we are pulling back the curtain on privacy and willingly sharing our every movement and thought with friends, followers, likes and circles…. Are we moths flying toward technology’s flame?

The important questions aren’t, “When will Google+ open up its new service to corporate brands?” Or what about the latest software update?

We should be asking, “Where are we going?”

 

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David M. Ross has been covering Nashville's music industry for over 25 years. [email protected]

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