Sunday, December 12, 2010

Technology will save us?

How the Internet will save civilization?  (see Also.)  I suppose it depends on your definition of civilization.  The author of the text under discussion lists 6 factors:
1. Disease Epidemics--(can isolate during pandemics)
2. Availability of Knowledge
3. Speed by Decentralization
4. Minimization of censorship
5. Democratization of Education
6. Energy Savings
1. Although I can certainly see his point with #1, this same strength also helps destroy social cohesion by promulgating anti-social behavior.  For instance, people will often have more friends on-line, yet not know any of there neighbors.  This is not very useful if the power goes out...
2. Knowledge might be available, but it often lacks context or citation.  It is very rarely peer reviewed.  Data is not knowledge.
3. Decentralization can mean a faster response, but can also uncoordinated in a disaster situation. Remember Hurricane Katrina? The Internet sure didn't do much there.
4. Minimization of censorship? Perhaps for now, but as the Wikileaks Cablegate affair show, this might not be the case for not much longer. Internet censorship appears to be relatively effective in China.
5. Democratization of Education does lead to better access. However, as most people seem more interested in the piece of paper than what they get out of it, it also leads to the lowest common denominator as less rigorous courses lose out to those that are harder.
6. Energy may be saved by minimizing travel for meetings.  The Internet sure doesn't build things. However, Internet facilities do use a large amount of energy. Also, energy savings do not mean much if the lights are not on.

Also, the Internet won't grow your food for you...

So in closing, the author seems more like a technophile cheerleader than someone presenting an objective analysis.  He knows where his bread is buttered.

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