Fifteen of so years ago I thought the Internet would empower humankind...

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by CalBoy, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #1
    I think if you ask those who over-threw entrenched dictators using the power of the internet, you'd find that your belief was justified.

    I also doubt that 20 years ago we would have seen footage of poor working conditions in Chinese factories or the atrocities of Joseph Kony being broadcast over billions of devices instantaneously.

    The internet has empowered mankind, it just hasn't necessarily coincided with the precise cause you want at the moment. I think the internet's answer to you is to feel personally empowered and make us care about your movement.
     
  2. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #2
    In reality, the Arab Spring is still trying to succeed. People still die every day...

    Oh please... 60 Minutes was exposing everyone and their brother since the mid-60s. Before that, the newspapers did the same.

    Kony is still kicking and there's no shortage of thugs elsewhere in the world ready to take his place. Millions watching one viral video isn't going to change the world to any great extent. You have to actually get people off their asses and away from their computer monitors to change the world.

    The Internet has done much, but it's no panacea. It's foolish to believe in magical cure-alls.

    The one thing we can all look forward to in the future is more restrictions and regulations being placed on the Internet. The open range from the "frontier" days of the Net will be sectioned off by barbed-wire fences.

    But as long as the masses have new shiny things to play with, few will even notice...
     
  3. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    But the critical fact is that the internet empowered many populations. Success is a separate discussion because even empowered populations can still lose.
    Actually, one of the more potent aspects of the internet is that it allows for a much better aggregate effect than TV or print media. Unlike a professional journalist who must at least tacitly be fair and balanced, those who push for social change online have no duty to act like professional journalists. While this obviously has its downside, for social causes it has the upside of allowing for rapid and effective mobilization. The small percentage that care enough about an issue to do something, can receive small sums of money from millions of sources "sitting on their asses." Their voices get amplified by this same mass force, and if they face any kind of adversity (whether fair or not) is immediately broadcast to everyone.

    All things being equal, the internet has been good for social engagement.
    Of course, but who here is saying it's a panacea? But it has done what you wished. It just turns out that there are more obstacles in the way before you get your wish fulfilled.

    At least in the US, I think that will be more difficult as time goes on. People have become used to an open and unrestricted internet. Certainly I think old media lobbying is going to fight very hard for oppressive regulations, as is the national security lobby, but a combination of internet vigilance and the incredibly burdensome legislative process in Congress is going to make it very, very hard to accomplish.
     
  4. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    Oh, tech is a great tool... until they pull the plug, restrict it, subpoena Twitter for your data, or set their missiles to home in on your GPS.

    Define "better".

    Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book that fueled the start of the American Civil War. If you were old enough, you might remember how TV coverage changed the country's perception of the Vietnam conflict.

    History is full of other examples of media fostering real change within the real world... On the other hand, Occupy Wall Street is a good example of the type of failure that can occur when technology is viewed as a panacea (too magical to fail).

    Filed under "wishful thinking"... Let me know how it worked out in a few years.
     
  5. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #5
    Somehow I suspect that even if the world has become a better place in a few years, you won't be the first person to willingly admit it.

    Pessimism is easy and in vogue, but it's probably not a good long term bet to make. Things are getting better across the world, it's just hard to see sometimes because the negative is reported and shared much more frequently.
     
  6. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #6
    There's a difference between realism and pessimism. I don't don rose-colored glasses -- I view the world as it really is.
     
  7. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #7
    I would never make that claim.

    We all distort "reality" in our own way.
     
  8. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #8
    You'd never claim to have a realistic grasp on reality? Really? Are the health officials in your area aware of that?

    Some more than others, it seems. Regardless, there's this thing called "evidence", you might want to consider in the future. It's rather useful, when applied correctly.
     
  9. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #9
    I'd never claim to see reality "as it really is."

    My reality is a limited version of reality, limited by my perspective, senses and mind.

    What it "really is" I could not say.
     
  10. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #10
    Far out, man. Next time I want to get out of jury duty, I'll remember to use that excuse.
     
  11. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #11
    Personally, I start here:

    When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. – John Muir​

    Most of the rest of it is a "collective hunch", but the notion of "fundamental interconnectedness of things" rarely disappoints.
     
  12. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #12
    "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence." (David Hume)
     
  13. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #13
    I quit my job as a programmer to start an ISP in '95. I'm well aware of how the Net works and its potential. I'm also aware of its limitations and its Achilles' heels.

    More capable? Really? Egypt is currently under indefinite military rule and the Queen still reigns in considerable splendor.

    "Close" only counts in the game of horseshoes. "Wasted opportunities" is probably a subject best served in a thread of its own, but I will say this: I have had many conversations with many different OWS participants. One of the most prevalent beliefs during the beginnings of the movement was the belief that within a couple of months racial sweeping change for the better would be archived. Why? "Because today's technology was going to make it possible!", was the common response. That, of course, didn't happen.

    Those (indefinite) military rulers of Egypt I mentioned earlier would probably argue that firearms technology is one of the most indispensable tools of the trade.

    In leau of a violent overthrowing of government, history would seem to support the belief that organization is an essential ingredient for success.
     
  14. hulugu macrumors 68000

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    #14
    So, do you agree with me that it's a double-edged sword? I tend to think that the net result is beneficial, but there are a lot of drawbacks that people—especially those involved in revolution—need to be aware of.

    More capable doesn't mean successful. It just means more capable and it's important to think that 2011 did more to shift Egyptian politics than 30 years of subterranean revolt.

    As for London, my point was to show that the London riots were also technology driven and authorities had a tough time dealing with it. No one tried to break the gates of Windsor.

    I had similar conversations and my response was often a kind of "good luck with that." Everyone expects sweeping immediate change like a good montage in the center of a movie. That's not going to happen, but technology has shifted the balance a bit.

    So would the Libyans and the Syrians, however, media technology makes it harder to sweep this under the rug and gives small groups the ability to communicate quickly and directly.

    Will this crack a regime bent on violence? No, but it ensures the world has to watch and can't dismiss it as an 'internal struggle.' And, this will only accelerate.


    Egypt's burgeoning revolt ran on Facebook and cellphones. The regime will have to deal with this reality.
     
  15. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #15
    Yes, I would agree technology is a double-edged sword. I'm simply pointing out that perpetuating the belief in the magic bullet quality of technology can do more harm than good. Unreasonable expectations lead to failure.
     
  16. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #16
    I find it exceedingly interesting that someone who claims to never wear rose-colored glasses and espouses the virtues of evidence can't pin down precisely what it is he's seeking.

    This was the original statement you made in this thread, which I quoted:
    I pointed out to you that some people in this world have in fact been empowered by the internet. Whether or not they've achieved 100% of their goals or done precisely what you would have wanted in social terms is irrelevant. The point is that the internet has empowered millions in ways that were fundamentally impossible before the internet.

    What evidence do you have to refute that? What can you point to as a durable side-effect of the internet which suppresses or otherwise interferes with its natural tendency to create functional networks of people?

    For the second statement, which corporate powers have specifically and empirically prevented the empowerment of people online? What about the way the internet is handled or treated is stifled by corporate oligarchy?

    Provide some evidence. Until you do, you're not a realist, you're just a pessimist.
     
  17. Sydde macrumors 68020

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    #17
    "Some people" is the operative term here. Many or most people would not be appropriate, "a few" would be most accurate.

    Consider "Susan Jones", your hypothetical, typical, casual American Internet user. She just wants good information upon which to base her personal decisions and opinions. Yes, the 'net has that. But how deep does she have do dig to get it? How hard will she have to work to reach a considered opinion or make an optimal choice?

    For instance, do a search on Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. Read through the copious pages of information and opinion and tell me if you think Susan Jones will be able to discern whether Ms. Sanger was a good-hearted person or a racist eugenicist (and whether that determination has any bearing on the issues of the day). Then lead Susan through the massive discussion on Anthropogenic Global Warming and see if you think she can make a reasoned conclusion on the matter and whether she should take some sort of action.

    The huge volume of data on the Internet, for the average person, is exactly the opposite of empowering. It is mind-numbing, because thinking is pretty difficult for most people. It is much easier to just skim through page one of the search results and grab at the topmost or most appealing hit. Hence, google (a business) is empowered and enriched, while the value of the information they direct the user to, based on keywords and phrasing, is uncertain. Some people.
     
  18. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #18
    "Some people" is always the operative word.

    Most people in this world are followers, not leaders. If the internet allows leaders to mobilize their followers and empower them to achieve a social aim, then the goal of empowerment is achieved.

    Note that having the correct info is not a requirement for social empowerment (in fact, I'd venture to say that correct information often makes issues more complex and prevents empowerment to the level necessary for social movements based on pathos).
     
  19. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #19
    zomg! PITCHFORKS and TORCHES!

    Are you aware of how incredibly unsavory that sounds? The 'net as a tool for charismatic leaders and mob rule?

    I think of "empowerment" as largely being an individual, personal thing. Yes, emotion does constitute an important component of decision making, decisions made without emotion are typically described as "callous". But it should not be the fundamental underpinning but should be well balanced with due reasoning. Otherwise, you end up with angry mobs.

    If the internet serves to foment bitter divisiveness and enmity, to amplify the worst aspects of our culture to the detriment of comity and accommodation, it is then an execrable failure that desperately needs to be shut down or severely curtailed until we can seriously address what is wrong with our society.
     
  20. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #20
    And I find your lack of reading comprehension skills exceedingly "interesting". You keep beating the same horse... and dragging the conversation more off topic in the process.

    If you want to believe technology=most-amazing-magic-bullet-ever then fine -- go for it. But prepare to be disappointed...

    Based on skimming through a few paragraphs worth of words I've written, you have absolutely no idea if I'm a realist or a pessimist anymore than you have any clue of whether any other forum user is (or isn't).

    Instead of going off half-cocked, try actually reading what I write.
     
  21. CalBoy thread starter macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #21
    I've never said such a thing.

    You made a specific claim of disappointment about the internet, I pointed out contrary evidence, and your entire response has been a combination of derision and goalpost adjustment.

    If you were interested in a real discussion about the merits of the internet as a social tool, you'd discuss the evidence. The fact that you don't says a lot more about your reading comprehension skills than anyone else's.


    I realize it's not exactly moving, but I think it's a basic sociological truth that there are more followers than leaders. The internet can't change that basic fact, but it can improve obstacles that movements have faced historically. The low cost of entry for a movement provided by the internet is definitely one. It lets people feel more involved, and that increases their total engagement all other things being equal.
    This is a hard thing. Undoubtedly the internet has fostered the extremities much more because we can all run to our refuge communities. But I think it's a phase of this new medium. Newspapers were like this when they first appeared too, but that doesn't mean we should have given up on their growth as a communication tool. I don't know how the divisiveness of the current era will resolve itself, but ultimately it will because we're clearly not at equilibrium. That solution could come forth from the internet itself, or from some other source in society.
     
  22. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    #22
    Isn't this a little like arguing that the invention of automobiles was only a boon to some people because few people will ever have the opportunity or skill to drive a Lamborghini on the Autobahn?

    "Oh, no, I only have Wikipedia on my iPhone! What is this, the Stone Age?"
     
  23. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #23
    I wrote it. So, yes. I do control the very goalposts of which you speak.

    The only way you'll ever have a clue to what I actually meant is to ask me questions about what I said. Without that sort of clarification you have absolutely no idea of what I meant.

    When I explain and clarify what I meant, they you whine about my moving the "goal posts"? Seriously? Please stop the cherry-picking and actually debate the issue...

    If you do want to debate the issue please create a new topic. You're just pissing on the existing thread...
     
  24. Sydde macrumors 68020

    Sydde

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    #24
    I am saying the quantity of information on the 'net greatly outweighs its overall quality, kind of like the traffic on 101 around Santa Rosa in mid afternoon at least temporarily reduces the benefit of driving a vehicle (the net positives/negatives of the automobile could be debated for hours or days with no resolution, so, perhaps not the best analogy).

    How wonderful it is to have Wikipedia, I never have to remember anything anymore.
     
  25. localoid macrumors 68020

    localoid

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    #25
    That concept was around before the Internet was invented...

    "I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book." (Einstein)

    The Net just makes access more readily available...
     

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