Internet Horror – The not so apparent impact of the net on our brains, selves, and personal freedom
For all you lovers of horror fiction and doomsday predictions, check out what the genre can become in the space of non-fiction. Once you read these books, you will never approach browsing and social media with the same sense of innocence. Read on!
Lets start with Nicholas Carr’s “Shallows”.
The net encourages us to flit through an unimaginable breadth of information and knowledge but doesn’t push us to deeper research and study the way books do. The impact of this style of information processing is a lessening of our ability to concentrate, and follow through a complex argument over a few hundred pages. A gradually lessening ability to introspect, reflect and synthesize is the subject of Nicholas Carr’s ‘The Shallows – What the internet is doing to our brains’.
Then I chanced upon Jaron Lanier’s “You are not a gadget”.
Jaron Lanier’s book is broader in its scope, far more provocative and a lot more frightening. It takes a contrarian view on phenomena like crowd-sourcing and the wisdom of crowds. So, it raises important questions we might never even think of asking. What is the impact of the anonymity you can enjoy online? What happens to our sense of identity as we get increasingly comfortable being just a cog in the gargantuan social wheel? What are the long term consequences of hardwiring certain choices on technology, which would eventually dictate our language and social construct before we even know it? What is the impact on personal creativity and sense of self as we are happy just liking and passing on content created by others? Does the democratizing of entertainment through Youtube liberate artists to reach wider audiences, or actually condemn the majority of artists to a life of poverty? While his answers might not always seem the only possible ones, the questions beg a larger debate.
Here’s how Jaron Lanier looks, which I find adds to the sense of menace.
And then there is this whole area related to regulatory and policy issues surrounding the internet and the impact of concentration of power amongst a select few, and its long term impact on personal and political freedom. Which is the subject of Tim Wu’s ‘Master Switch’ which I hope to get around to reading once I can digest the others.
The only part of our selves we can possibly protect seems to be our sense of identity and self.
Thank god for small mercies!