Dark Cloud: The Future Of (Anti-)Social Networking
The last two books that I read came together in a curious way. You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier is a non-fiction book that presents a counterpoint to the technologist's worshipful view of the Internet; Directive 51 by John Barnes is a work of fiction set in a near future in which much of the technological progress of humanity is endangered.
(You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto and Directive 51)
I enjoyed both books, and I don't want to spoil Barnes' novel for you by providing too many details. Let me say this much: in the story, internet users are drawn to participate in a planned event called "Daybreak", which seems to attack the technological underpinnings for the modern human world. (He has a frankly original approach to the idea, so be prepared to think deeply.) Rather than tell you exactly what he does in the novel, I'd like to explore some ideas from Lanier's book that will, I hope, enhance your reading of Barnes' novel and maybe induce you to read both of them.
In You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto, Lanier is highly skeptical (even contemptuous) of the whole idea of the Singularity, which is the notion that someday computers might become superintelligent and even self-aware.
And yet, there is something to worry about, which is the fact that the great crowd-produced works of the Internet, like Wikipedia, encourage people to drop their individuality and pretend that a half-million contributors can write in exactly the same neutral voice. He writes:
...I worry about the potential for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe if people pretend they are not conscious or do not have free will - or that the cloud of online people is a person; if they pretend that there is nothing special about the perspective of the individual - then perhaps we have the power to make it so. We might be able to collectively achieve antimagic.
Humans are free. We can commit suicide for the benefit of a Singularity...
Always celebrating the achievements of individuals, Lanier adds that "the web 2.0 designs actively demand that people define themselves downward."
Lanier is also concerned about how the anonymity provided by the Internet brings out the worst in people. (How many of us [normally rational beings all, I'm sure!] have typed a comment into a web page that we would never have made in person?)
What would happen if the self-organizing social applications of the Internet cloud were to feed back to particular groups our worst qualities as human beings? Lanier actually titles one of his chapters "The Noosphere Is just another name for everyone's inner troll."
I don't want to push on the Internet "cloud" metaphor too hard, but what happens when the human animal (including his inner troll) finds himself in a dark cyclonic social network from which he is unable to escape? And what happens when it touches down?
Be sure to check out You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier and Directive 51 by John Barnes.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/2/2010)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?' - Richard Morgan, 2003.
TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... Setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1938.
Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.' - John Brunner, 1975.
We Could Downgrade Puerto Rico - And Thereby Save It
'It was cheaper to pay the refugees to go without up-to-the-minute equipment.' - John Brunner, 1976.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Las Vegas Humans Ready To Strike Over Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot... had to be compensated.'
You'll Regrow That Limb, One Day
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to regrow his lost fingers.'
Elon Musk Seeks To Create 1941 Heinlein Speedster
'The car surged and lifted, clearing its top by a negligible margin.'
Somnox Sleep Robot - Your Sleepytime Cuddlebot
Science fiction authors are serious about sleep, too.
Real-Life Macau or Ghost In The Shell
Art imitates life imitates art.
Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.'
First 3D Printed Human Corneas From Stem Cells
Just what we need! Lots of spare parts.
VirtualHome: Teaching Robots To Do Chores Around The House
'Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? - any work a human being does around a house.'
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Workshop
SF writers have thought about this since the 19th century.
Nanorobots Roam Your Bloodstream, Cleaning It
Too bad they won't have lasers, though...
Galini 3D Printed Sleeping Pod Tiny Houses
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
MIT Boffins Create Psychopath AI On Purpose
There's a lesson in this for neural net AI engineers everywhere.
Skin Electronics 3D Printed
'June's body is a tracery of lambent lines, like some arcane capillary circuitry...'
Artificial Sensory Neurons For Prosthetics, Robots
Great for humans and robots!
China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers
Looks like the City Fathers are starting to take over China's education system.
Electronic Tongues Will Rule The Kitchen
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories