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 -
OK2TALK Like Hearing Aid From Shockwave Rider
'Demanding no fees, it's affordable where psychotherapy is not.'- John Brunner, 1976.
Chinese Test UAV-based Parcel Courier Service
'...an aerial diaper service that flew diapers to rural homes...'- EB White, 1950.
75 Percent Of Americans Prefer Paper Books!
'The books were crystals with recorded contents.'- Stanislaw Lem, 1961.
New Global Century Center: China's Truman Show Venue
We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.- The Truman Show.
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.
Haute Cuisine On International Space Station
'The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus...'
Tongue Mouse Created By Valve Engineer
'He pressed hard with his tongue against his right upper first molar.'
K5 Autonomous Data Machine The Future Of Mall Security
''Halt!' A robot guard appeared...'
RF Safe-Stop Shuts Cars Off
'...a police control-override.'
Army's New Bird-Like Surveillance UAV
'The prototype blue-bellied, gray-backed tracer-bird with the wide-angle eye...'
Honda's Tumblebug - The UNI-CUB beta
'A tumblebug does not give a man dignity...'
NASA's LADEE Enters Lunar Orbit
'... dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.'
3D Printing An Entire Car
"... Almost as good as the original it was printed from."
Aldebaran Robot Talks Like C3PO - Almost
'See Vee Threepio - Vee for versatility - at your service...'
Google's Skin Tattoo Lie Detector
'Three and a half centimetres in diameter, permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'
inFORM Dynamic Shape Output Device
Like that pushpin device you remember, but supercharged.
Owlet Vitals, The Future Of Baby Monitoring
'In every diaper there is a fine copper wire...'
Robert Heinlein, Your Personal Electric Helicopter Will Be Ready In 2016
"They were half way home when a single flyer, hopping free in a copter harness, approached the little parade."
WildCat Runs Faster Than You, Untethered
'...moving with such drifting ease that it was like a single solid cloud of black-grey smoke blown at him in silence.' Almost.
HiBot's ACM-R5H Robot Video Shows Graceful Terminator-Style Swimming
'No! No! Aaaaaaarrrrrrgh!'
tDCS Jumpstarts Your Future
'We invented a scanner that can change the labyrinthine neural connections of the brain by tiny electronic impulses...'.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories