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Informing Ourselves to Death

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Informing Ourselves to Death

Humanity
Administrator
http://w2.eff.org/Net_culture/Criticisms/informing_ourselves_to_death.paper

A speech by Neil Postman from over 20 years ago, during the rise of the personal computer.

A mainstay of modern culture, especially in America of course, is the ubiquitous personal device. Whether a laptop, phone, iPod, tablet, or anything else, information is a part of modern culture in two insidious ways. First, it overloads people with information. As Postman points out, information alone is useless. Context is everything and this is precisely what our modern "information age" largely lacks. Now, one could sift and sift and sift through endless information forming context as they understand it, but this is a gargantuan task and would require endless dedication to the task, making it unfeasible. Second, every technology produces winners and losers. A technology may give humanity something good (or nothing good), but there is always a loss of something. This could be miniscule or devastating, but there will always be a loss when change happens, especially technological change. Postman gives a great historical example with the invention of the mechanical clock.

Obviously, modern culture leaves most people disconnected, alienated, disillusioned, and lonely. There is tons of information and personal devices but one of the costs has been the destruction of personal interaction and even relationships. One merely has to look at any modern, suburban family to see Dad watching TV, mom on Facebook, little Johnny on the Xbox, and little Susy on her iPhone. Even in the same room, the endless, pointless flow of information distracts them eternally. A woman can just hop on Facebook and get an instant hit of attention, leading to an endless cycle of attention-whoring.

I am not suggesting that these technologies are inherently evil. In the third-world, people have these same devices for the most part, yet relationships and interaction are still largely the same as they have always been. What is different? For one, people are not constantly on their phones. Their personal devices are a part of life and not life entirely for them.

In the "first world," like America, the feminist society, corporate world, and government leave no other options for how these technologies could have played out. Along with other community and relationship destroying "advances" in the 20th century, American society did not put up any resistance to the constant tidal wave of trivial information without context. The mainstream media is another good example: the media broadcasts 24/7 with soundbites and talking points. Although, here the information is normally stripped of context instead of existing that way naturally.

Regardless, what we end up with is a ghetto of a society, if we can even speak of a society at all. Remember those dystopian works that portrayed humans living vicariously through robotic avatars? The iPhone is the real life manifestation of that dystopia.
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Re: Informing Ourselves to Death

ShaunS
A rather old posting with no reply?

Consider the position of the Government. The people in charge are afraid - very afraid of the population, which they see as a serious threat to them. Where are the people and what are they doing? When should we duck, when should we run and hide? Governments have a seriously difficult job to do and the people that they rule are their enemies, and they have paranoia.

Then we have Coronation Street (a terrible soap opera that every moron loves), or Match of The Day, and suddenly the Government know where the people are and what they are doing and can confirm that it's not a threat to them.

Soon we will have Smart Meters and in the small print it says that information from these meters can be passed on to the police if they need to know if someone is in the property. The resolution of the Smart Meter is so fine that it can determine from power and time that the resident just boiled a kettle to make some tea. Then the police storm through the door to arrest the guy who is missing and on the run.

The purpose of technology like the television, is to distract the people from anything important. To then confine the person to a particular loop, so that at a particular time on a particular day they can know where that person is and what they are doing. The Government is tracking the people to determine any level of threat to themselves. At the same time they are looking for the blanks - people who for various reasons are not being tracked in the same way but are visibly present. Imposters, intruders, outsiders, infiltrators and the like. This is why mobiles phones are so loved - every person with a mobile phone on them can be tracked even if the phone is switched off, and every phone can be used to identify that particular individual. They even have phones that take your finger print before turning on. Whose security is that - yours or theirs?

It's a method of control and it's mostly deliberate. In America you are not allowed to remove the Smart Meter from the electricity supply as it's a crime. Perhaps they emit control signals, or perhaps it's some kind of motion detection radar system that can be tracked with sigint satellites, or perhaps certains kinds of people can be detected from energy signatures?

The social impact is similar to a police state, but it's done in a way that the people find acceptable. Government by stealth.
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Re: Informing Ourselves to Death

ShaunS
In reply to this post by Humanity
I think my previous reply here missed the point.

I now believe that it is not the information as you term it, but the fact that this is language based information that mostly is being processed by the cortex of the brain, and that this is having a negative impact on other areas of the brain.

So what I'm saying is that information of a non verbal nature is fine and would probably act as an antidote to the damage being caused in this way. So learning a foreign language would be bad as it would have a similar damaging effect. Unfortunately this is often suggested as a way to leave for some other country where the culture is better (typically to find a wife).

Another problem here is that this kind of information education can be measured, and if you have learnt much and can prove it, it looks good and it looks positive - the hidden damage that has been done is hidden and lies in the background undermining the roots of the brain and the culture.

In the case of music, where this is non verbal people in the room can still talk to each other over the sound. Jazz music provides quite a good environment. These technologies that you point to are not inherently evil and in fact they are inherently good, because of this the hidden danger is not seen or detected and what are needed might be considered to be technologies that ARE inherently evil, and those would be opposed.
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