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 -
Sex In Driverless Cars? Updated With Video!
'...admirable for petting.' - David H. Keller, 1935.
Xinhua AI Anchor Puts CGI Face To Automated News
'...a congeries of software agents.' - William Gibson, 1996.
Wirewax Watching You Watch, Adjusting Your Experience
'He adjusted the n, the r and b knobs, and hopefully anticipated a turn for the better...' - Philip K. Dick, 1964.
Disney Keeps Backups Of Star Wars Franchise Actors
'She is a personality-construct, a congeries of software agents...' - William Gibson, 1996.
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.
Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?
Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
'Did you never see a moving house before?'
Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
'The big car was slowing down, its computer brain sensing an exit ahead.'
Shrimp Actually Made Of Algae Is A New Wave Food
Bring in that crop algae.
Cosplay Style Wings Could Work On Moon
'They're lovely! - titanalloy struts as light and strong as bird-bones...'
Tesla Model 3 Has Outside Speaker Grille
Robert Heinlein does it again.
Arizona Luddites Attack Self-Driving Vehicles
'Trucks don't drive by themselves...' Or do they?
Organaut! Russians 3D Print Living Tissue In Space
'For a while your colonists will have to come up [to orbit] to the Hospital...'
WINE Spacecraft To Extract Water From Asteroids
'Yes, strangely enough there was still sufficient water beneath the surface of Vesta.'
Japanese Swordsmiths Take On Asteroids
'... a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk.'
Saturn's Rings To Vanish, Let's Mine Them While We Can
'...the valuable shards of what had once been satellites.'
Humans Could Take Up A LOT Less Space
We'd have a lot more room for gardening...
Implosion Fabrication Shrinks 3D Objects To Nanoscale
'Carter had watched miniaturization a hundred times...'
GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air
Removes compounds too small to be captured by a HEPA filter.
Nova Meat Can 3D Print Your Dinner
Printing out chicken nuggets.
MIT Scientists Create 'Peek-a-Boo Prober' From Jetsons
Well, George, it's the latest thing.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories