We Will Become the Medium

Sue Halpern’s review of 3 books is titled Mind Control & the Internet

Of the 3 books reviewed, the most thoughtful is clearly:
You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

The themes evoked in Halpern’s slightly disjointed article include:

– the Singularity
The growing likelihood of brain activity controlling computers, as in a recent experiment at Washington University in St Louis:

Brain Grid Image

as well as Brown University’s BrainGate

“Early this April, when researchers at Washington University in St. Louis reported that a woman with a host of electrodes temporarily positioned over the speech center of her brain was able to move a computer cursor on a screen simply by thinking but not pronouncing certain sounds, it seemed like the Singularity—the long-standing science fiction dream of melding man and machine to create a better species—might have arrived. At Brown University around the same time, scientists successfully tested a different kind of brain–computer interface (BCI) called BrainGate, which allowed a paralyzed woman to move a cursor, again just by thinking.”

– the danger of personalized Google search
feeding you only what you already know and like:

Google directs you to material that is most likely to reinforce your own worldview, ideology, and assumptions. Pariser suggests, for example, that a search for proof about climate change will turn up different results for an environmental activist than it would for an oil company executive

– the transformation of the internet into
a medium for personalized monetization

As Lanier points out:

“The only hope for social networking sites from a business point of view is for a magic formula to appear in which some method of violating privacy and dignity becomes acceptable.”

That magic, it seems, is already in play.

– the speed of change & leverage of engineers

Of course, one of the groups of people most drawn to science fiction are the engineers who write code and build robots and have, in less than a generation, changed the way we do research and medicine and read books and communicate with each other and pay the bills and on and on. (In a 2004 interview, Larry Page envisioned a future where one’s brain is “augmented” by Google, so that when you think of something, “your cell phone whispers the answer into your ear.”)

As Lanier points out:

We [the engineers] make up extensions to your being, like remote eyes and ears (webcams and mobile phones) and expanded memory (the world of details you can search for online). These become the structures by which you connect to the world and other people…. We tinker with your philosophy by direct manipulation of your cognitive experience…. It takes only a tiny group of engineers to create technology that can shape the entire future of human experience with incredible speed.

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11. June 2011 by benjamin
Categories: media | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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