‘I am not a Number, I am a Free Wo/Man!’
It is difficult for many people in Western Civilization to recall daily life before the mass presence of computers. Though this technology is a recent invention in the chronology of humankind, it has become embedded in much of our cultural identity. For good or bad, computers are here to stay and it is challenging for most of us to go an entire day without encountering a computer in at least some form. While the personal computer has quickened informational flow while making it more accessible, it has also accelerated dependency on acquiring such swift knowledge with little regard being paid to the price of achieving such fast results.
The speed in which information may be obtained from a small box is dizzying and it is easy to see how people can become so intoxicated that they do not realize the price attached to such instant accessibility. Addiction is just a flicker away, hiding in the shadows cast by the glowing computer screen, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting techo-user. Mattelart claims that “every step forward in the development of high-speed technologies of expression and transmission destroys components of the human community” (65). People become so dependent on this technology that their social skills deteriorate and they rely more on their computer for companionship rather than fellow human beings.
RAND Corporation is one of the key contributors of much of Western Civilization’s everyday technology in the modern age. They claim to have laid the groundwork for what has become the essential technological staple for many homes; the Internet. RAND’s website reads like a love letter to humankind, chronicling the many ways they claim to have “used scientific analysis to help individuals, families, and communities throughout the world be safer, healthier, and more prosperous.” However, these assertions are not easily validated when the negative consequences of the dependency which plagues so many computer users is taken into account. For instance, it is difficult to justify a claim of promoting health when a number of the people using the technology assisted or begun by RAND are often slumped over a keyboard rather than exerting themselves in more healthy physical activity.
Much of our society’s reliance on computers in our personal lives has permeated our very existence on a cultural level. Gone are the days where it was impossible to speak face to face with a person located a long distance away. This new horizon of seemingly never ending technological advances can be alluring and exciting when looking ahead to the vast capabilities of curing so many of society’s ills. Mattelart would be quick to advise against this primrose way of thinking that technology can solve all of humankind’s problems. With each technological advance there is a fall out and some penance must be made in order to obtain these technological leaps. A prime example of this good and bad is clearly seen in surveillance and the ways in which it can be used to make people feel safer while at the same time it can also be used as a tool for monitoring and keeping tabs on the population.
While the invention of the computer has complimented some ways of life, it has also detracted in just as many ways. We pay for this new found freedom of information by becoming enslaved to the very vehicle offering us this gateway to shared knowledge. Many people who are addicted to this instant way of knowledge sharing do not fully realize how reliant they have become on computers. It is important that we not get blinded by this shiny new toy and the heavy price that comes with it.
Mattelart, Armand. The Information Society. Trans. Susan G. Taponier and James A. Cohen. London: Sage, 2005. Print.
“RAND at a Glance”. RAND Corporation. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2011.