Though this blog is called Life, Liberty & the Law it has thus far been imbalanced toward the latter categories. I’ll take a moment now to write a little about the day to day.
If you will, immerse yourself in the scene above. Beautiful fall foliage on a trail in the northeast united states. Imagine inhaling the crisp fall air, squinting slightly in the late morning sun, feeling the endorphin high of a brisk walk, and watching the beauty of golden leaves like confetti filling your vision as they spiral to the ground. What is the first thing that comes to mind?
“Gee that would make a pretty screen saver.”
Seriously? That thought actually popped into my head this weekend as I walked this trail. It was quickly followed by, “What is wrong with me?” Am I so plugged in to virtual reality that I’m losing my ability to tune in to actual reality? (Oh Timothy Leary, say it ain’t so!)
As I had these thoughts a train on tracks running parallel to the trail across an adjacent river plodded by.
Every once in a while I think I’m spending too much time with my laptop. Facebook, gmail, scanning news websites, laughing at lolcats and the latest meme, starting a draft to update this blog (usually in that order)…I vow to reduce the time spent in this false relationship with reality. I may succeed for a day or two but eventually I’m right back. How can I disconnect when so much of “reality” is tied to this magical internet? I stopped owning a television about a decade ago, but the void was surreptitiously, slowly and steadily filled by other technology–first the computer, then the phone. It’s my source of news, the way I keep connected with friends, the way I network and search for work, a source of entertainment on screen or via event listings, and the way I map my way to places like you see above. And I know I’m not alone.
None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But this shift in our society, while blessing us with an abundance of potential connections to people and information has fundamentally altered social concepts and perceptions. It’s also created a potential for abuse, either by our selves or by some outside authority. Our ability to connect to people in ways never before possible has created a tendency to distance ourselves from our face to face interactions. An overabundance of information has enhanced the ability of everyone to access information quickly, but has also created the challenge of finding the needle of good information in a haystack of falsehood and propaganda. There are increased challenges to personal privacy, even as that concept changes. When does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a virtual world? We abuse the privileges that new technology brings us by receding into the ease of use. Those around us can abuse the fountainhead of information that we voluntarily pour into it with every key stroke and uploaded media file.
My mother recently clued me in to a new “ap” for our phones called Waze. It’s a “social GPS.” The ap uses gps technology combined with user input, game-style, to provide the most real-time travel information possible to its users. People earn points for updating the ap for traffic jams, accidents, speed traps, and more, all while giving people the ability to chat with other ap users. Frankly I’m not sure what the prize is, or if there is a way to Win at all, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t matter. This “community-based traffic navigation ap” is ingenious, feeding our insatiable appetite for the most up-to-date and reliable information possible, while incentivizing us to feed it information about ourselves and our neighbors. What would George Orwell would have to say?
I’ll leave the conclusions to you, dear reader. They’re good fodder for ponder on a nice stroll.