Who’s afraid of technology? I must admit sometimes its capabilities make me tilt my head in a combination of wonder and terror. It is not surprising that so many feel uncomfortable about the central and expansive role technology plays within our lives. We often think that these new technologies will lead to our ‘destruction’ or that we will all become ‘square-eyed’ and ‘brain-dead’. But what you describe as a ‘new’ technology is certainly contextual.
In a First Wave economy land and farm labour were the main “factors of production”. In a Second Wave economy the development of machines and larger industries lead to ‘massified’ labour. In a Third Wave economy data, information, images, symbols, culture, ideology and values have become valuable. This is encapsulated by one word – actionable knowledge. However this knowledge age cannot progress to it’s full potential with Second Wave laws and attitudes oppressing its capabilities (step aside please).
Just as the meaning of “freedom, structures of self-government, definition of property, nature of competition, conditions for cooperation, sense of community and nature or progress” (Kelly, 1996) were redefined for the industrial age, they will have to be redefined for this new age of “electronic” knowledge. This universal environment of knowledge exists within a little thing called ‘Cyberspace’. More ‘ecosystem’ than machine cyberspace has revolutionised the decentralised network. We can connect to it through portals, such as television receivers and transmitters (one-way) and telephones and computer modems (two-way). This allows us to contribute and access knowledge on a scale like never before.
Information used to be controlled. The first computer system operated through a mainframe, with multiple ‘dump’ terminals distributing information. This network operated as a ‘Star-shaped topology’, which influenced the social culture of space (world view) to operate in a centralised and hierarchal manner. It was actually the threat of a nuclear war that lead to the new and improved distributed network. This ultimately gave the end user control, distributed the flow of information into an unprecedented communication system and most importantly, there was no one in charge. This means that all of the decision-making resides in the end user. All nodes are created equal. Just as the centralised network influenced the mega state, fascism, socialism and totalitarian states, the decentralised system has lead to liberation.
Does this mean that instead of being afraid of technology we should thank and embrace it? That is certainly what J. P. Barlow (1996) believes,
“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
So step aside and make way for the future, it is coming wether we like it or not.