One thing technology has clearly given us is
more information--is this always a good thing?
A different point I don't want you to miss in this chapter:
technology comes to seem natural to us (p. 188-190)
Nye focuses first on the problems of too much
- think about that--what do we even mean by saying
technology seems natural?
- if something seems natural have we forgotten we have
- can we resist having technologies seem natural?
- on the other side consider Nye's example of sound
recording--natural is no longer the goal
- we live in an increasingly artificial world
What are some of the problems of so much information?
- lack of privacy
- do we want to live in a world with easy access to
almost any information
- lack of focus
- lack of quiet time
Communication has taken away our ability to be alone or
focus just on one thing
- privacy issues
- not all the information is correct
- dangerous information (eg. Anarchist's
- biased information (but unbiased knowledge doesn't
- protecting children
- too much information
The argument against multitasking:
- we are always reachable
- we are expected to juggle more things
Living with too much information
Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web, thinks more
information is a good thing. He wrote a book titled: Weaving the Web:
The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide
Web. He says he:
People like Berners-Lee who saw the internet as a new world
sometimes used the slogan: "information
just wants to be free"
- wanted the web to be out of control--not possible to
- wanted information to be unlimited so that everyone
would have the power that comes from access to information
- having the information available has more benefits
than loss of privacy does harm
- everyone to be able to contribute
- believed radically in freedom of expression
- how do we think differently with so much information
other people see reasons to restrict information:
- make information available to everyone--so you don't
just have a select few who have the information
(most information gets out eventually, it is hard to keep
- information gives people ability to affect the things
around them--makes it possible for people to take a more
active role (for good or for evil)
- change in the balance between experts and ordinary
- people living in repressive countries can learn about
- people are more equal if information is available to
- problem--digital divide (are people who don't have
access losing out)
- people can try out being someone else
- privacy is outdated and we shouldn't worry about it
- we can't have the good without the bad
- no censorship--we will trust people reading to
evaluate information for themselves (buyer beware)
- anonymity is common
example: medical information
- information we don't want people to have, such as
- security may be compromised
- false information spreads more easily
- everyone shouldn't be able to know
everything--privacy and security
- for example Case Records
Search web sites allow you to search for anyone's
run-ins with the law by county
- military should be able to keep secrets
- restrict what children can see
- laws to protect against stalkers and pedophiles
- anonymity protects dangerous activity, you don't know
if people are telling the truth
- people don't learn real world social skills
- problem of too much information--how do you find what
you actually want (or can we leave it to human ingenuity
to solve the problem?)
- Will Google provide a search engine in China?
- China blocks Facebook, Google, Wikipedia...
- Will Google provide a search engine for the
separate Chinese internet (behind the Great Firewall)
that follows the government's rules for what information
is not allowed?
- Google already shows different maps to people in
- Google is not going to be allowed to offer search
in China unless they follow the government rules
- controversy over whether Google should go ahead
can find medical information
- people often get bad information
- people may go look for diseases to be scared they
- people try to tell their doctors what to do
- people get the information to try to treat
themselves, not well enough
- some people can benefit from information their
doctors don't have
- more information available on rare disorders
- there is a lot of wrong and dangerous information
(but sometimes the experts disagree or information
- can/should the web partially
- can you have a computer figure out the diagnosis?
- should doctors communicate with patients by email?
- we're figuring out the balance in an era of more
information and easier communication
- people who have more information can
make better choices (people have wanted to be more
involved in making their own choices)
- since there isn't one clear right answer people
should be involved in the choice
- do you want to take the time to learn as much as
the doctor knows?
- sometimes we don't want to know all of the
- do we really want the responsibility for making
- I'm not sure we want to be equal to our doctors
Do we have too much information? Or, better,
how does it change how society works when information is much
- can we find the information that is relevant to us?
- who uses that information and how well do they use it
- doctors can look up details they don't remember
- does that lead to computer replacing people
- do we know how to use the information well
- what happens when we know more than the doctor?
- How far do we want this to go?
Look further at privacy issues.
- internet brings together people who share a medical
- support groups can be very helpful
- to not be alone and to share information
- support groups for unhealthy behaviors
- doctors can share information and discuss problems
with other doctors
- telemedicine and remote controlled surgery
- order medication from other countries--save money,
people get medication illegally...
What right to privacy do we have?
- businesses such as banks are going to lose business
if they don't make maximum effort to protect
us from theft
- our constitutional right to privacy is in the 4th
amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated."
- the principle taken from that is that we have a right
to privacy in places that we would reasonably expect to be
private--our homes, inside our cars, first class mail in
sealed envelopes. We have no right to privacy when
in a public place or for material we share publicly
- we have no right to privacy of our work email or
browsing history if we use equipment or internet services
supplied by our employer. The supreme court has
ruled that it is not an invasion of privacy to search the
trash you put out at the street for collection
- Some professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, have
a legal duty to protect confidentiality. But that is
fairly limited--it does not apply to store clerks, for
What can we do to protect our own privacy? What
do we choose to share, to what extent can we limit sharing?
- don't put embarrassing information in Facebook, etc.,
your privacy settings
- think about the choice when you allow a company to gather
information about you in return for free services or
- what limits should there be on what information the
government makes publicly available?
- what about a commercial service like Google
has tried to demand that pictures of homes and businesses
not be shown unless people opt in
- But there are benefits to the public if information
is available, and few people would opt in
Some people say young people are no longer concerned
The internet is only the most recent of a long series of
technologies that were seen initially as bringing us into a
new world, but we get used to them and they are no longer a
- judging by what people post on social media
- yet people seem to still be concerned about privacy
But is it a potential problem that our world is becoming
- would you want your senses enhanced?
- or a memory chip in your brain
- we get used to some things that initially seem too
- our lives become more and more not direct experience
but experience filtered through technology
- Technology... the knack of so arranging the world
that we don't have to experience it. ~Max Frisch
- will it do us harm to depart too far from nature?
- does the ability to be different people on the
internet lead us to have multiple personalities?