The New Year, like the calendar, is an arbitrary measure but it works nonetheless as a time for both reflection and forward thinking.
As of this year, three issues have caught my attention. This week I will report on all three, one at a time. In comments, can you guess the other two on my mind? Or how about yours?
The first one is hardly new for information technology specialists but it is gaining popular momentum and therefore worthy of renewed consideration among us all: Big Data. This flare went up recently in an article about how not just Internet companies but virtually every company seeks software engineers to create programs whereby the company can mine data on consumer use.
If we thought privacy was in peril with the passing of the Patriot Act, or with the recognition that the ChoicePoints of the world have profiled us to death already, this quantum leap of being monitored at every turn of our lives ought to shake global society out of its somnolence ... but it won't. Let's at least rename it. Big Data has become Mega-Huge, All-Encompassing Information about YOU, but not FOR you except in ways that prompt you to SPEND more, such as at the hotel that has your favorite wine on ice when you walk in the door.
Modern theorists came back to me: Marx was right about one thing: people increasingly have become commodities. Weber was right too, although his iron cage is more like an invisible web, the quality of which only an anxiety dream can conjure. Durkheim is the one I wish I could get to talk to me on the Ouija Board, because his queries about society might be the only one that really matters: Does this world of Mega-Huge, All-Encompassing Information ... make you feel alienated? If not, then that would explain why we sleep through the night. What should be a nightmare might simply mask Freudian wish fulfillment?
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