• By Lt. Tim McMillan

As The Water Rises- Technology As Our Next Great Flood

The contemporary advent of the Internet has fundamentally changed how people interact and engage with the world around them. Early on when the Internet became widely available in households, web providers began to see the usefulness that the Internet could provide in satisfying human beings inherent desire for social interaction. In the early days of home Internet, users began to demonstrate the interest in web-based chatrooms. These chatrooms allowed Internet users to speak with persons all over the world in real-time. In essence, online chat-rooms were modern versions of the now antiquated telephone “party lines” or CB radios.

In the 21st-century software engineers developed a new way for people to satisfy social needs with the development of social media. Social Media, has become a significant cultural influence in global societies. Social media provides individuals with the ability to enjoy social interaction, coupled with compensating for some of the online chat-rooms downfalls, such as expanding the content people can share. Many of these sites offer a level of exclusiveness set by the user, in which one can select whom it considers “friends” to exchange information with.

In a lot of ways, social media has evolved to a form of voyeuristic friendship. Individuals now communicate or share their lives with people, whom without the establishment of social media, they probably would not speak with on a daily basis. Social media doesn’t just affect one segment of the world’s population; rather it has the potential to influence anyone who has Internet access and the time to set up a profile.

The significance of social media as a technological institution is it provides a method in which individuals can stay connected to each other through interaction. Ultimately the effect social media has had on societies is enormous. There is not a business nor politician that even has a shred of hope at being successful that doesn’t have multiple different types of social media page.

The profound implications of social media technologies on societies are something that is not particularly static. The positive implications are fairly obvious in that social media provides individuals with an unprecedented ability to be interconnected to other people. However, the perceptions of interconnectivity amongst people on social media can also have some negative implications on societies and cultures as well.

Social psychologist theorizes that some of the biggest negative impacts that social media has on individuals relate to changes in emotional connections and interpersonal communications. It seems counter-intuitive that a technology designed to facilitate interconnectivity may create a culture of people who lack genuine emotional connection to others. However, it does. One of the major ways emotional connectivity is diminished by social media is that it decreases face-to-face communications. Individuals are increasingly relying on technological communication, and interpersonal skills involving face-to-face conversations are falling. Sociologist and psychologist also express concerns about the effects social media has on skewing individual’s self-image, diminishing personal understanding or thoughtfulness, providing a license to be hurtful to others, and the ability to control the influence people's perception by misinformation exchanges.

Social media is merely one facet of the technological explosion that modern people face today. Technology as a whole is spreading at an alarming and increasing rate. The benefits of the information technology are pretty evident based on the fact that a host of information can be gained instantly. On the surface, this level of information technology appears to have no negative drawbacks to society.

However, one has to consider what could be the ultimate implications of having so much readily available technology? In essence, it could be argued that people no longer need to continue to attend primary or secondary education? Any information we could ever want would just be uploaded to us at any given moment. It makes me consider the 2006 movie Idiocracy. The movie is a comedy, which revolves around the concept of a top-secret military hibernation experiment where the star of the film awakens 500 years later, to find a society, which due to advanced technologies, is devoid of intellectual curiosity, which has resulted in a neo-evolutionary society of anti-intellectualism.

The question is, does a defined line exists that we should consider technology and its integration with humanity to be problematic? We cannot refuse to consider the philosophical question of where is the point when technology and humanity are so intertwined that what results does not resemble humanity?

Ultimately, the question is, “is it too late?” Has society reached a point where technology is in such a demand that slowing it to allow for cultural evolution to catch-up is unrealistic? In my profession, within fourteen years, I’ve seen the sporadic novelty of VHS dashboard cameras mounted in police cars, advance to where body-worn digital cameras are the standard. That is just the progression of audio and video technology in law enforcement. GPS mapping, Google Glass, Tasers, automatic license plate readers, and laser speed detection devices are just a few more scientific advances that continue to flourish exponentially. However, law enforcement technology is only a tip of the iceberg.

Unmanned aerial drones have made killing people the stuff of video games. Smartphones have become handheld computers. All at the expense of individual’s information being removed from the device without one’s knowledge or consent. Smart cars, Smart TVs, or any other electronic “smart” device can be used for means widely diverging from their actual intent. Presently, there are very few people whose entire identity and behavior cannot be summed up by a series of 1’s and 0’s.

In closing, I can’t help but wonder, is humanity ready to evolve at this rapid of pace? If not. Is there anything we can do about now? Have Apple, IBM, Google, and or any of the other IT behemoths become, “The Watchers.” Are the giants they have created now, not large biblical humanoid creatures, rather they are inanimate titans with dollar signs attached to them? Lastly, we regulate and police everything else in society, where are the technology police? Where are the Watchers watching The Watchers? Is it too late to potentially stop another Great Flood? Better yet, do we even have the desire to stop it anymore?

Tim McMillan is a retired police lieutenant and investigative intelligence analyst; and holds BA's in mathematics and cognitive psychology. Primarily, focusing on the Defense and Intelligence Communities, he now uses his unique background, coupled with a willingness to examine any mystery, to deliver groundbreaking investigative reporting. Tim is a contributor for The War Zone, Vice, and Popular Mechanics

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© Lieutenant Tim McMillan All Rights Reserved by The Raziel Group LLC