Author Arthur C. Clarke has been famously quoted as saying, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
His assertion may be arguably correct, but he neglected to make an important related stipulation. Was he referring to good magic or bad magic? Did he mean the wondrous powers of Glinda or the dark arts of the Wicked Witch of the West?
Does it matter? Isn't technology fundamentally just a set of tools, mechanisms that take on the ethics (or lack of ethics) of those who wield them?
One need only look at the way Internet-related issues are being perverted for greed and political advantage, at the manner in which Big Lies are dispensed like candy, to see the evil side of the equation at work.
Even persons who feel that they are soundly grounded in science, the folks (yes, like me, too) who smile knowingly at the foolishness of evolution deniers and global warming doubters, who jeer at nutcase sheriffs and Tea Party toadies -- yes, we're no different in this respect -- we too can be fooled.
The toxic cauldron of "gotcha" and Big Lie politics, the rise of illogical conspiracy theories and designated enemies, wars without end, so-called "friends" we've never really known -- all these and more have seeped into our collective consciousness, have gradually undermined our rationality, our thinking, and have likely made most of us perhaps more than a little bit crazy.
It's as if we now reside within a recurring "Groundhog Day" version of "The Emperor's New Clothes" -- with fabrications promoted as reality, and dissembling touted as truth.
In the Internet space, the examples -- many of which I've discussed extensively in the past -- are all around us, dripping with the putrid smells of greed, and the lust for power and political control.
Much vitriol is directed at Google these days -- perhaps to be expected with such a large target, comprised (as are all firms) of imperfect human beings.
Yet many of the accusations and their promoters are without logic, are senseless upon the application of even a modicum of serious thought.
Google is accused of what amounts to vast privacy conspiracies, even though no evidence of such is present, and even given that engaging in such behavior -- with competitors essentially just a click away -- would likely be suicidal. Millions of words are angrily written about Google's legal, though officially unsanctioned, collection of fragmentary, unencrypted Wi-Fi data from public airwaves, of exactly the same sort that any of us could easily gather with any modern laptop or cell phone in a simple drive around practically any neighborhood in the industrialized world. Whole websites are devoted to this "wardriving" hobby, and entire industries have been built upon such technologies, yet the Big Lie is that Google has done something awful in this vein.
ICANN, castigated by their own outgoing CEO as being rife with directly relevant conflicts of interest, continues to pursue its extortionist domain name expansion "gold rush" scheme, to suck billions of dollars from the global community toward the enrichment of anointed sycophants, their hands outstretched to pick the pockets of the world during already painful economic times. ICANN's Big Lie in this instance is that the Internet needs all these new gTLDs, that somehow the average Joe and Jill will benefit, while in reality the result will be more confusion, more spam, and more crime for all but the chosen few who will sit at the top of the increasingly corrupt Domain Name System pyramid.
The handful of dominant U.S. ISPs fight against Net Neutrality, against even the merest hint of regulations, while piling on arbitrary bandwidth caps, data throttling, and anticompetitive streaming services carefully positioned to take maximal advantage of these giant ISPs' massive control over most persons' Internet access. These firms claim that this is all to the consumers' advantage. This is yet another of the Big Lies, indeed.
Our leaders proclaim that "other countries" are the evil censors, the Internet blockers, the enemies of freedom. And yet it is the USA itself that has perverted the rickety obsolescence of the DNS into a weapon for site shutdowns and global censorship without due process, that supplants free speech and liberty with the greed of entertainment industry behemoths, and is now using legitimate cybersecurity concerns as an excuse to decimate privacy laws while claiming they're doing exactly the opposite. These are all facets of a Big Lie we've collectively heard innumerable times down through the centuries -- that this is all for our good, that anyone who complains is an idiot, unpatriotic, or both -- and that we should all just shut up and be docile, cooperative sheep to be sheared.
I've worn out many a keyboard writing of such things in the past. I've made my voice hoarse in discussions.
I have no desire to tilt at windmills. I do not underestimate the forces arrayed to not only protect the status quo, but to push the dark side ever deeper into our wallets, our lives, our very thoughts.
But if we continue in our complacency, in our willingness to be manipulated by Big Lies and Big Greed, we will not only have failed to fight the enemy, to at least try to make some degree of fairness and rationality an underpinning of our technologies and technological world, but we will have allowed ourselves to be consumed -- one lie at a time, one bite after another -- by the beasts of our own creation.