Brainwashed

It was really cool listening to David Eaves talk about the concept of open government. I had never heard of it before this class, nor did I really consider how technology would be used to help the state/government. Whereas I am lucky to be exposed to these concepts and have the opportunity to have discussions with really knowledgeable people, I don’t know how much of the population will really be engaged on this issue. I find myself focused on how technology affects me on a much smaller scope (like new devices, new apps, etc.), and I feel like lots of people would rather learn about smart refrigerators than open government. With a decreasing attention span fuelled by the instant gratification brought upon by the Internet, it may be hard for important concepts and ideas to gain traction. It seems like soon enough, the government will be able to do some really crazy things and people will be so distracted by smaller things on social media/random things on the Internet that they won’t even know what’s happening (@Trump and his tweets–I read an article about how he was using his controversial tweets to distract the public from some troubling bills he was signing). 

I think that it’s good that David is pessimistic about the future, because his pessimism doesn’t completely takes all his hope away; rather, it stimulates some wariness that is very important when considering security and privacy matters. David talked about how a future step in terms of how technology will make a huge impact is related to the government. The analogy to the printing press was very helpful for me to visualize this and see how it could ultimately make the state/government much more powerful while giving the illusion of empowering the individual. The entire concept of nationalism was galvanized by the printing press, and who knows what new concepts/feelings/ideas will be sparked when the government really takes advantage of new technological mediums. With all the data that they have access to, everyone may be manipulated without even knowing it. This is definitely already happening, but as time goes on, the scale to which it brainwashes people could go to the extreme. In this sense, having an open, more transparent government would seem to be the right move.

But I am also not entirely sure how this open government thing would work. I can imagine a huge nightmare where people try to set the guidelines and standards that determine what data is open versus what data is closed, and I also think about how David said that we really cannot underestimate the difficulty for government and any organization to radically change their fundamental strategies. I’ve always imagined that the government is very secretive, so making this change seems like a very difficult task. This reminds me of  my fruitless struggle to convince my parents and grandparents to reconsider their extremely troubling conservative/traditional viewpoints. At this point I think I’ve just given up because I get too frustrated and it really doesn’t seem like they will change their minds.

I feel very small when thinking about these issues because I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it. This is a bad approach but sometimes I just want to feel content with being ignorant because sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

1 Comment »

  1. Mike Smith

    October 28, 2017 @ 6:14 pm

    1

    I love your comment that “[more] people would rather learn about smart refrigerators than open government.” You’re undoubtedly correct! And your implications of our focus on the more personally immediate things is scary when I stop and think about what you’ve highlighted. These are wonderful extensions of our discussion. Thank you.

    I too am both buoyed by some of what open government has brought  boston.com is definitely a better site for people living in Boston than it was several years ago) and like you uncertain where it is exactly leading. This has been a component of our class that has changed rapidly in unpredictable directions. I have no idea where it will take us next year.

    In my “we can fix this” attitude toward life, I’d encourage you not to give up and settle for ignorance. Little steps matter and do add up. And the world needs people like you to be our future leaders!

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