06 June 2014

Technology's twisted paradise

by Dr Yael Klangwisan

I remember my first computer. It came with a cassette player & tape (even before the floppy drive) and I remember writing simple code. But growing up alongside space invaders, email and internet means not a lot really in the face of the silicon valley high tech explosion.

So many of us no longer feel in control of this brave new world. It has quickly surpassed us. It requires slavish attention to stay in touch with the next development. And the vulnerability - I remember the fears of Y2K, and now even more strange and tangible are the fears of the last week with GameOver Zeus making the rounds of the globe. It is like some kind of James Bond film, the villain, some stereotyped ex-soviet warlord. But this warlord’s world is digital, and he can attack me through my outlook box. Ordinary people drawn into the bowels of the Russian criminal world through the screen and keyboard. Only a few days ago I had a real time Facebook conversation with a scammer pretending to be a past student. Identity theft is insidious, creepy and leaves you realising how dependant we are on the information we receive through platforms and how little assurance we have that the information is true.

I’m not saying I would want to go back pre-1980. I love technology for the gifts it gives. I love the connectedness. I love real time and face to face conversations on Skype with my childhood best friend who lives in Texas. I love witnessing progressions of others via Facebook - enjoy keeping up with friends news and achievements. I love that I can clear emails on my phone while my child does their sport. Having my pick of the hundreds of books in my virtual library whenever I have a spare moment anywhere. Family time has a bizarre new element when the whole family creates personalised avatars and goes on quests in some Tolkienesque animated land. Soon technology like Oculus Rift means that whole gaming interface becomes life-like. My new car radio now picks up my phone calls for me - (though I am pretty certain it's not the latest model). The guy who put it in called my Shuffle ‘old school’.

The world continues to create new potentials but also the dangers grow. Tech can help me and hurt me. Education has been irrevocably transformed. It is not a matter of choosing whether or not to embrace ICT changes … it is the status quo now. Our children often know more than we know and yet they are also more vulnerable than ever. In the now web-eternalised words of MKTO’s American Dream “it’s a twisted paradise.” Technology is like a formidable tree of the knowledge of good and evil and there are apples everywhere.

Disclaimer and Policy